Review: The Elementals by Michael McDowell (1981)


My Rating: 5 stars                                          Read: 4/2/2017

Release Date: 1981

Audiobook narrated by R.C. Bray released June 2016


After a bizarre and disturbing incident at the funeral of matriarch Marian Savage, the McCray and Savage families look forward to a restful and relaxing summer at Beldame, on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, where three Victorian houses loom over the shimmering beach. Two of the houses are habitable, while the third is slowly and mysteriously being buried beneath an enormous dune of blindingly white sand. But though long uninhabited, the third house is not empty. Inside, something deadly lies in wait. Something that has terrified Dauphin Savage and Luker McCray since they were boys and which still haunts their nightmares. Something horrific that may be responsible for several terrible and unexplained deaths years earlier – and is now ready to kill again . . .

A haunted house story unlike any other, Michael McDowell’s The Elementals (1981) was one of the finest novels to come out of the horror publishing explosion of the 1970s and ’80s. Though best known for his screenplays for Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice and The Nightmare Before Christmas, McDowell is now being rediscovered as one of the best modern horror writers and a master of Southern Gothic literature. This edition of McDowell’s masterpiece of terror features a new introduction by award-winning horror author Michael Rowe. McDowell’s first novel, the grisly and darkly comic The Amulet (1979), is also available from Valancourt Books. Continue reading “Review: The Elementals by Michael McDowell (1981)”

Review: In the Valley of the Sun by Andy Davidson (2017)


My Rating: 5 stars                                          Read: 4/2/2017

Release Date: Jun 6, 2017


For readers of Joe Hill, Cormac McCarthy, and classic Anne Rice, a chilling tale of suspense and horror set deep in the Texas desert.

Travis Stillwell spends his nights searching out women in West Texas honky-tonks. What he does with them doesn’t make him proud, just quiets the demons for a little while. But his nights soon take a terrifying turn in a desert cantina, where Travis crosses paths with a mysterious pale-skinned girl in red boots. Come the morning, he wakes weak and bloodied in his cabover camper, no sign of a girl, no memory of the night before. Continue reading “Review: In the Valley of the Sun by Andy Davidson (2017)”

Review: Ararat by Christopher Golden (2017)


My Rating: 5 stars                                          Read: 3/27/2017

Release Date:  Apr 18, 2017  (you can pre-order here)


New York Times bestselling author Christopher Golden’s supernatural thriller about a mountain adventure that quickly turns into a horrific nightmare of biblical proportions.

Fans of Dan Simmons’ The Terror will love Ararat, the thrilling tale of an adventure that goes awry. When a newly engaged couple climbs Mount Ararat in Turkey, an avalanche forces them to seek shelter inside a massive cave uncovered by the snow fall. The cave is actually an ancient, buried ship that many quickly come to believe is really Noah’s Ark. When a team of scholars, archaeologists, and filmmakers make it inside the ark for the first time, they discover an elaborate coffin in its recesses. The artifact tempts their professional curiosity; so they break it open. Inside, they find an ugly, misshapen cadaver—not the holy man that they expected, a hideous creature with horns. A massive blizzard blows in, trapping them in that cave thousands of meters up the side of a remote mountain…but they are not alone.

My Review:

This is the best full-on horror novel I’ve read in some time. It feels like vintage Michael Crichton to me, with a plot something like: Dan Brown meets “The Thing”.

A huge earthquake and avalanche at Mt. Ararat (in Turkey) exposes a cave in the snow. That mountain has long been rumored to be the final resting place of Noah’s Ark, so a number of teams set out to explore the newly uncovered cave hoping to find archaeological gold. The first team to the cave will win the scoop. This “race to the cave” is only the very beginning of the novel.

The team to reach the cave first is an engaged British couple, Adam and Meryam, a quintessential digital age couple who make adventure videos together. They find that the cave is, indeed, the ark, complete with various levels of ancient timber floors and walls, “stalls” ,and the remains of a human family and animals. Also in the ark is a sarcophagus that contains the skeleton of something with horns that might or might not be human.

A group of scholars, Turkish bureaucrats, archaeologists, local guides, an American man sent from DARPA to see if the find can be weaponzed (uh-huh), a UN observer, priest, etc, all end up at the ark to investigate. They are high up on Mt Ararat, isolated from the world by a blizzard, when sh*t hits the fan.

