Shadow Out Of The Sky Review


Brick Marlin
Seventh Star Press
January 12, 2015
Reviewed by Brian James Lewis

This is the first book in the Transitional Delusions Series by Brick Marlin, an author of over 25 published short stories and more than five books by independent presses. So obviously, he hasn’t just arrived at the party. Apocalyptic horror is definitely where it’s at right now and Shadow Out of the Sky is a book that combines that with religion, and the legend of the Pied Piper to make a very disturbing mix that moves quickly and relentlessly. Ready or not, here they come!

And you won’t be ready for chapter one! WARNING: People who are easily offended by graphic violence please make another selection. A couple of sweet little kids stab and slash their parents into chunks of stew meat so smoothly and easily that the reader might put the book down and run away from it in fear. Especially because that’s just the very tip of the iceberg. ALL the little children in Woodbury get to killing all the adult folks in town with all matter of strange weaponry. There’s steak knives, ice picks, hatches, and bats just to name a few. Something that is very handy for the attackers is that everyone’s electric power, and all phone service for the area is cut off. It’s kind of hard to call for help or reinforcements either. Not that there’s anyone to call. The crazy kids killed everyone at the police station in less time than it takes to fix a flat tire.

The characters in the story are widely varied and in kind of flip-flop mode. The people who are smart and level-headed die first. While the town drunk and his long-suffering wife die close to last after finding out that it wasn’t just an isolated incident in their town. Everywhere is messy and full of half-eaten corpses. One of the surprise monster kid butt kickers is Martha, an older woman who prays a lot and knows how to use a shotgun real well. A truck driver named Tray keeps being helpful and making good use of the biggest weapon they have, his tractor-trailer. Besides them, there’s the creepy pedophile Barry Freckles, who lived a life of incest before his mother passed away. Having the children attack Barry seems like pure justice, and for a short moment we almost cheer. But after they get what they want from Barry, the kids are even more fired up and urgently look for more targets until they kill every adult in town.

The evil spirits possessing the children are four evil entities called The Reckoning. They are visible only to those who are dying and the children. Their immediate leader is a pied piper named Kabul who has lived a very long time. He uses a flute to call the children and the rats they are mutating into and direct them. As the few surviving adults gape at the children and piper before they are wiped out, Martha explains that they are in the early days of the apocalypse. Soon the end of the world as we know it will be happening. Things look pretty hopeless, but the ending of this book has a nice little twist.

Just a very small bit of critique. I have to agree with some of the reviewers on Amazon that the cover could have been done better. Especially since the cover for book #2 in the series looks kickass! The other thing, which I am not the first to mention, is the high number of typos. Not a deal breaker, but it makes reading the book a little choppy at times. I am guessing these things happened at the printer’s and it looks like they are stepping their game for book #2 in the Transitional Delusions Series. Overall a good read. Brick Marlin’s enthusiasm can be felt on every page. I could easily see this series of stories being turned into a TV show, or possibly a movie. Excellent description and believable characters! Recommended!

About Brian James Lewis

Brian James Lewis is an emerging published writer and poet who, after spending many years of writing and saving his work for “the right time,” finally arrived after he could no longer do heavy garage work due to spinal injuries. Writing turned the situation into a much better thing than it originally was and has kept Brian from doing anything fun, like driving his car off a bridge. Currently Brian’s poem, “Garage Sense,” can be found on Trajectory Journal’s web page, and his short story, “Finally,” which is about a mentally ill homeless man who shoots a liquor store owner, will be coming out in the Fall issue of The Iconoclast. Besides writing, Brian repairs and uses old typewriters, including his star typewriter: a Royal KMM that was previously owned and used by Rod Serling when he lived on the west side of Binghamton, NY. Even though he loves music and writing, the biggest part of Brian’s heart belongs to his wife, Michelle. They live next door to an abandoned K-Mart with their rescue animals in the industrial city of Endicott, NY. He can be contacted @skullsnflames76 on Twitter, or check out his struggling blog at

Throwback Thursday Thriller Is Back!


