VENUM MALUM Michael R. Collins January 9 2022 Gloom House Publishing Reviewed by Brian “Skull” Lewis
Hello horror fans! It’s your old pal Skull with a cool new read by Michael R. Collins that goes by the title Verum Malum. This is just one new selection from growing independent press Gloom House Publishing run by none other than James G. Carlson who is a fine author whose work has been nominated for multiple awards. Be sure to check him out at: firstname.lastname@example.org As an extra bonus, Gloom House is currently having a half press sale this month! That means you can sample a lot of cool writing for less or get more books on a budget. Nice! And now back to the subject of this review…
Venum Malum looks absolutely terrifying if you go by cover art alone, but this is a complex story that’ll have you feeling much more than just fear. Ben and Noah are a married couple who not only have to deal with negative vibes about their love, but also about their skin color. This leads to police not taking their complaints seriously and people treating them as “less than.” However, they do have some solid friends who are their chosen family. Jackie is one of those friends. Noah is upset that his husband hasn’t informed him about the cancer returning to his body and there is an argument. Turns out that many things aren’t as they seem and after an uninvited guest sparks things off, Ben tells Noah and Jackie about his secret dark past in which he belonged to a satanic cult. While that is scary, the worst part is that the group wants Ben back and is willing to stop at nothing in their pursuit of him. They’ve opened a portal to a demonic world called the Venum Malum that makes going to hell look like a Caribbean cruise. Group leader Marius believes that this will bring him unlimited evil powers, but will it really? Noah becomes a lion to save his man, but will that be enough to protect them? Will the police finally protect them without discrimination? Skull recommends you get a copy and find out. You won’t be disappointed!
Damaged Skull Writer and Reviewer rates Michael R. Collins’Venum Malum a hearty FIVE STARS! There is a lot going on in these pages to keep readers riveted with the bonus of being very contemporary. Horror is often a great vehicle for social commentary and Michael R. Collins does a great job weaving his message into the pages of his work without having it feel preachy or unnatural. This book is a great read about the power of love, friendship, and how even a seemingly evil satanic rock band can turn out to be solid citizens. Always look beyond a book’s cover before making judgement. Get yours at: email@example.com and visit Michael R. Collins at: www.michaelrcollins.wordpress.com Thanks for stopping by the Skullcave! Stay tuned for more interesting news and reviews coming soon at: www.damagedskullwriterandreviewer.com
Sure it seems far away while we’re still walking around in shorts and flip-flops, but Halloween is creeping towards us on silent feet. Fans of horror are running around full of excitement, like the handsome devil above. They’re eager to visit haunted houses, corn mazes, and read some scary stuff. To help those with a reading jones, there’s the annual Halloween Issue of The Sirens Call E-Zine. Not only that, but you can dig it for free!
My story “Still A Great Night To Be A Kid” is about a couple of teenage boys who are in a hurry to grow up. So they ditch their trick-or-treat gear and head for Hemlock’s House of Horrors to celebrate in style. But there’s something strange about the town’s newest attraction…
This book is part encyclopedia, part pizazz, and 1oo% fun! Wife got me this after I returned to guitar playing this year and wanted a different Fender/Squier guitar not the same old Stratocaster or Tele(which I still love) This is invaluable for today’s guitar shopper because depending on where you buy, they don’t always explain all the features of your potential instrument. I’ve read other books by Tony Bacon and always come away impressed with the depth of his knowledge. Get this! You’ll enjoy it for years and it makes a great coffee table book when you have company.
THE DARK MATTER OF NATASHA Matthew R. Davis Emergent Expressions June 6, 2022 Reviewed by Brian “Skull” Lewis
Hello there fans of dark fiction, it’s your old pal Skull with a new book from Grey Matter Press’ Emergent Expressions Signature Line that is some powerful stuff. Before I go any further, I do want to mention that The Dark Matter of Natasha is a heavy book that deals frankly with sex, depression, self-harm, and the consequences of one’s own actions. If these topics are triggers for you, please try a different title from this press. This is an excellent book by Matthew R. Davis, but not one you’ll walk away from unscathed. That being said, let’s check in with our narrator in Lunar Bay, a place by the sea that harbors a certain darkness…
People who have a close relationship with death have a certain charisma. They seriously do not give a fuck and live each day as if it’s their last, because it might well be. Even if she’s poor, and possibly homeless, Natasha has that flair and the narrator of this story finds it irresistible. Even though she’s not really his type and he might still have a solid girlfriend who will love him with all her heart, a chance meeting sets him chasing Natasha and the darkness she carries with her. Because along with that darkness and lack of restraint are large breasts, a voluptuous body, and every high school boy’s erotic desire: Free sex with no repercussions or responsibility. Natasha even tells him, “I ain’t your fucking girlfriend, mate!” To make things clear.
