The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires
Publisher: Quirk Books Genre: Fiction Pages: 424 Format: Paperback Buy Local My Rating: 3/5 stars
Grady Hendrix’s The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires has a title that doesn’t leave much to the imagination. It is what it says it is! Set in the 1980s and 1990s Patricia—doctor’s wife, mother to two teenagers, and caregiver to her mother-in-law—is bored to tears with her country-club and pearls lifestyle. Her book club, which should be somewhat of an escape, is just more of the same…rich women posturing by reading pretentious books that they only skim through at best.
But things get kicked up a notch when some of the ladies defect, and begin their own true crime gathering. Immersed in the world of serial killers, Patricia feels like she may have found a little excitement. That is until a stranger moves into town, some kids go missing, and Patricia and her Southern book club sleuths find themselves facing something a lot more sinister than Dahmer or Bundy.
I wanted to love this, but ended up just liking it. The title grabbed me right away, and immediately I was thinking Blanche Dubois or any of the Sugarbaker ladies from Designing Women (look it up) or Steel Magnolias with a stake in one hand, and a Mint Julep in the other ready to “y’all” the bloodsucker back to hell where he belonged.
No such luck. While the premise is fabulous, and there were some chuckle-aloud moments, I wanted more camp. I was hoping for more comedy with my horror—but it was less comedy, more drama, and mystery. Hendrix spends some time on Patricia’s feelings of isolation and abandonment when the book club isn’t really feeling up to the detective work she is so eager to engage in. I have to wonder if that was his commentary on how women who may be a little longer in the tooth (get it?) seem to get cast aside if they don’t fit a certain mold, or want just a little more than what they have been given. From their initial defection, I got a little female empowerment at times from this crew of Van Helsings.
Hendrix does turn a few vampire legends upside down (I won’t spoil them here) but they aren’t anything I rebelled against. No one glittered or procreated. Thank goodness. In fact, I rather enjoyed the method in which you have to destroy this particular vampire’s kind. Some reviewers of the book complained about the level of gore (high), but that didn’t bother me in the slightest. Rats eating flesh, people eating flesh. Isn’t that what vampire novels are supposed to include?
There are a couple elements that Hendrix slays (pun intended) beautifully. He has the art of suspense down. Even though it’s been done numerous times, there is a particular scene where Patricia is in the vampire’s house, and there’s that feeling of will-she-get-caught-or-won’t-she that is well-handled and anxiety inducing. The other element that really worked for me is Hendrix’s atmosphere-building in this novel. You can just feel the Charleston humidity rising up from the pages, and see the Spanish moss dripping from those thick trunked trees. Ah…I could use that Mint Julep right about now.
If you like a good amount of gore and a few laughs mixed in with a heaping helping of drama, you’ll like this novel. For me, it was enough to generate some interest in Grady Hendrix’s other work, so stay tuned.
For many comic creators, it’s a harsh reality that your series will not even survive a year—for Mike Mignola, his Hellboy series is about to turn 30. Mignola was your average comics jobber before Hellboy: he worked on assignments for Marvel and DC, and he didn’t have much say in what was being created. Effectively a cog in the overbearing corporate machine that is mainstream comics, Mignola knew at his soul that while he worked on superhero books such as Batman: Gotham by Gaslight, superheroes weren’t quite his thing. He famously hated drawing cars, wasn’t a huge fan of winding city landscapes, and would occasionally receive hate mail from dedicated fans lambasting him for ruining their favorite heroes. Faced with an uncertain future in comics, Mignola did what he had to do and persevered—and drew for fun. One day, he drew Hellboy; thus, everything changed with a few strokes of his pencil.
Transfixed on his rough sketch of a brutish looking demon with horns, Mignola fleshed Hellboy out in the early ’90s until his character landed a book at Dark Horse 1994, the aptly titled Hellboy: Seed of Destruction. While some Hellboy stories stand on their own, the aforementioned book kickstarted Mignola’s epic, winding tale showing his hero facing trials, tribulations, and the truth of his own destiny. In Seed of Destruction, Hellboy is established as having been summoned by the Nazis during World War II, aided by the famous Russian wizard, Rasputin. Rasputin explains to Hellboy that his destiny lies in the fact that he alone holds the power to control an immensely powerful deity set to bring about Ragnarok—the destruction of the entire world. Not only is this the reason for his entire existence, but it’s one that Rasputin makes clear he has absolutely no say in.