By Richard Matheson
Viking 1971/TOR 1999
Reviewed by Brian James Lewis


Stephen King has taught us many things. One of the most important is to honor and respect those that have come before you. Richard Matheson is one writer well deserving of that treatment. His short fiction was the bedrock for many an episode of The Twilight Zone and many of his books have been made into movies. The reason being the power of Matheson’s prose, along with its amazing timelessness. Yeah, some of the things, like this book for example, have exact dates written in as part of the story because we need to know that. It is very significant that the story ends on Christmas Day. But enough of that. I’m sure that I don’t have to explain Richard Matheson’s greatness to anyone. Let’s take a walk into Hell House.

The book starts with Dr. Lionel Barrett accepting a challenge from a tabloid magazine magnate Rudolph Deutsch to prove that The Belasco mansion, aka Hell House is really haunted. If he can do this, he stands to make one hundred thousand dollars (in 1971 this would be a vast fortune) in cash. But like any challenge of this sort, there are conditions. Barrett will be accompanied by two mediums. One of which is Florence Tanner who has very strong spiritual ties and runs a church. The other is a man named Benjamin Fischer, who is the sole survivor of a previous attempt to cleanse Hell House over 30 years ago. Fischer’s credibility is questionable, but as someone who was able to survive all the horror and depravity of the place before, he is very valuable.

Since I am writing a short review of this book, I’m going to whizz past a lot of the specifics with the intention of showing the core plan. The band of four people (Dr. Barrett’s wife comes along to assist the doctor with his physical ailments.) do enter the Belasco mansion and it more than lives up to its title. The place is creepy and nasty, surrounded by a foul smelling moat, and the former owner has left a recording of his voice to greet his guests. At first, just small phenomena occur. Things don’t feel right, bad spiritual energy, and ghostly visitors arrive. But once the evil spirit who controls the house figures out each challenge and weakness of the visitors, it sets about attacking those weaknesses. Until it literally breaks through.

The most intriguing of these is Dr. Barrett himself, who keeps trying to explain the powers of the house in terms of magnetic forces, air pressure, and temperature. Everything has an exact and scientific reason for happening, he claims. He even goes so far as to build a machine to reverse these energies and cleanse the house of evil. It works-for a very short time. Then the Reversor reverses with horrible consequences. Even as the doctor tries to shout his reason at it, the thing explodes with the negative energy build up, and he goes to a grotesque death. Science is great as far as it goes, but being a non-believer of spiritual forces is as dangerous as sitting on a crate full of dynamite.

Everyone in the house is hurt in numerous ways. There are possessions, visions, attacks by invisible forces that cause a lot of physical damage, and Benjamin Fischer is told to go outside and drown himself in the tarn. He almost succeeds, but Ethel Barrett arrives just in time to grab him. Even Deutsch, the originator of the contract, accidentally kills himself with pain pills. Not a great loss to the world, but it means that the people fighting the evil of Emerick Belasco will never get any monetary compensation for their sacrifices. This turns the fight into good against evil instead of a money making venture or a triumph for science. Together, the two people who did not believe in themselves are the ones to beat Belasco.

A couple of asides. Hell House is cleaned out on Christmas, the day that marks the birth of Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Which is a strong push for a spiritual victory. But Fischer realizes that Dr. Barrett was also right because the chamber that Emerick Belasco hid his body in was lined with lead. This meant that Belasco knew somehow that the radiation from the Reversor would damage his powers. I guess the meaning here is that there is more than one way to fight evil and some fights require all of them.














Hellnotes Review of HIVE



Alex Smith
Muzzleland Press
October 14, 2016
Reviewed by Brian James Lewis

Wow! What a great read at an excellent price! Even though HIVE comes in at under a hundred pages, it will knock your socks off! Without reservation, I highly encourage you to buy this very powerful little book with the creepy cover!

