Monthly Archives: January 2014

Skulls in the Stars: Solomon Kane

Skulls in the Stars  by Robert E. Howard  (1929)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror, January 28, 2014

How’s your imagination these days? Looking for something fiendish?

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In Skulls in the Stars, our character Solomon Kane attempts to cross the moor road on his way to Torkertown. The villagers have warned him of an evil haunting on the moors. Something wicked is killing the travelers and the deaths are as gruesome as one could not imagine. Kane is advised to take the swamp road. But if you know anything about the adventurous Solomon Kane (a Puritan of high faith and dedicated to defeating evil), meeting up with Satan himself would not deter this man. What does Kane meet on the moors?

“…a thing that had once been a man—a gore-covered, frightful thing that fell at Kane’s feet and writhed and groveled and raised its terrible face to the rising moon, and gibbered and yammered, and fell down again and died in its own blood.”

… “The moon began to rise, lean and haggard, like a skull among the stars.”

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If you like your horror full throttle, this is it. Robert E. Howard writes a thrilling story, saturated with descriptions of this beast and its victims. Truly nightmarish. A virtual exercise in evil vs. courage. I actually needed some of Kane’s courage to finish reading this story (as you know I’m more the quiet horror type). This story did in fact give me a nightmare; I woke up screaming. I admit this story made me feel like a kid again, reading the scariest story, being haunted by the images, and afraid to shut the bedroom lights off. Are you laughing?

We all know author Robert E. Howard for his famous character Conan the Barbarian, and sword and sorcery genre. Most of the Solomon Kane stories were published in Weird Tales at the height of pulp fiction era. Here is the official Solomon Kane Web site: http://www.solomonkanethemovie.com/

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Read the short story at Gutenberg.net Australia  (and do keep the lights on).

Solomon Kane Movie Trailer:

Another of Howard’s titles is Moon of the Skulls: African jungle story where Solomon Kane seeks the vampire queen of Negari: crags dark and forbidding with impenetrable blackness, a virgin on a Black Altar, a tower of death, Babel of bestial screams, blood drenched brains  … I didn’t make it through this one. But you might.

Read Moon of the Skulls at Gutenberg.net

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House of Dusk and Shadows

The Room in the Tower   by E.F. Benson  (1912)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror, January 21, 2014

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“Jack will show you your room. I have given you the room in the tower.”

Sound friendly enough? Not in this story. Picture this: you are sixteen years old and a habitual dreamer with mostly pleasant adventures. One night you dream of a house full of shadows with a dark gloomy staircase leading to a tower where “Jack” brings you to your room. The room-in-the-tower nightmare produces a paralyzing fear but of what exactly you cannot identify.  And then this nightmare has the power of recurring in your sleep for years as you grow into an adult. And the nightmares grow too, each one becoming more frightening than the first.

Oh but this is only a dream, you say. Just wake up and go on with your life. And so you do … until the elements of the nightmare begin to appear in your waking life. And you actually meet “Jack” who leads you upstairs to the room in the tower.

Out of the dark silence comes the voice …

 “Jack will show you your room. I have given you the room in the tower.”

Wow I love stories like this! (My own novel Night Sea Journey, A Tale of the Supernatural is similar in that it deals with the power of nightmares and how the subconscious and the conscious mind can mix it up and become true horror; so this story really spoke to me.)   E.F Benson explores the subconscious mind in a most disturbing way in The Room in the Tower. There might be tea on the lawn to lull the dreamer in, but there is also a dreaded silence to say nothing of the odors of decay and inexplicable bloody hands. And most important, the mysterious reality of supernatural dreaming.

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79px-Benson,_27English novelist Edward Frederick Benson (Fred to his friends) was a prolific author of ghost    stories. He’s not as popular as some of the other authors here at Tales of Terror, but he was good enough to earn high praise from Lovecraft. Lovecraft so admired Benson’s talents, he mentioned several of  Benson’s titles in his essay Supernatural Horror in Literature (IX).If you’ve never experienced the stories of Fred Benson, get upstairs into that Room in the Tower.

Read The Room in the Tower at Gaslight (30-minute read)

Listen to the Librivox Recording (A good one!) recorded by Drew Heinmiller.

You’ll find more stories by E.F. Benson at  Gutenberg.net.

REMINDER: FEBRUARY IS WOMEN IN HORROR MONTH!

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Phantasmagoria On the River

On the River  by Guy de Maupassant  (1880s)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   January 14, 2014

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Have you ever shivered inside your bed, frightened to look at the hooked shadows in the corner of your bedroom? Or tremble when the cracking sound of footsteps come in from the doorway? You might imagine some phantom hovering.  Take that lonely night fear of the unknown and bring it with you On the River.

Here you are alone in a twelve-foot boat, far out on the river Seine in the gloom of moonlight. Just you. A sudden mass of reeds close in to blur your sight.  A river might be considered the most sinister of cemeteries since so much can be buried at the bottom of its slow and murky movements.

Our narrator in On the River is a worthy boatman, floating on the lovely Seine, enjoying a smoke of his pipe, a bit of rum, and a gentle breeze. A silent peaceful night, if you will. When his boat suddenly lurches, he’s  puzzled at first. But when the boat’s anchor snags on something much too heavy for him to shake loose, and he’s trapped within the reeds without another soul around to help, panic becomes him.