Hellboy is accompanied by his friends Abe Sapien and Elizabeth Sherman, the former being an intelligent, but otherwise ironically named fish-man who has a penchant for adventure. Elizabeth on the other hand, is a much more tragic character who is host to a destructive, fiery entity that wants nothing more than to be unleashed at any moment—an action that would devastate any and all life in their immediate area. Both her and Hellboy are pinned as tragic characters destined to do nothing more but destroy everything they hold dear. For Abe, his position as an investigator of paranormal phenomena is all and well, but his name was a joke, as he was found with a note sharing the same date as the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. For Hellboy, these things are commented on in a brutish, blunt fashion, yet still pertaining to a sense of humanity. He expresses discontent by noting that Elizabeth’s file at the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense—an organization they all work for—reads as if it isn’t about a human. They face off against Rasputin not as a team, but as a broken group of friends who are separated from each other in Hellboy’s ultimate time of need. As Rasputin recounts how he summoned Hellboy for the Nazis and then waited about 50 years for the culmination of his plans, he offers Hellboy a chance to join him knowingly—of his own free will—so that he can fulfill his destiny. Hellboy vehemently refuses, and Rasputin’s world ending spell is brought to a stop. Mignola isn’t reinventing the wheel with his plot structure here, it’s no surprise that Hellboy is victorious, but his refusal to be the destructor of the world comes at a cost: finally killing Rasputin, the only man who knows who he really is, and what power lies within him and his striking red right hand. He accepts this, saving the world and damning himself, as the story ends with him slowly starting on the path of self-discovery. It’s a powerful origin story, one that paints Hellboy in a sympathetic red light, and frames him as a tragic hero.
It’s not my place to comment on just how poignant Hellboy’s character is and how rich his universe has become over the last 27 years—that is painfully apparent today. What may not be so apparent is why Mignola’s story has such a faithful following. In the grand world of comic books, many stories come and go without ever really contributing to the status of American literature. Mignola’s work is different, as seen in his striking art-style where he happens to break one of the most basic rules of traditional art: negative space. His use of negative space, and his philosophy of drawing less, not more may have been controversial when he was working on Batman, but now it’s the source of his genius. Hellboy is a comic that originally was built in that use of negative space, a space that exists outside of rules and regulations, where artists can truly thrive and find freedom. Though some artists may find that they really don’t understand what makes the use of negative space so special, the ones that have found the will to choose for themselves and utilize it may very well be all the better for it. That will to choose for yourself is what makes Mignola’s Hellboy: Seed of Destruction stand above the plethora of mediocre comics—it’s what his protagonist does in every breath he draws for himself, not as the seed of destruction. Faced with insurmountable odds, both Mignola and his titular character were given a destiny they’d rather not have fulfilled. For Mignola, he was destined to never have made it big in comics, for Hellboy, well, you’ve already read all about that. Their response to destiny is what makes them human, what makes them still lovable today. Their response to destiny can be found in the 27 years’ worth of Hellboy comics, and defying destiny has never looked so cool.
It’s that time of year where ghosts, goblins, and other various supernatural entities are creeping up everyone’s spine. While the movies are creating their own chills and thrills (we see you Michael Myers), there is nothing that compares to the goosebumps you get between the pages of a good book…
Here is a round up of our staff’s favorite horror and suspense stories.
Staff Writer Jaycee Graffius
Frankenstein is not just my favorite Halloween read, it is my favorite book of all time. The entire book just drips with a gothic atmosphere and symbolism that makes rereading a joy. I personally love the similarities between the monster and Victor Frankenstein as it really hammers home how, in a way, Victor is the monster’s father and abandoned him in a world that couldn’t love him.
