Paul Allen

The Vanguard Press edition of Douglas Clegg’s Neverland (originally published in 1991 by Pocket Books)—like 2009’s reissue of Isis—features haunting interior illustrations by Glenn Chadbourne; the eerie, meticulously detailed images brilliantly complement the Southern Gothic story of one extended family’s far from idyllic summer vacation on an isolated peninsula off the coast of Georgia.

 
For 10-year-old Beau Jackson, the annual late August trek from his home in Richmond, Virginia, to his grandmother’s ancestral property on a Georgia peninsula known as Gull Island is a dismal one. For two weeks, Beau will have to deal with his constantly arguing parents as well as his alcoholic aunt and uncle, swarms of mosquitoes, unbearable humidity—and his weird cousin Sumter Monroe.
 

But this summer proves to be different from past vacations. Sumter, always a little strange, is downright disturbing. Obsessed with a decrepit shack at the edge of the property, Sumter makes it his own personal clubhouse and names it Neverland, a place where grown-ups are forbidden and an old human skull is worshipped as a destroying god. Compelled to Neverland to escape the dysfunction and alcohol-fueled fights inside Grammy Weenie’s house (ironically called The Retreat), Beau and his older twin sisters Missy and Nonie enter Sumter’s dark sanctuary and become entangled in a web of evil that includes thievery, animal sacrifices, blood drinking, demon worship and, quite possibly, facilitating the beginning of the end of the world.

 

Written from the point of view of a 10-year old, Clegg’s narrative is simultaneously an innocent coming of age tale replete with prepubescent imagery (consuming Yoo-hoo chocolate soda and Mallomar treats, old Playboys stashed away like hidden treasure, awkward first kisses, etc.) and a pulse-pounding, bladder-loosening horror featuring nightmarish monstrosities and gruesome action.

 

As the story unfolds, readers aren’t certain whether the burgeoning evil is actually occurring or if it’s just Sumter’s visions taking root in Beau’s susceptible mind: “The world was coming apart, and I didn’t know anymore what was real and what was imagined.”

 

Additionally, the dichotomy between childhood and the adult world is a powerful motif throughout. In youth there is purity and truth; adults live enmeshed in lies. For example, Gull Island is not an island but a peninsula. The Retreat is anything but a haven. Rabbit Lake is not a lake, etc.

 

Horror aficionados should cherish this beautifully illustrated reissue—and even though it was published almost two decades ago, the story is a timeless one and is still as haunting today as it was back in 1991. Classic Clegg unearthed.      

 

The Vanguard Press edition of Douglas Clegg’s Neverland (originally published in 1991 by Pocket Books)—like 2009’s reissue of Isis—features haunting interior illustrations by Glenn Chadbourne; the eerie, meticulously detailed images brilliantly complement the Southern Gothic story of one extended family’s far from idyllic summer vacation on an isolated peninsula off the coast of Georgia.   […]

Joe Schreiber's brilliantly creepy debut novel will have discerning horror connoisseurs everywhere comparing it to terror-inducing classics like Stephen King's Pet Sematary and Peter Straub's Ghost Story. Equal parts supernatural horror and psychological thriller, the majority of Chasing the Dead takes place during one nightmarish 14-hour period.

On December 21, the longest night of the year, single mother Sue Young returns home from work to find her one-year-old daughter Veda and her nanny missing. Then the phone rings. It's the kidnapper. In order for Young to get her daughter back alive, she must follow the abductor's instructions precisely. Her first task is to drive to Gray Haven, the sleepy New England suburb where she and her estranged husband Phillip grew up, dig up a corpse wrapped in garbage bags from underneath a secluded bridge and place it in the back of her SUV. After completing the task and returning to her vehicle, she finds her nanny dead in the passenger seat, eyes brutally removed. A bloody map is attached to the corpse: one with a highlighted route meandering through several small New England townships. For Young to rescue her daughter, she must travel the exact route with corpses in tow and arrive at the last town, White's Cove, before sunrise. But when she begins to see strange similarities in the towns she drives through—namely statues of a late 18th-century sea captain named Isaac Hamilton—she realizes that the person who abducted her child may not be a person at all.

Schreiber's first novel is an utterly readable nail-biting tour de force narrated in adrenaline-fueled, staccato chapters that all end with some kind of cliffhanger or bombshell. Readers will find it practically impossible to put down this bloodcurdling book until the last page. An infamous serial killer, a centuries-old mystery, decaying zombies, sadistic ghosts: What more could you ask for? Two rotting thumbs way up!

Paul Goat Allen is a freelance editor and writer in Camillus, New York.

 

Painting the town dead in Chasing the Dead.

Joshua Spanogle's debut novel will have readers compulsively washing their hands for months. A medical student at Stanford, Spanogle knows his subject, and the result is a chillingly realistic medical thriller with real urgency.

Isolation Ward opens as a mysterious outbreak of hemorrhagic fever strikes a run-down hospital in a decaying Baltimore neighborhood. The early symptoms of the viral infection resemble a bad case of the flu but quickly escalate to something much more horrific and an alarming percentage of those infected are dead within weeks. Dr. Nathaniel McCormick, a hard-charging medical detective from the Epidemic Intelligence Service at the Centers for Disease Control, is called in to investigate. What he uncovers is shocking: all those inflicted with the sickness are mentally handicapped residents from group homes in the area, and all have sexual links with another group home resident, an alleged rapist named Douglas Buchanan. McCormick's investigatory style, which can best be described as antagonistic, leads him to some surprising clues, but his complete lack of couth gets him pulled from the front lines just as possible leads start surfacing. After being shipped off to California to follow up on a minor loose end, McCormick finds himself right in the middle of a jaw-dropping plot that could save millions of lives and destroy even more.