Things start out on a melancholy, “Holy shit our relationship is going down the toilet” note. Mark and Carolyn have just gone through having a voluntary abortion. Both of them are sad, frustrated, and their hearts hurt. They are awkward and don’t know how to get back to their relationship. After a few very uncomfortable days, Carolyn decides that they need to move from their tiny apartment in the city to something bigger in a nicer location. Since she also tells Mark that this will save their struggling relationship, he goes along with the plan.

At first, things look sunny. It’s a big place in a nice building with a great location. What could be bad about moving here? It turns out, a lot! Problems start quickly after they move in. There’s some minor stuff about the physical condition of the apartment. Odd changes and cover ups that turn on Mark’s bad mojo radar, causing his wife to get pissed off and send him out for sandwiches. It’s all a speedy downhill slide from there.

On the street, things go from a little funky to downright creepy. Mark has an altercation with the building supervisor about the strange looking child he claims is his. When he gets back from the store and tells his wife about what happened, she gets all pissed off and pretty much lays down an ultimatum regarding Mark’s behavior. So he does his best to shut up because he really wants to save their relationship.

That works fine until Mark turns on the TV and finds that it’s tapped in to some kind of security footage for the building. As the screens scroll through the rooms, it shows children locked in cages and some kind of strange operating room…Eeeg! What the shit is going on in this place? Even though Carolyn forbids it, Mark decides that the best thing he can do is try and help the little boy. That decision sets a dramatic cat and mouse chase theme for the rest of the book. Plus, with all the surveillance equipment, it’s nearly impossible to hide or sneak around the building without the bad guys being aware of it. It is done very well with lots of twists and turns. But I am not going to give away any more info than that. You will find yourself glued to the book though, following every new development.

Alex Smith puts forth a great debut. All the characters are well developed, as are the settings. The pace of the book is superb. Building slow and rocketing faster until the surprising end. What really makes it awesome, is how real everything is. The reader will be left wondering what the Super is doing in their building! I am honored to have been asked to review HIVE! Looking forward to reading more from this excellent author!

About Brian James Lewis

Brian James Lewis is an emerging published writer and poet who, after spending many years of writing and saving his work for “the right time,” finally arrived after he could no longer do heavy garage work due to spinal injuries. Writing turned the situation into a much better thing than it originally was and has kept Brian from doing anything fun, like driving his car off a bridge. Currently Brian’s poem, “Garage Sense,” can be found on Trajectory Journal’s web page, and his short story, “Finally,” which is about a mentally ill homeless man who shoots a liquor store owner, will be coming out in the Fall issue of The Iconoclast. Besides writing, Brian repairs and uses old typewriters, including his star typewriter: a Royal KMM that was previously owned and used by Rod Serling when he lived on the west side of Binghamton, NY. Even though he loves music and writing, the biggest part of Brian’s heart belongs to his wife, Michelle. They live next door to an abandoned K-Mart with their rescue animals in the industrial city of Endicott, NY. He can be contacted @skullsnflames76 on Twitter, or check out his struggling blog at

this day in crime history: december 16, 1985

The work of the “Teflon Don” John Gotti…Check out the Fun Lovin Criminals song, “King of New York” for a musical soundtrack to your reading!

Nobody Move!


On this date in 1985, Gambino crime family boss Paul Castellano and his underboss/bodyguard Thomas Bilotti, were shot dead outside Sparks Steak House in Manhattan. The hit was reportedly carried out at the order of John Gotti, a captain in the Gambino family. Following Castellano’s death, Gotti would take over as the family’s teflon-covered boss. The teflon wore off in 1992, when Gotti was convicted of thirteen counts of murder, including those of Paul Castellano and Thomas Bilotti.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Paul Castellano

Gangsters, Inc. – John Gotti

Sparks Steak House

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Throwback Thursday Thriller is “The Island of Dr. Moreau”


H.G. Wells
Dover Publications
Reviewed by Brian James Lewis


This week’s Throwback Thursday Thriller is The Island of Dr. Moreau. First published in 1896 by notable forward thinker, H.G. Wells, this novella is a tale of science gone wrong that resounds just as strongly today as it did over 100 years ago. What an amazing Sci-Fi and Horror pioneer! Wells was writing books about genetic engineering and its consequences during a time in which people were still using a horse and buggy.

Our narrator, Edward Prendick, is picked up by a strange boat and rescued after the passenger ship that he was originally on meets misfortune and he and a few crew members managed to escape on one of the lifeboats. However, only Prendick survives. His condition is so rough that he refers to his hand as “a dirty skin purse full of loose bones.”  His savior Montgomery brings Prendick back from the edge of death mostly to entertain himself than anything else.

The small freighter that they’re on is crammed with supplies as well as a crude menagerie of animals secured on deck or wherever possible. When Prendick asks Montgomery about it, he pretends to be merely an observer himself. But that soon dissolves when the drunken captain of the freighter and his crew’s harassment of Montgomery’s manservant goes too far and he has to step in before major damage is done. Prendick is freaked out by the black hairy man because there are things about him that just look odd like his huge teeth and animal eyes.

Eventually the ship arrives at the island that Montgomery calls home and it is unloaded. Prendick is also unloaded against his will and put back into his lifeboat to drift. The owner of the island, Dr. Moreau finally relents and lets Prendick ashore. This at first makes Prendick grateful, but once he’s on the island for a short time, that turns into terror as he discovers a bunch of people who’ve been horribly disfigured by Dr. Moreau. He then makes a big point of threatening the doctor and Montgomery. This confuses the Beast People who think that he is one of them and is the beginning of a bad downhill slide for everyone involved.

When he learns the truth, that Moreau turns animals into men and women using vivisection, Prendick is even less delighted. He should be, since his behavior has shown the other “men” that they too can retaliate against the House of Pain and fight against the artificial God that Moreau has made himself into. There are quite a few episodes of the Beast People surging forward against Moreau, Montgomery, and Prendick, and then being driven back. But when Moreau “He who rules the House of Pain” is killed in a fight with the Puma, everything in the unstable social structure comes crashing down and doesn’t stop until the bitter end.

Montgomery, who is a righteous alcoholic, goes on a bender. While wasted he decides that it would be a great plan to share his booze with the Beast People. They end up drunk and Montgomery turns them against Prendick, who has locked himself inside the fenced in compound for safety. Everyone is running crazy, the boats that Prendick and Montgomery planned to use as a means to escape the island are smashed and burned.  As most fights fueled by drink do, Montgomery’s fight against Prendick takes a sickening turn when he runs out of alcohol and the Beast People demand more. When he doesn’t produce more, they beat him to death in rage.

Prendick seeing this, rushes out to his rescuer’s aid only to accidentally knock over an oil lamp inside the supply room. It explodes and burns down the entire compound leaving Prendick with no safe refuge to hide in. For a while, he lives among the Beast People until they regress back into their animal identities. They shun their clothing, stop speaking English, and most importantly, return to their animal ways such as being carnivorous and hunting. Prendick is just another thing to hunt and has to move to the beach with the ocean at his back with his faithful companion, the Dog Man.

However, once the Dog Man is killed in the night, Prendick knows he has to get off the island or die soon. He builds a raft and is amazingly enough rescued once again in wretched condition and is returned to dear old London. Once he gets there an odd thing happens. He finds that he can’t stand being around people because in every human he can see parts of his former beast people companions and it is too scary and close for comfort.

The Island of Dr. Moreau is not only a superb story but one with a lot of messages for us. Currently we are capable of doing what Wells depicted over a hundred years ago. We have extreme cosmetic surgery, genetic engineering, etc. Man is not meant to be God. However in our highly educated conceited opinions we think we might be better than a higher power at running the show. In truth humans usually mess things up really bad when given enough rope.