While Frankenstein has become universally recognizable in our culture, much of the book’s messaging has been forgotten by the mainstream. This is tragic because the book explores so many ideas that still need to be talked about today, from the dangers of science without empathy to the creation of monsters and whether the monster is truly to blame for what he’s become. Combine all this with the writing style of Mary Shelly, a personal hero, and Frankenstein fully earns it’s place as one of the best classic horror novels of all time.
Staff Writer Makayla Aysien
I never thought that I could enjoy the genre of horror, largely because I don’t like looking over my shoulder as I walk up the stairs at night. I was pulled into horror by an odd sense of circumstances: a philosophy course of mine required that I write on the philosophy and ethics of horror. This is where I found The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen.
This novella follows the perspective of Dr. Clarke as he hears a series of stories about a mysterious woman named Helen. Wherever Helen goes, she seems to leave behind others in states of insanity or death. What kind of supernatural powers does Helen have? How is she connected to the titular character of the great god Pan? Those who love horror, fantasy, supernatural, and reflections of real aspects of society—especially how people view women—are sure to love The Great God Pan.
Staff Writer Paul Stanton
My favorite ghost story is Sofia Samatar’s A Stranger in Olondria. Strange, haunting, and beautiful, this winner of the World Fantasy Award for best novel captured my heart. The book feels like a gothic horror while using almost none of the tropes associated with that genre. A perfect, delightful read for the spooky season.
Staff WriterMichael Weaver
Filled with spectacular art and equally as phenomenal writing, The Immortal Hulk is impossible to kill. Even worse, he’s haunted by the scariest villain yet: his Dad, who just so happens to command a force stronger than Hell itself… Hulk can’t simply smash his way out of this one.
Editor’s Note: Stay tuned for a more in-depth look at The Immortal Hulk from Michael soon!
Editor-in-Chief Sharon Enck
Set against the backdrop of an elitist university within an MFA cohort, Bunny by Mona Awad is one of my new Halloween favorites. Snotty mean girls? Check. Loner outsiders who get pulled into witchy and menacing goings-on? Check. Samantha prefers her own dark company to those within her cohort who inexplicably call each other “Bunny” and seem to be of one mind and body. She manages to evade them for most of her time at Warren University, but then suddenly gets invited to a mysterious “salon” and soon starts her own journey into the rabbit hole…in more ways than one!
Bunny is a dark, twisted (in all the good ways) ride that is not for the faint-of-heart or squeamish. With its themes of grief, mental health, social acceptance (and what we will do to attain it) it is a fascinating read. And you will never look at bunnies—or creative writing cohorts for that matter—the same.
Staff Writer Lauren Kuhman
I am not a big fan of horror because I like to sleep at night. However, every once in a while I find myself enjoying a thriller or mystery and one of my absolute favorites is Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. While not inherently scary, it is a book of extraordinary adventure perfect for any Halloween night. Main character Robert Langdon is a symboligist and after a murder in the Louvre he is called to aid in the investigation.
Little does he know that this call will lead him down a long, intricate, dangerous, and thrilling journey over the course of a day. Dan Brown masterfully combines art, history, religion, and mystery into a thrilling and fast-paced story. Whatever you are doing this spooky season, I promise that this book will cast a spell on you. If you pick it up, be prepared for a spookily good time!
Managing Editor Jade Stanton
The Picture of Dorian Gray tells the story of the titular protagonist’s descent into hedonism and the subsequent loss of his morality. Dorian unwittingly makes a Faustian pact wherein he will remain forever youthful and beautiful—but owns a portrait that will reflect the depraved state of his soul.
Aside from delving into important themes such as morality, innocence, corruption, and beauty, The Picture of Dorian Gray also includes many ghoulish themes: from suicide to murder and a monstrous painting hidden in Dorian’s attic, Wilde’s classic is the perfect way to get into the spooky spirit this Halloween!