But to a virgin with no real close friends, and what appears to be a dire future cleaning up a trailer park, this might be as close as he gets to love and living out the fantasy he only hears people boasting about outside pubs. So, he adopts Natasha’s religion of smoking weed and listening to Slayer, the heavier the metal the better. Goodbye to inane pop music with all its bogus platitudes and jingle-jangle guitars. It’s balls to the wall, no fear, and fuck her for glory. But as the days pass, things he hadn’t seen before come to light. Like how no one really escapes Lunar Bay, that he’s just a teenage boy playing at being a tough, but deep inside he’s too scared, and the biggie: sex isn’t love. Natasha is so broken that she’ll never be able to love anyone, and the only thing she has a true desire for is something the narrator cannot give her.
When Caitlin, the girlfriend he thought he’d lost, zooms back into the picture, it looks like it’s all blue skies and hooray the gang’s all here, yeah? But sometimes things turn out much differently than expected. Will our lad be able to patch up things with Caitlin? Does Natasha finally make her escape from Lunar Bay? How many times can “hope spring eternal’ before it’s shot down by a mean bastard called life that carries a sawed-off shotgun? Oh, and one more thing: NATSHA LOVES SLAYER.
So, what does your old pal Skull say about The Dark Matter of Natasha by Matthew R. Davis? FIVE STARS! This is another excellent book from Emergent Expressions and Grey Matter Press that meets readers on so many levels. There is a lot to be learned here by inexperienced hearts and some of us older will nod our heads because we’ve been in this place. Maybe some still are. Better to learn now before the darkness takes control. Want more info and to grab your own copy? Go to: www.greymatterpress.com Want to find out more about author Matthew R. Davis? Go to: www.matthewrdavisfiction.wordpress.com To keep getting news and reviews, follow your old pal Skull at: www.damagedskullwriterandreviewer.com
Brian James Lewis is a poet, writer, and reviewer of urban poetry and dark fiction. He has written for Hellnotes, Aphotic Realm, Gallows Hill, and his own site Damaged Skull Writer and Reviewer. Brian’s most recent work is the immersive short story “Following My Destiny” about mass shooter Chance McCandless that gives readers a chilling look inside the criminal mind. Available NOW in Issue 22 of Trajectory Journal For more information message me or go to www.trajectoryjournal.com Thank you!
The Survivors T.C. Weber May 5, 2022 Solstice Publishing Reviewed by Brian “Skull” Lewis
Howdy horror readers, it’s your old pal Skull with the full review I promised of T.C. Weber’s great new book, The Survivors! If you like stories where women are the heroes, warriors, and healers, then get yourself a copy of this unique, futuristic read. This tale of people living in a post-apocalyptic world transports readers to what remains of the earth after major climate issues and the view is not pretty. But it is interesting. So buckle up, buttercups and let’s take a ride…
We meet narrator, Lucy, as she’s climbing aboard a small boat with another member of her small group of survivors. These are people who are existing long after we are gone in so much fossil fueled dust. Nobody is whipping out their cell and clicking the GPS app, kicking over their motor and zooming across the lake. Because well, they can’t. No electricity, which means no refrigeration, light, power, or any of the creature comforts we take for granted. Everything is done manually and with great effort. Things have returned to almost caveman status, with the occasional relic from the “Vanished Ones” People roam in tribes and survive on what they can kill or find to eat. They also can’t be out much in broad daylight because it is very hot, most likely due to nearly zero ozone layer.
Lucy’s Aunt Irma is a warrior woman with animal like smarts. Everything is handled by force and anything in her way is beaten into submission. This is a handy skillset to have but might is not always right. She and Lucy, who is a healer, clash frequently. Still, they seem to be doing okay with shelter and plentiful food until huge storms come and destroy everything they have. Back to square one, everybody! They must travel to find something better, but they’ve got a pregnant woman, an infant, and children slowing them down. Not to mention a couple teenage boys who are more concerned with their sexual desires than survival. The dangers are many and those without focus turn themselves into targets.
Unlike Irma, Lucy is interested in learning. She wants to find out more about the exalted “Vanished Ones” because she is sure that they were much smarter than she is and knew the secrets to living in harmony with each other. Weber’s approach here brings a perfect bittersweet humor to the story. I mean, here we are reading this in a time when mass shootings have become a scary new norm. Most of the crimes are driven by anger and hate. Gas is heading for ten bucks a gallon, yet huge trucks and muscle cars are selling like hotcakes. Guys sit in their cars with the motor running for an hour while the family shops. “We never even saw it coming…” Seriously? Sorry! Back in the story, Lucy begins to have revelations from what she learns as they continue to travel. Some people evolve and others fail to change. Those who resist change too much are not likely to continue the journey. Patience is indeed a virtue, and a person will be tested time and time again. Things get very dark for a bit, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. It is the light of the ALL…
So what does your old pal Skull think of The Survivors? I give it a 5 STAR RATING and a spot on the Skullcave’s “Wall of Fame”! This is a great and complex story with wide appeal to readers from teen to adult. Climate change has been scientifically proven to be a real thing. There will be a time when life as we know it may cease. I wonder how smart the “Vanished Ones” will be before then? Get your copy of T.C. Weber’s The Survivors with the following links: