TRUE CRIME Front cover

Samantha Kolesnik
Grindhouse Press
January 15, 2020
reviewed by Brian James Lewis

When I first saw author Samantha Kolesnik’s Twitter post about her upcoming novel True Crime from Grindhouse Press, I was immediately intrigued. For starters, there’s the boss cover that makes the book look like a gritty tabloid. Photos of victims and crime scenes, the headline, even a nod to a certain Mr. Ketchum…Cool stuff indeed! But a great cover doesn’t mean “jack” if the story inside can’t stand up and deliver, right? Well never fear, dear readers! True Crime kicks some major ass! Kolesnik and Grindhouse Press give us a FIVE STAR read that none of us will forget any time soon. Let’s check it out!

Suzy and her big brother, Lim, live in a cruddy rental house with their mother. This ain’t no cuddly “we can do it” kind of family and there’s nothing homelike about the place they’re all stuck in. Especially Suzy, who’s like a fly stuck in a web woven long before she even existed. And guess, who the spider is? Her abusive bitch of a mom who has zero qualms about taking what she wants when she wants it. Give in or suffer the consequences. Just ask poor Alice, the permanent houseguest. But Suzy is finally pushed too far and fights back, killing her mother.

Except she can’t finish the job alone and that’s where Lim comes in handy. Not only is he a huge hulk of a man who could kill anyone with his bare hands, but he also possesses a lot of street smarts that Suzy lacks. Switching cars and getting money for gas are just jobs that need to be done. So is killing. Lim is a man of few spoken thoughts who doesn’t display emotions. But it seems like no matter what happens, he’s got little sister’s back. At least until they make it to a funky county fair where Suzy tries to do something for Alice and makes Lim so pissed off that…something happens to change their fortunes forever.

In contrast to her brother, Suzy wears her emotions on her sleeve. Often much more than she’d like people to see. But it’s never been about what she wants, so why should that change? Whatever little moments she’s enjoyed, have been stolen. Always forced to sneak around, Suzy is letting all the fear and pain pour out of her broken self and into her victims. Or are they really victims? Some of the people they meet on the road seem just as capable of doing damage as Suzy and Lim, but they’re more sneaky about it. That’s an important part of this book, unearthing the truth and pulling it out of the shadows. Suzy’s been pushed so far that everything inside her is broken and there’s no way to make them ever be right.

Once separated from Lim, she’s fostered off to a righteous couple who are going to “fix her” with all the love in their hearts. The local church honcho thinks that he’s going to convert Suzy into a fine, upstanding, young woman. But that’s not how things work in reality. People’s brains aren’t like computers where you can replace components, wipe harmful memories, and turbo charge thought processes. During her rehabilitation, opportunities come and go, but Suzy figures it’s just a waiting game until Lim gets out of prison. Then something changes all that and ruins even the small amount of comfort Suzy’s found in her substitute hometown. Mix in a surprise visit from Alice, a career criminal, an old man and his watchdogs, and you get an unexpected ending to this novel. Or is it a beginning? I guess that’s up to you to decide.

As you can see, True Crime has a lot going on and is a super impressive debut novel from Samantha Kolesnik. Combine that with the skill and quality of Grindhouse Press releases, and it’s a FIVE STAR ratings kind of day! Powerful prose that was so detailed it felt like nonfiction! I half expected Lim and Suzy to come barging in my door. There was a similarity to S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders in feel, but not the same family dynamic. Lim and Suzy are the other kids who no one ever thinks about much. They live tortured lives in obscurity, but share that hurt feeling of being misunderstood and knowing that you’ll never change enough to make others accept you. Cruelty is never wasted. It just gets stored up like a bomb and when something sets it off…Look Out!

Thanks for checking out another review from Damaged Skull Writer! If you’d like more information about Samantha Kolesnik, check her out on Twitter @sam_kolesnik or at her site http://samanthakolesnik.com ! Also please check out Grindhouse Press for some of the best reading you’ll find anywhere on Twitter @GrindhousePress and on their site http://grindhousepress.com They have some nifty merch for sale, too!

Happy Publication Day!

TRUE CRIME is an excellent book that really kicks ass! This a book people will be talking about for years to come. FIVE STARS! Highly encourage everyone to get a copy today!

Grindhouse Press

TRUE CRIME Front cover

#058 – True Crime by Samantha Kolesnik

Paperback click here

Kindle click here

Suzy and her brother, Lim, live with their abusive mother in a town where the stars don’t shine at night. Once the abuse becomes too much to handle the two siblings embark on a sordid cross-country murder spree beginning with their mom. As the murder tally rises, Suzy’s mental state spirals into irredeemable madness.

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Third Corona Book of Horror Stories

Edited by Lewis Williams
Corona Books
October 1, 2019
Reviewed by Brian James Lewis

Once again, Corona Books rises above their previous excellent collections to give readers an even better Third Corona Book Of Horror Stories! How do they do it? Well, I think the person best qualified to give you that answer is editor Lewis Williams, but I hope that he’ll like the paraphrased version I offer: The 19 stories inside this volume were selected from 824 submissions by authors just like you and me. No big names here, BUT I dare anyone to read any of the Corona Books Of Horror Stories and not come away wanting more! Besides that, is the effort that Lewis and his team have put into making their books the best possible experience for both readers and authors. Not only do you get great stories, but you also get author bios, websites, and Twitter handles, so you can follow those that really gave you a fright! I could go on and on about how great Corona Books are…I mean, there’s also The Corona Book Of Science Fiction, The Corona Book Of Ghost Stories, and those limericks…But right now, let’s peek in on some of those 19 stories! It’s okay to be afraid…

Does anyone here love doing dishes? If so, please report to my residence, pronto! Otherwise, let’s take a look at the story that kicks off this collection, Suds And Monsterss by the talented Christopher Stanley. Gavin is forced to do a mountainous pile of dishes by his nasty troll of a stepmother who delights in making life miserable for everyone. Yuck! While her actions could be a horror story in themselves, Stanley’s creativity gives us something much larger to fear. Or, wait, maybe cheer about? Dig in, fellow horror lovers, you won’t believe what’s writhing below those soapsuds. But be careful. it’s HUNGRY!