As an avid Clive Barker fan, I was delighted to learn that there was another adaptation of one of his classic short stories, The Book of Blood. From his work on the Hellraiser franchise, to the Candyman franchise inspired by his short story The Forbidden, to the first adaptation of his anthology series Books of Blood in the 2009 film of the same name, Clive Barker’s work is no stranger to the film genre. As such, I had high hopes going in that this film would capture the magic and macabre that follows Clive Barker’s work.
It’s worth noting that this film is not a direct retelling of Clive Barker’s short stories, but rather a loose adaptation of two stories from his anthology collection. The film itself is an anthology and tells three separate stories that follow the adventures of three individuals: Jenna, Miles, and Bennett. To my understanding, Jenna’s story is completely unique and not inspired by Books of Blood—however, Miles’ and Bennett’s stories are directly tied to the work in the collection. The Book of Blood, Miles’ story, tells the tale of a cheating psychic who is exposed in a truly bloody way, and On Jerusalem Street, Bennett’s story, is tied to The Book of Blood sequel where a man finds the titular volume and is subsequently tortured by it. In order to keep this review focused on the adaptation portion, I will be focusing on these two stories.
As always, a quick spoiler warning is in place. While I will strive to avoid major spoilers, I will be comparing the book and the movie so there will be spoilers for both. If you wish to see them for yourself you can find the first volume of Books of Bloodhere and the movie on Hulu.
One stunning aspect of the movie was the book of blood imagery. The book of blood, a man who is covered with the stories of the dead engraved into his skin, is used as the connecting point between the three stories in the anthology, and it looks just as disturbing and haunting as the short story described it. Each scene that features the book of blood really taps into the fear that Clive Barker’s anthology strives for, and makes for some of the best scenes in the movie.
Likewise, the disturbing ideas featured in this movie, both the ones taken from the anthology and the original ideas, are incredible. There are several scenes in this movie that stuck with me for days afterword—from the blinded girl being placed beneath the floorboards to the mother swinging with her dead son. When the film chooses to embrace the gut-wrenching reality of the story it finally feels like a Clive Barker inspired film. If the movie had focused more on these elements, then it would’ve been an excellent adaptation.
Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t focus on the unsettling ideas that make Clive Barker’s work so great. Rather, the movie focuses on the characters and their interactions, which is where the movie fails spectacularly. They are very one note and, rather than talking like normal people, often serve as blank mouthpieces for the themes the movie is pushing. Rather than showing the character’s motivations through clever dialogue and filmography, the movie has them recite their personal philosophy at any given moment. They aren’t given any other characteristics that would make them interesting, so they are just left to constantly spout off about their opinions without any prompting, even in moments where it doesn’t fit. This creates a tell-not-show environment where the viewer is subjected to one long lecture on life and death with occasional blood and gore.
This may seem like an odd criticism for a book blogger to make, but the main reason why the characters feel like hollow husks is that the movie is written too much like a book. Within a book it’s okay to have dramatic discussions of the duality of good and evil and philosophical discourse over what it means to be alive because it can be framed as the character’s thoughts rather than dialogue. However, in the audio-visual setting movies create, these discussions feel hollow because the viewer is force-fed the information. In a book, there can be intense discussion of themes because the only medium at play is the written word, but movies cannot get away with dumping all the information regarding the movie’s message into the dialogue, especially if they aren’t willing to do the work to make the dialogue fit the situation or to make the themes unique and interesting. The movie’s choice to lazily cram all the themes into one aspect of the film results in a very boring viewing experience.
In the end, I felt that this movie failed to capture the horror of The Books of Blood anthology. While there were promising moments of dread and unsettling imagery that spoke to the beginnings of a great horror anthology, it was bogged down by the movie’s incessant need to drone on and on. Horror films as of late have gained a rotten reputation for being dull with only a few scares, and while I don’t fully agree with this belief, I don’t think Books of Blood is going to convince anyone otherwise. If you are genuinely curious and already have a Hulu subscription, the occasional scares are enjoyable enough to watch the movie while working at home, but it definitely isn’t worth getting a Hulu subscription or dedicating all your attention to watching it.