Throwback Thursday Thrifty Thriller Is Back Y’all! This week it’s SHADOWLAND by Peter Straub


Peter Straub
Berkley Publishing Corporation
Released in 1980
reviewed by Brian James Lewis


WELCOME to the second installment of my Throwback Thursday Thrifty Thriller book review series! Today our subject is a battered paperback of the very dark and complex SHADOWLAND by horror writer extraordinaire, Peter Straub.

The book is broken up into three parts. In part one, our mysterious narrator speaks with Tom Flanagan about a book he wants to write about the summer that Tom spent with his friend Del Nightingale. It was not just any old summer vacation because they were staying with master magician Coleman Collins at his secluded mansion. The entire experience turned out to be a lot more than either boy expected. Especially Tom, who thinks that they are just there to learn some magic. After the introduction, we go to a creepy boys’ prep school and that is where our heroes meet. Del and Tom become good friends while suffering through a freaky series of events that include such weirdos as Skeleton Ridpath and the school’s new headmaster, Laker Broome.

Luckily Tom and Del find that they share a love of magic, and soon they are spending a lot of time together. Del is incredibly rich and treats the world with the indifference caused by such a condition. This sometimes puts he and Tom at odds with each other. That, and the fact that Del’s natural parents are dead, sets him apart from Tom, whose parents are more of the working class type. When Tom’s father starts dying from cancer, Del cannot relate. A person who connects very well with Tom, is Bud, the butler at Del’s house. Unlike the other rich white people, who think it to be below them, Tom shakes Bud’s dark skinned hand and treats him with the respect the quiet, mysterious man deserves. Both of them realize that although Del’s uncle is teaching him magic when he visits his home in Vermont, that being alone with Coleman Collins is not safe for him.

On what turns out to be Del’s final visit to his uncle’s estate, Tom accompanies him. It seems like everyone wants him to keep an eye on little Del and he feels it himself, that something is not right. However, Coleman Collins is a serious force to be reckoned with and seems to be omniscient, and if for some reason he’s not watching the boys, he has some bad-ass hired hands who are more than happy to rough them up. There’s also a strange device called, “The Collector” which Collins introduces as a sort of plaything, but it is far from that. The Collector collects peoples’ souls, their life essence, and there they stay unless Collins sees fit to release them. Coleman Collins doesn’t really give two shits about pulling a quarter from behind your ear. No, what Collins has tapped into is so evil that it makes the Devil look kind of wimpy.

Here come the boys who just want to levitate and learn the secrets of entertainment style magic. Tom wants to protect his little pal Del. Del wants to hook up with a female spirit named Rose that lives in the lake on Collins’ property and can’t see anything else. Coleman Collins wants the entire showcase. He wants to have enough power to run the entire world as he sees fit. The person who unknowingly has that power is Tom Flanagan. Collins aims to strip him of that power, kill his pesky little nephew, and for a good long while, live trouble free. Just when it looks like the show is over, Bud shows up and saves the day by telling Tom what his role in the magic world is supposed to be. Tom takes that ball and runs with it, but he can’t save everybody or fix everything. He’s just a kid, after all! SHADOWLAND has a LOT of stuff going on in it. There are multiple layers of stories, time travel, triumphs, defeats, and instead of really ending, the book perches uncertainly. The narrator goes to take a peek at the wreck that was once Coleman Collins kingdom and finds that the property has all been purchased by a Mr. Flanagan. Every square inch is fenced off, but…as the narrator looks on, he swears he hears voices speaking and something bubbling in the lake…

This is one hell of a great book from a writer who writes in many styles. If you liked Peter Straub’s collaborations with Stephen King, you are going to love this book. Grab it on Amazon while it’s back in print, or a used copy like I did. You won’t regret it!