At times, this feels like a monster movie, ala “The Thing”, with the isolated group of people being hunted and picked off one-by-one. There’s a supernatural element here, so this is definitely more horror than thriller. There were some nice touches having to do with dreams and the past history of several of the characters that gave the horror some depth and the book a bit of a literary edge. The story becomes quite tense and scary. It’s quite a nail-biter. If you don’t like violence, you probably need to skip this one.

I really enjoyed the pseudo-history/religious elements in the story, though they stay at an Indiana Jones sort of level. The characters were all unique and had some layers. Meryam, for example, who heads the project, is a woman who is not always likable but she is smart and ambitious and generally makes good choices.  The sexism she faces from the local guide was quite realistic.  Another stand out was Walker, the secret DARPA agent, who is a tough fighter but also compassionate and a thinker. The writing style was tight and unadorned. The plot moves forward at a fast clip and there’s no fluff or filler.

I guess this has already been tapped for a movie. I’m not surprised as it totally reads like one.

Loved it! If you miss old-school horror, give this one a try.

Book Links



Review: The Only Child by Andrew Pyper (2017)


My Rating: 5 stars                                          Read: 3/18/2017

Release date: May 23, 2017


The #1 internationally bestselling author of The Demonologist radically reimagines the origins of gothic literature’s founding masterpieces—Frankenstein, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Dracula—in a contemporary novel driven by relentless suspense and surprising emotion. This is the story of a man who may be the world’s one real-life monster, and the only woman who has a chance of finding him.

As a forensic psychiatrist at New York’s leading institution of its kind, Dr. Lily Dominick has evaluated the mental states of some of the country’s most dangerous psychotics. But the strangely compelling client she interviewed today—a man with no name, accused of the most twisted crime—struck her as somehow different from the others, despite the two impossible claims he made. Continue reading “Review: The Only Child by Andrew Pyper (2017)”

Review: Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice (1976)


My Rating: 5 stars                   Read: 3/5/2017


  • Lifetime Challenge (1976)
  • 1001 Books to Read Before You Die Challenge
  • My Horror Challenge  (Best Horror Novels list)


I read this book for my Lifetime challenge (1976). It’s also on the “1001 Books to Read Before You Die” list. I mostly listened to the audiobook narrated by Simon Vance.

I first read “Interview” back in the 70’s shortly after it came out. I was a college student then. I adored it completely at the time, and read all the sequels avidly. However, I feel the cheesiness of the movie negatively impacted my memories of it, because it was far better, in book form, than I remembered it being. Continue reading “Review: Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice (1976)”

Review: The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty (1971)


My Rating: 5 stars         Read: 2/17/2107


  • Lifetime Challenge (1971)
  • My Horror Challenge


I read this book as part of my Lifetime Challenge for the year 1971. Not only was The Exorcist a #1 New York Times bestseller for months that year, but it is a classic of the horror and thriller genres.  I listened to the audiobook read by William Peter Blatty. Continue reading “Review: The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty (1971)”

Review: Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin (1967)


My Rating: 5 stars                Read:  2/1/2017


  • My Lifetime Challenge (1967)
  • My Horror Challenge


I read this for my Lifetime Challenge (1967). I read this book ages ago and, of course, have seen the movie several times. So I knew every inch of this plot. Nevertheless, it was a pleasure to read it again (and I’m not the sort who reads books twice).

There were some details in the book that don’t come across in the film, and that I’d forgotten from when I read the book so long ago. But mainly, it’s just a pleasurable read, not overly long-winded like some horror novels of the 80s, and it’s steeped in such realism. The sense of 1960’s New York is acute. The story is so perfectly creepy, and all the more so for being understated. I love how maternal Rosemary is, constantly thinking about, or talking to, the baby when she’s pregnant. And Guy is utterly, realistically, charmingly repellent. Continue reading “Review: Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin (1967)”

Review: Come Along With Me by Shirley Jackson (1968)


My Rating: 4 stars        Read: 2/4 2017


  • My Lifetime Challenge (1968)
  • My Horror Challenge


I’m doing a lifetime book challenge where you read one book from each year since you were born. I chose this book for 1968 because I wanted to include a Shirley Jackson and the rest of her books were published before I was born. This collection was released posthumously. As for her previously work, I can highly recommend “The Haunting of Hill House”, “We Have Always Lived in the Castle”, and “The Lottery and Other Stories”.

This volume is a mishmash collection including some lectures/essays, a partially finished novel, and various short stories. Reviews of each after the break.

Continue reading “Review: Come Along With Me by Shirley Jackson (1968)”