Publisher: Anchor Genre: Horror Pages: 672 Format: Paperback Buy Local My Rating: 5/5 stars
‘Salem’s Lot is still a popular horror novel, despite being published in 1975, a fairly long time ago. For that reason, I believe that it’s appropriate to write a review and revisit this renowned novel that Stephen King regarded as one of his favorites. I hope it inspires you to either read this classic for the first time, or—if it’s been a while since you’ve read it—to dust it off and dive back in.
At its most basic level, ‘Salem’s Lot is a horror novel about vampires. It takes inspiration from vampire stories such as the infamous Count Dracula, but is far more modern in terms of writing about vampires as they infiltrate regular society, largely inconspicuous until the living start to pay closer attention.
However, upon a closer glance, the novel all is not what it seems on the surface. In fact, vampires aren’t even suspected for at least the first 100 pages. Instead, the focus is on the introduction and development of the characters. Their stories are what carry the novel and make it important and a worthwhile read. As King often does in his books, there are underlying themes woven intricately into the subplots and characters that require closer attention from the readers—mirroring the relationship between the vampire, Kurt Barlow, and the protagonist, Ben Mears (joined by the townspeople). As Mears and some of the townspeople join forces to defeat the vampire infestation, much is learned about the characters and their pasts.
Even though the vampires are supposed to be the antagonists of the story, it could be argued that the real antagonist is the pressure of living in an idyllic town, and the damage that can be done by burying some of the traumas that the townspeople feel are better left unsaid, due to the importance of maintaining the town’s ‘squeaky clean’ image.
That being said, there is a reason King is regularly associated with the horror genre. While there are more tender, human, components of the novel, the concept of the undead comes alive within the novel, and it is equally engaging. King stays true to traditional vampire lore, complete with nods to garlic and holy crosses. However, pairing these stereotypes with a rural North American town setting make it both modern and haunting.
With everything from scares to keep you up at night to well developed characters you’ll fall in love with, ‘Salem’s Lot is, without a doubt, a novel both worth reading for the first time or dusting off after a long hiatus.
Every October a craving begins for pumpkin spice-flavored anything, sweet tooths start aching, and harmless orange fruit becomes the bearer of terrifying and toothless grins. The yearning for a good scare also grows as full as a harvest moon as we flock to haunted houses and corn mazes, or even to Netflix to give us that shot of fear-based adrenaline. Another surefire way to create some chills is simply turning to some classic horror stories—and there are a plethora of short story anthologies to get your spine tingling and your heart racing. In this classic selection of oldies-but-goodies, there will be aches (but not the sweet tooth kind), the bittersweet taste of revenge, mad men, and weird women a-plenty. Enjoy, but be sure to read with the lights on.
Psychos—Robert Bloch. Not to be confused with Bloch’s classic Psycho, this collection centers around madness and its many forms. Whether it comes under the guise of a seemingly benign object with murderous intention, the most intense road rage on record, a meticulously planned revenge plot on a drunk driver, or a “oops” of an autopsy, these stories will genuinely freak you out. A notable tale from this anthology is “Grandpa’s Head” by Lawrence Watt-Evans, which will make you rethink the pasts of every single person in your family, even the most innocent-seeming!
Weird Women: Classic Supernatural Fiction by Groundbreaking Female Writers (1852-1923). More recently published, yet by no means modern, Weird Women is a collection from the female perspective. Compiling work from such greats as Louisa May Alcott, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Frances Hodgson Burnett, these stories are beautiful, bold, and brooding. From ghostly little girls in locked rooms, unrequited wishes coming true through dreamscapes, and the beauty of wistaria (the old-fashioned spelling) covering sinister deeds, these tales are all supernaturally stunning. The stories are helpfully annotated to bridge the gap in some vernacular differences as well. If you appreciate lush writing, descriptive details, and the suspense of a slow burn, you will love this collection.