For many people, especially in the country I live in, bigger is better. We eat “Big Macs” from a fast food joint that claims to have served the most people. For years Americans drove cars that were huge, gas guzzling, tanks. Big cities such as New York, Nashville, and possibly the most ridiculously flashy place on Earth, Las Vegas, are dream destinations for many. These days, many folks are seeing the value in small. Smart cars, tiny houses, and flash fiction are all good examples of that. Editor Lewis Williams’ Cancer The Crab is 500 words long. And yet, in that small amount of words, he’s able to show us karma. Humans can be cruel and appear to get away with it, but do they really? Good piece! Extra words unnecessary.

Of course, if you want to see revenge in a much more graphic and as the author himself puts it, “testicle shriveling” way, then you’ll want to read The Debtt by John Haas. When Gary takes the rap for his former friend who killed a young boy while driving drunk, he suffers the hell of going to prison. However, a deal had been made, and once he’s released back into the free world Gary looks forward to enjoying life. He’s “paid his debt to society” just like the judge said, right? But it turns out that his true payments are just beginning. Gary might’ve thought that prison was hell, but that’s all about to change when he wakes up after another big drunk. Not only is he strapped to a table in an operating room, the surgeon is someone Gary recognizes. It’s the dead boy’s father.

Do you like to spend time in antique shops? Perhaps you enjoy the challenge of going to jumble sales and finding unique items that turn out to be worth a mint? In Sue Eaton’s The First Circle, Meg and her husband are wandering about such a place, when he finds something that delights him. It’s a walnut that’s been turned into a tiny work of art. Meg is repulsed by all the tiny faces carved into the nasty little item, but her husband wants her to buy it for his birthday. The idea of having to see it daily doesn’t attract her, but Meg’s husband is hard to buy gifts for. So she pays the rather high price and off to lunch they go, problem solved! If only that were true. Turns out it’s just the beginning of a long journey for Meg. Even though her husband agrees to put the nut with a thousand faces in a high spot where she can’t see it, the evil thing keeps finding her. Every time she touches it, the “kernel from hell” bites her. Soon Meg finds herself changing for the worse until her husband rushes her to the hospital. Will the doctors be able to save her, or is she lost forever?

Okay, now it’s time for me to reveal the story in this collection that blew me out of the water. It’s Lily’s Kids by Florence Ann Marlowe! This is the one that made me go “holy shit!” and lose my appetite for a few days after reading it. At first, the reader is taken on what seems a relatively normal after church stroll. Just a brother and his little sister checking out a rarely visited area of town in hopes of seeing something out of the ordinary. Jimmy’s at that age where boys want to impress other boys, so he desires a unique find. Well, it’s BINGO time, bitches! Maybe it’s not a smashed flat snake, but what Jimmy and his sister Katie find is sure different. There’s a trio of freaky kids living in an old barn and there doesn’t seem to be a healthy parent available to take care of them properly. While Jimmy quickly realizes that things are seriously out of order, Katie is too young to understand. She thinks it’s all a game and makes promises to the ghostly children that she can’t possibly deliver on. Or can she? Boy, Girl, and Lady hope so. Jimmy is confused, then terrified, when his sister suddenly disappears. He thinks he knows where he can find her, but will he be too late to bring her home? Excellent story!

By now, you probably have a pretty good idea of how I feel about The Third Corona Book Of Horror Stories. But just to be sure, let me lay down the numbers. FIVE BIG STARS! Highly recommended to everyone! This is a short horror fiction treasure trove with special bonus content of author bios and contact info. But Corona Books doesn’t just stop there! They also present an honor roll of really cool authors that almost made it into this volume. Many of them are in Books one and two, which I highly encourage you to check out! Overall, The Third Corona Book Of Horror Stories, is a great read that will chill your bones. Want more information about this great independent press? Then go to: www.coronabooks.com and www.lewiswilliams.com Thanks for reading Damaged Skull Writer. See you soon!


New Year's Royal Typewriter

Hello Friends! It’s that time again. The new year is upon us and this one heralds in a whole new decade. That can be exciting or terrifying, depending on what your plans are. Currently I’m working on having a great 2020 and bringing DAMAGED SKULL WRITER back up to where it was. Very much looking forward to a year of reading your great books and also getting more of my writing and poetry out into the world! This year I was able to get 118 submissions out, with a decent number of acceptances, including short horror stories in two anthologies from HellBound Books! Ghosts Spirits and Specters just came out this December and also The Toilet Zone which was released in late summer. Both are excellent collections that I highly recommend! I also enjoyed being in Putrescent Poems from 42 Books, the Hard Boiled issue of Weird Mask Zine, having a poetry feature in The Hickory Stump. 2019 brought so many great books to review and I am catching up as quickly as I can! Thanks to everyone who checked me out this year, especially those who’ve become friends. I’m sincerely appreciative and wish you all the very best in this Brave New Decade! Whatever you do this year, KEEP THE FIRE BURNING

Burning Skull w flashing eyes