De Maupassant writes a very atmospheric tale with  psychological dimensions, and a clarity of fear all wrapped up in soft horror. I doubt you’ll be able to stop reading this one. As with many De Maupassant short stories (he wrote 300), some are tales of terror like Two Friends, Fear, The Hand, Apparition, The Dead Girl, to name a few. He is an author who brings his readers deeply into the scene and the guts of a story. On the River is a spooky tale that sails you out … into phantasmagoria.

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Read On the River at Online Literature 

Watch the adapted film by Roman Sidorenko  on You Tube    

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Undreamable Abysses

 The Music of Erich Zann  by H.P. Lovecraft

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    January  7, 2014

If music could transport man into an unknown realm, what kind of music would it be? Something glittery and spiritual? Or something frenetic with deformed purple notes? If any author can bring a reader to the threshold between the real world and beyond, it’s H.P. Lovecraft.

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In The Music of Erich Zann, our narrator is a university student of metaphysics. The city is probably Paris, but the name  is not confirmed. The student takes a room in the boarding house on the Rue d’ Auseil, which is a steep and narrow street, a cliff actually that lies beyond the dark river, beyond the bridge made of dark stone—a perfect metaphor for the edge of madness that defines the story.

Erich Zann is a Renaissance viol-player and a mute with a wrinkled satyr-like face. He lives in the one-windowed garret of the peaked boarding house on the Rue d’Auseil and every night plays his music. The student lies away each night, listening to the haunting and eerie notes. He is so intrigued that he knocks on the musician’s door to establish a friendship and hear more of Zann’s odd music. But Zann’s music fills the student with dreadful and brooding vibrations.

“Then one night as I listened at the door I heard the shrieking viol swell into a chaotic babel of sound; a pandemonium which would have led me to doubt my own shaking sanity had there not come from behind that barred portal a piteous proof that the horror was real—the awful, inarticulate cry which only a mute can utter, and which rises only in moments of the most terrible fear of anguish.”

Are you ready to enter the boarding house garret and experience not only the ghoulish howls of Zann’s musical viol but plunge into undreamable abysses?

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Read the short story at hplovecraft.com 

Listen to the narration by Mike Bennett on YouTube

For you film fans, watch John Strysik’s adaptation in two parts (total time 17 minutes):

Part One: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeMNDhTWJ-o

Part Two: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqQWrZFHouA

 

Note: Women in Horror Month is February. Get ready Tales of Terror fans!

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Literary Horror: Windeye by Brian Evenson

Have you read Brian Evenson, A Contemporary Literary Horror Author?

Praise from Peter Straub:

“Whenever I try to describe the resonant and disturbing literature that Horror, whether acknowledged or not, lately has found itself capable of producing, I find myself alluding to Brian Evenson, along with Graham Joyce and a few others: of these splendid younger writers, Evenson places himself furthest out on the sheerest, least sheltered narrative precipice—narrative at the far edge of narrative possibility—where he can speak clearly and plainly of loss, violence, and pain. THE OPEN CURTAIN is, very simply, a stunning book.”

Tales of Terror will return to regular posts on Tuesday, January 7 with an exciting Lovecraft short, but for this New Year’s Day of 2014, I thought I’d divert from classic 20th-century authors and recommend a modern horror author.  I’ve only just recently discovered Brian Evenson with his short story collection “Windeye.”

Evenson’s works are classified not only as literary horror but also as popular fiction, literary minimalism, science fiction, and fiction with touches of violence and humor. He’s written ten books of fiction, won numerous awards including American Library Association Award for Horror in 2009 and a finalist for an Edgar Award to say nothing of the O.Henry prizes and fellowships.

I won’t bore you any further with all his fine credentials because his work stands up magnificently anyway; I will just say this … when I read the short stories in Windeye, I found myself mesmerized by the writing, the storytelling, and of course the compelling lyrical style and faultless prose. Suspense? Oh yes, there’s plenty to keep your eyes on the page and wanting more.

Here’s a basic question that Evenson’s short stories ask: How would you function in an unreal world? In The Other Ear, for example, how would you handle a transplanted ear on the side of your head if the ear began to reveal a voice of its own? Or in his mysterious Windeye (short story title same as book title) about a house that has a secret window. A window that can be seen only on the outside of the attic. The window is called “windeye.” It makes one wonder if wind can look into a house. Hmmmm. Yeah, Evenson is no ordinary writer.

If you are looking to discover an author that’ll bring you into the depths of the darkly imagined, Brian Evanson will escort you in great style. I found his collections of short stories at my local library, but this is certainly an author I will want to have on my shelf.

Here are the opening lines of Windeye

‘They lived, when he was growing up, in a simple house, an old bungalow with a converted attic and sides covered in cedar shake. In the back, where an oak thrust its branches over the roof, the shake was light brown, almost honey. In the front, where the sun struck it full,  it had weathered to a pale gray, like a dirty bone.’

‘ … like a dirty bone.’  Do you feel something from that image of a dirty bone? Curious for more?

You can read Windeye free where it was originally published at  Pen America

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Windeye at Amazon.com

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Horror Novel Reviews   Hell Horror    HorrorPalace

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 Lovecraft Ezine      Rob Around Books    The Story Reading Ape Blog

GoodKindles.net      The Gothic Wanderer

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

 

HAVE THE HAPPIEST NEW YEAR

AND WISHING YOU ALL EVERY SUCCESS IN YOUR READING ENDEAVORS IN 2014!

From Isak Dinesen, author of Out of Africa

“The divine art is the story.”

 

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