I Shudder at Your Touch: 22 Tales of Sex and Horror. For those who like a little risque with their risk, I Shudder at Your Touch features distinguished writers such as Stephen King and Clive Barker. With such disturbing topics as devilish weight loss programs, a not-so-little mermaid, a yearning for youth gone dark, and perverse revenge on an ex-lover, these stories spice things up more than that latte at Starbucks. A notable tale here is “Keeping House” by Michael Blumlein, with a creepy look at a woman’s descent into madness. If you like “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, you will be sufficiently spooked by Blumlein’s story. There is also a follow up edition, Shudder Again.
Everything’s Eventual: 14 Dark Tales—Stephen King. No list of short story anthologies would be complete without one from the king of horror, Stephen King. Everything’s Eventual is a collection featuring what you would expect from King—the unexpected. A lunch date gone gruesomely wrong, wish fulfillment for a quarter, and a traveling salesman debating his own self-inflicted untimely death, this is one diverse batch of dark tales indeed. Notable stories are “1408,” which explores just how creepy a hotel room can be, and “The Man in the Black Suit,” which is King’s nod to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown.” Incidentally “1408” was adapted into a decent film starring John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson.
So, curl up with your favorite blanket and a pumpkin spiced latte, turn the lights down low, and give yourself the willies. Just don’t blame me when you lie awake in the dark wondering what those strange sounds are!
Hollywood horror movies have earned their place as the reigning champions of clichés and overdone tropes. Iconic stories like “Frankenstein” and “Dracula” have been recycled, re-imagined, and represented both with success and resounding box office failure (looking at you, 2017’s “The Mummy”). Right alongside our favorite monsters are the ghost stories—which happen to be a personal favorite of mine. In my opinion, it’s a little harder to make a good ghost story into a movie, because suspense is harder to portray successfully then a well-done CGI monster. Ghost stories have their moments, and just like our iconic monsters, there are some ghost stories that stand the test of time and earn their place among the great horror novels of history, and thus their place in cinema.
The Turn of the Screw is the type of ghost story you may not have known you’ve seen before. It has the creepy house with dodgy staff, a spotty history with unexplained deaths, and Hollywood’s favorite horror trope, creepy children. Not only is it a staple of Henry James’s work, but it has been made and remade into films for decades, some successful, and some, not so much. At one point, James’s strange Gothic tale of a governess and her encounter with the supernatural was even transformed into an opera. Just like the works of Shelley and Stoker, ghost stories like The Turn of the Screw have their moments in the spotlight, and we need only wait for the right inspiration before they return to mainstream relevancy with a vengeance.
Early this year, Universal Studios released The Turning, which is a modern take on Henry James’s novella. One of the brightest stars recognizable from the new adaptation would be Finn Wolfhard, from Netflix’s of Stranger Things, as Miles. Miles is one of the two children that are central to the plot of The Turn of the Screw, and Wolfhard accurately portrays his eerie childlike beauty as well as his somewhat unsettling nature. The young actor already has some clout with horror, even though Stranger Things errs more on the side of science-fiction, but the hype his casting creates certainly puts this iconic Henry James piece back on the map for an audience that might not otherwise be exposed to the 1898 classic.
…”The THeater of the mind [is]… so much more powerful than any screen…”
Now, in concerns to move adaptations, book lovers often must take them with a large grain of salt. Not only is the theater of the mind so much more powerful than any screen, some of the most defining traits of our favorite stories are the ways in which they are written. Henry James’ unique style of writing and the way in which he builds the tension in his novella are defining characteristics that have never been successfully translated to the big screen. This, coupled with the description “re-imagining” means that I went into this film trying to maintain an open mind and not be too harsh on how it might stray from the original story. I don’t intend to write any spoilers, especially since the national COVID-19 epidemic has closed theaters almost right in the middle of its run, but I left this film feeling quite underwhelmed. Not only does it miss the subtlety that makes The Turn of the Screw as iconic and masterful as it is, but many of the plot points are cheapened to produce a quick scare. I’m as much a fan of the jump scare as the next person, but when you associate a film with a book, you take on certain responsibilities to represent that story and what makes it so beloved for its readers. Far be it from me to hold Hollywood to that, especially since we have so many flops seeming to communicate that faith to the original work is the least of their worries.