Readers will have a hard time putting down this incredibly fast-paced novel and will be disturbed by its far-reaching implications, but a minor flaw can be found in its protagonist, the ill-tempered and overly sarcastic McCormick. An unpleasant blend of loud-mouthed brat and insensitive know-it-all, the headstrong character is not always an easy one for readers to identify with. That small criticism aside, Isolation Ward is definitely a medical thriller worth reading. Paul Goat Allen is a freelance editor and writer in Camillus, New York.

Joshua Spanogle's debut novel will have readers compulsively washing their hands for months. A medical student at Stanford, Spanogle knows his subject, and the result is a chillingly realistic medical thriller with real urgency. Isolation Ward opens as a mysterious outbreak of hemorrhagic fever strikes a run-down hospital in a decaying Baltimore neighborhood. The early […]

Prosecutor-turned-novelist Penn Cage, the hero of Greg Iles' 1999 bestseller The Quiet Game, is back in his hometown of Natchez, Mississippi, and facing his most disturbing challenge yet: supporting a childhood friend and pillar of the community who is accused of the brutal rape and murder of a high school girl. When Kate Townsend, the 17-year-old star athlete and valedictorian of St. Stephen's Prep School, is found dead near the Mississippi River, the entire population of Natchez turns its every resource toward finding out who snuffed out one of the city's brightest stars. But even before the investigation begins, Dr. Andrew Elliott pulls aside his longtime friend Cage and asks for legal advice. The middle-aged doctor informs Cage of his torrid love affair with Townsend and his plans to divorce his wife and move to Boston with the young woman while she attended Harvard. Cage reluctantly agrees to help his friend, but in his search for the real killer, he gets a glimpse of the secret reality behind St. Stephen's, which includes widespread drug use, rampant sexual promiscuity and an entire generation of disaffected youth. As more and more Natchez residents are sadistically murdered, can Cage follow the blood trail to the killer before his friend's career and reputation are ruined?

In a genre filled with shining stars, Iles' storytelling mastery specifically his unfathomably deep plot complexity and insightful character development blazes like a supernova. This dark and disturbing look at the abhorrent pitfalls facing children in 21st-century America is sure to satisfy even the most demanding suspense fan.

Paul Goat Allen is a freelance editor and writer in Camillus, New York.

Prosecutor-turned-novelist Penn Cage, the hero of Greg Iles' 1999 bestseller The Quiet Game, is back in his hometown of Natchez, Mississippi, and facing his most disturbing challenge yet: supporting a childhood friend and pillar of the community who is accused of the brutal rape and murder of a high school girl. When Kate Townsend, the […]

Ten years after the publication of Gregory Maguire's first adult novel, Wicked–a wildly successful account of the Wicked Witch of the West that served as the basis for a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical–the long-awaited sequel is finally here. Son of a Witch stars Liir, the mysterious adolescent boy who saw Dorothy kill the infamous Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba Thropp. As the novel begins, Liir (who may or may not be Elphaba's son) is found near death. Taken in by attendants at the Cloister of Saint Glinda, Liir is nursed back to consciousness by an enigmatic foundling girl named Candle, who soothes him with music. When Liir awakens, he is coerced to help the residents of Oz save themselves from an egomaniacal emperor. Although the storyline seems whimsical, the novel's dominant themes are anything but. Just like the Cowardly Lion, Tin Man and Scarecrow, Liir is desperately searching for clues to tell him who he is. But are physical characteristics really important when compared to what's in one's heart?

Fans of fantastical fiction, as well as aficionados of L. Frank Baum's classic Oz saga, will undoubtedly send Maguire's darkly enchanting and profoundly moving sequel straight to the bestseller lists. Ruby red slippers and flying monkeys not included.

 

Ten years after the publication of Gregory Maguire's first adult novel, Wicked–a wildly successful account of the Wicked Witch of the West that served as the basis for a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical–the long-awaited sequel is finally here. Son of a Witch stars Liir, the mysterious adolescent boy who saw Dorothy kill the infamous Wicked […]

What would you do if a sadistic serial killer forced you to decide who his next victim was? That's the crux of Dean Koontz's newest psychological thriller Velocity, an intimate, masterfully understated novel that will terrify readers with its almost subliminal metaphors and symbolism.

Bartender Billy Wiles gets off work one day and finds a note under the windshield wiper of his truck: If you don't take this note to the police and get them involved, I will kill a lovely blond schoolteacher somewhere in Napa County. If you do take this note to the police, I will instead kill an elderly woman active in charity work. You have six hours to decide. The choice is yours. With this discovery, Billy begins an unwilling descent into darkness that will bring him face-to-face with the long-buried demons of his past and force him to delve into the twisted subconscious of a maniac. As the killer draws Billy deeper and deeper into his performance, he also plants pieces of evidence at the crime scenes that will implicate Billy if he refuses to play along. While the notes continue, and innocent people meet brutal deaths because of his decisions, Billy realizes that the killer's next victim may be his fiancŽe, who has been in a coma for the last four years. Will Billy be forced to order the death of his fiancŽe in order to give a stranger a chance at life? One of the most popular suspense novelists in the world, the prolific Koontz delivers the spine-tingling goods in Velocity. With its tightly woven plot and break-neck pace, this dark exploration into what it means to be alive will keep readers up all night with all the lights on, of course. Paul Goat Allen is a freelance editor and writer in Syracuse.

What would you do if a sadistic serial killer forced you to decide who his next victim was? That's the crux of Dean Koontz's newest psychological thriller Velocity, an intimate, masterfully understated novel that will terrify readers with its almost subliminal metaphors and symbolism. Bartender Billy Wiles gets off work one day and finds a […]

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