Thursday, 20 February 2014

New blog

Ladies and Gentlemen

Thanks for your interest in The Heart Of Horror but please note that I won't be updating here any longer. Instead head over to my shiny new blog :-

The Wanderer In Unknown Realms

There you will find more reviews from the horror world along with some explorations of other genres.



Monday, 11 November 2013

Joe Lansdale Kickstarter Campaign

Err it's Joe Lansdale so you know you should support this :-

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The Kickstarter campaign for Black Labyrinth Book II by Joe R. Lansdale illustrated by Santiago Caruso ends at 8PM PST tonight. This is the 2nd book in the Black Labyrinth imprint published by Dark Regions Press. The campaign page can be viewed at:

Black Labyrinth is an imprint of ten psychological horror novels and novellas from the living masters of dark fiction illustrated by surrealist artist Santiago Caruso. The books are available in ebook, trade paperback and signed limited edition hardcovers all featuring multiple interior illustrations and original front cover artwork from the artist.

Joe R. Lansdale is the award-winning author of Edge of Dark Water, the Hap and Leonard series, Bubba Ho-Tep, The Bottoms, Incident On and Off a Mountain Road and many other novels, novellas, short stories and comic books. The Kickstarter campaign will fully fund a new novella by Joe Lansdale illustrated by surrealist artist Santiago Caruso from Argentina.

Join Dark Regions Press for the campaign before it ends tonight at:

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Black Feathers by Joseph D'Lacey

Black Feathers

by Joseph D'Lacey

Published by Angry Robot, 2013.

Typical you wait years for a Joseph D'Lacey book and then three come along at once. Following hot on the heels of the excellent Snake Eyes and Blood Fugue, Black Feathers is the first volume in a proposed duology and it's the book I have been waiting for D'Lacey to write, let me explain.

Black Feathers tells the tale of two adolescent children, Gordon Black and Megan Maurice who are entwined in a journey despite occupying different periods of time. A prophecy tells of the Crowman, "a dark man is coming and he signals the end of everything we know" and both Gordon and Megan are special players in this prophecy. Neither has any real idea of their importance but gradually those around them begin to take an interest and it's not long before they are separated from their families and thrust into an epic quest to prevent the forthcoming apocalypse.

A simple battle of dark versus light is of course a well used (and frequently abused) theme but this book handles it in an altogether new and interesting way. D'Lacey's work has always been full of morality, from the  anti-factory farming message in Meat to the eco-horror of Garbage Man, but in Black Feathers, Joseph D'Lacey has integrated his messages much more subtly without losing any of their power. Gordon's land is a place threatened by climate change and a totalitarian government known as the Ward. Feeding on the greed and terror of the populace, the Ward are a frighteningly realistic vision of the future. 

Contrast that realism with the mythology of the Crowman and the folklore of the Crow and you have all the ingredients for a fascinating morality tale. Even better is the fact that D'Lacey, in this first volume at least, doesn't clarify whether the light or dark path is correct. So we end up with two heroes, Gordon and Megan, who may in fact be headed for conflict.

What really makes the book though is D'Lacey's writing. His early tales were good but this is better than good. Loaded with atmosphere, this is a book that draws on all that mythology, all that folklore and creates magic from it. At times a fast paced thriller, at others a poetic eulogy to nature it's always literary, intelligent and thought provoking.

Regular readers of my reviews will know that I have always held Joseph D'Lacey in high regard but this writing raises him into the upper echelons of horror literature. Highly recommended.

Rating 4.5 out of 5

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Farewell Mr Herbert

James Herbert died yesterday ending an era in British horror fiction. Anyone who grew up in the 70's and 80's and had any interest at all in horror fiction will recognise the importance of James Herbert. The domination of the horror world by gothic horrors led by the likes of Hammer was broken, first in the US but then in the UK, as Herbert led the charge into a new kind of horror fiction. Realistic situations, gore and sex along with a renewed sense of adventure contributed to making the likes of The Rats, The Fog and Creed as much a part of the school (extra) curriculum in the 70's as Blondie and Punk. Suddenly horror was cool, dangerous and popular and while America had Mr King at the forefront we had James Herbert.

The hits kept coming for James Herbert and his 23rd novel Ash was only released in paperback last week. It's hard to put Herbert's importance to the genre in context, sure some of his writing wasn't great and his themes would often be held up as weaknesses in the genre but with hindsight we will surely look back on the 70's and 80's as a golden era for the horror novel and James Herbert needs to be placed at the forefront of that. The current crop of superb UK horror writers all owe a debt to the solid foundations Herbert worked tirelessly to build in the British horror fiction scene.

My sympathies go to Mr Herbert's family and friends but I hope they will be consoled by knowing that we, the fans, are supremely grateful for all the scares and thrills he gave us.

PS - Since writing this I have also heard of the tragic deaths of Rick Hautala, David Silva and Chinua Achebe. They were all great writers and the literary world is a sadder place without them.i

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Coldbrook by Tim Lebbon


By Tim Lebbon,

Published by Hammer, 2012.

They came when we least expected them. At first a rare glimpse in darkened shadows but then they got braver. Soon they were everywhere, vast hordes, indistinct, unintelligent, dripping gore and body parts. Now everywhere you look you see them...oh the horror...oh the stereotypes and now they have us cornered and outnumbered, there is nothing we can do, resistance is futile, there is no getting away from god damn zombie novels.