Adaptations done right
But all is not lost. Just like we have these adaptations that fall short of our love for a certain story, sometimes we have one that rises to the occasion. A breakout hit on Netflix in the Fall of 2018 was The Haunting of Hill House. You might recognize the title from another master of the ghost story, Shirley Jackson. Even though it fell even more firmly under the category of “re-imagining,” I would venture to say this is one cinematic endeavor that did so successfully, albeit in a serial format rather than a feature-length movie. The series managed to capture the tell-tale gothic atmosphere that make most ghost stories successful, and took enough elements of the novel to pay homage to the original while also weaving a unique tale. The result was a series that honored Shirley Jackson’s work and created a beautiful, stand-alone story with rich characters, suspense, horror, and heart. After the award-winning success of their first season, Netflix announced a follow-up second season that would utilize the same actors, but tell the story of another haunted estate near and dear to a book lover’s heart. This second season will be called “The Haunting of Bly Manor,” which should be recognizable as the estate in which The Turn of the Screw takes place. Let’s just say that my hopes are considerably higher for this iteration of this incredible novella, if how much I loved the first season is any indication. While I expect the same treatment with the story that Hill House underwent, the attention paid to the spirit of the source material coupled with real creativity and good writing makes the giant leap between films like The Turning and what I expect The Haunting of Bly Manor will be. For that comparison, however, we will have to wait and see.
In the meantime, one can always content themselves with the original. The Turn of the Screw is a quick read, but lingers with you long after it is finished. The novella begins like the best of ghost stories—with a group of friends around a fire, exchanging scary stories. It is a secondhand account, passed down from the protagonist that experienced the event, a young governess commissioned to teach the orphans Miles and Flora at Bly Manor. We know what we are getting into from the beginning, but still, the suspense built from the unusual circumstances of her employment to the occurrences on the manor grounds draw the reader in and keeps them guessing, on the edge of their seat.
Was it all in her head? you can decide, come April 7th
Ambiguity is also a defining feature of The Turn of the Screw, leading us to wonder whether it was all in the governess’s head, or if she really was a victim of the ghosts of Bly Manor—and, isn’t that the best thing about ghost stories? We get to be scared and are still left to wonder if ghosts are real or if it’s all in our head. The Turn of the Screw is worth a read anytime of the year, not just during Halloween when we’re in the mood for scary stories. And if you are still curious about The Turning and would like to draw your own conclusions, you won’t be able to catch it in theaters, but you can still catch it on streaming services starting April 7, 2020.
If you are like me, and are sitting on pins and needles for the Netflix’s second season The Haunting of Bly Manor, you will be happy to know that production wrapped up filming in February and the show is set to premiere sometime in 2020. (I’m willing to wager around Fall, since that’s when most people are looking for their horror fix.) Until then…
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Short Fiction Collection Ranging in Genre
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
Flying on the Ground, is a collection of the previously published short fiction of Richie Billing. The stories that make up the collection range in genre from fantasy, historical fiction, general fiction, horror, and crime. Thematically they explore notions of poverty, gentrification, addiction, hunger, survival, and much more. In all, it is an impressive collection that shows the author’s range, ability to build a compelling world, and his skill at placing characters who are just as compelling into that world.
As I was reading Flying on the Ground, schools were closing statewide as my community braced for whatever the coronavirus was going to bring our way. The circumstances were changing hour by hour, and while I did not witness any panicking, the tension and stress of uncertainty was palpable. This collection was the perfect distraction from all of that. Full of useful tropes and colorful characters, these stories don’t reinvent the wheel, but that is because they do not need to—this collection is entertaining, fun and well worth the read!
I most enjoyed the fantasy section of the collection and was drawn in by the way Billing seamlessly builds the world around his characters. Some of these stories take place in a shared world, and the overflow of the stories into one another was delightfully done and contributed to a larger arch. I thought that it was interesting how each story can stand on its own as an enjoyable tale, but was also a piece of a larger picture.
If you are looking for a quick read that will distract you from all of the things unfolding that we currently need distraction from, this collection is for you!
I would like to thank the author for this ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.