I must admit my heart soared when I heard Tim Lebbon, one of my favourite horror authors, was writing a major apocalyptic novel but then it very quickly sank when I read it involved zombies. If I read another sentence about shambling creatures, blank lifeless eyes or infected bites I might just become one myself. So it was with some trepidation that I ventured into Tim Lebbon's Coldbrook.

The Coldbrook facility is a secret experimental lab which has somehow opened a connection with another parallel earth. Whilst the facility is geared up to stop the alternative lifeforms gaining access to earth it is slightly less prepared for the undead to sneak through. Couple that with a staff member who eschews heroism in favour of legging it and mayhem ensues. It's not long before the world has been zombified and it's left to our gallant heroes to seek a solution (in both worlds).

Lets get the bad news out of the way first. Inevitably there are many many scenes of zombie carnage, biting, ripping, exploding, delimbing and more biting and inevitably this all takes place through a deja vu haze. Current and past zombie movies, books and TV series are evoked and in general it all left this reader rather bored.

In lesser hands that would probably mean three stars, lets forget the whole thing and move on, but this is Tim Lebbon and he redeems the situation with several new twists and a large dose of quality writing. Strong, flawed, realistic characters abound and the alternative society that exists beyond the breach gives a fascinating duality to proceedings. It's not clear who the good guys are as everyone scrambles for their own self preservation. At the heart of the novel is a much deeper treatise on faith, religion and man's place in the world(s), theology meets goreology.

It doesn't quite reach the heights of some of Lebbon's previous work and it seems to be aiming for a more populist market which I hope it finds. In a way I wish Tim Lebbon would continue to write obscure horror novellas for me, but who can blame an author for attempting to find a wider audience using a well worn trope in a relatively original fashion. A good book from a great writer.

Rating 4 out of 5

Saturday, 16 March 2013

In The Devil's Name by Dave Watson

In The Devils Name

By Dave Watson

Published by Dave Watson Books 2012.

I get lots of requests to review self-published books and as you can imagine that presents a bit of a dilemma. I would love to help out all those aspiring authors but there simply isn't enough time to read everything. For that reason I tend to go instinctively with those stories that resonate with me. This one had a couple of advantages, 1) the author is a fellow Scot 2) the book invokes the name of Sawney Bean one of my favourite historical mysteries.

Now you can’t judge a book by it’s cover but in this case it doesn't inspire confidence. A nice enough image of a generic coastline but with the image and the title font being roughly the same colour it leads to a not very professional first impression. This is backed up by those usual flaws of self published novels, dodgy binding and dodgy fonts (in this case an eye straining small font which will make you wish for an ebook copy). Still it's the content that counts.

Ostensibly this is a book about a group of local lads who head out to the local cliffs for a bit of exploring where they soon get mixed up in some local mythology leading to tragic consequences. There is a definite Trainspotting vibe to these early chapters as our “heroes” explore the world through various substances before being rudely brought firmly back to reality. The middle section of the book is a bit chaotic as the author introduces a number of themes and ideas which rarely gel. The latter half is much stronger as some clearer historical themes are explored.

It’s a difficult book to enjoy partly as the main characters are not particularly likable but also because the  lack of clear editing has led to the book becoming confused, bloated in parts and without a clear direction. There is good writing here especially in the historical sections and the author has some well paced action scenes throughout but overall it didn't really gel with me.

The author has obvious talent but unfortunately has fallen into the same trap as many before him who have self published their work. A brave but flawed effort.

Rating 2.5 out of 5

Monday, 11 March 2013

Ephemeral Ebooks

Regular readers might have noticed that things have been a bit quiet on the review front recently, I thought I would enlighten you on at least one reason why.

So let's not get into a debate about ebooks versus paper books, we all have our strongly held opinions and preferences and neither are right or wrong they just are but recently I have noticed a problem with my consumption of ebooks. Actually it's a lack of consumption that I noted and yet I seem to have spent a long time reading, what's going on?

For whatever reason I find my staying power with ebooks is weak, very weak. There are a number of problems here.

1) Amazon's annoying try a sample - Oh yes this should be marvellous, read a sample buy the book, finish the book move on. Doesn't work, not for me, I end up downloading a sample, reading a bit, trying another sample, read a bit and so on in an endless loop of unproductive and unfinished first chapters.

2) Ease of purchase - Oh go on, It's only 99p, buy it, read a bit, forget it, buy another one, bollocks.

3) Forgetting what I have - Oh it's all very well having storage space for thousands of books but given the above distractions, it takes a matter of moments to lose track of what you were reading, start on something else and again the endless loop begins.

Ebooks are wonderful things, accessible, portable, transferable but they are also by their very nature ephemeral. The TBR (to be read) pile of physical books on my desk teeters like a poor man's Leaning Tower of Pizza (come to think of it, it's often propped up with a leaning tower of Pizza), it may be scary but it's also undeniably there. Once I start a "real" book I rarely put it away again, which is why most of the reviews you will see on this site are of physical books.

Anyone else got the same problem? If so, maybe we could rent a church basement and form a support group, let me know.