HEY WEARY TRAVELERS, NEED A PLACE TO STAY THE NIGHT? THEN CHECK OUT GARY BULLER’S “DEAD AND BREAKFAST”

DEAD and BREAKFAST
Gary Buller
June 19, 2020
Unnerving
Reviewed by Brian “Skull” Lewis

Hello again you wicked whackdoodles, it’s your old pal Skull with another cool title from independent speculative fiction publisher Unnerving! Dead and Breakfast by Gary Buller is book number 11 of Unnerving’s REWIND OR DIE series, and a most excellent choice of reading material. What we get is one of my favorite approaches to a book: stories within a larger story, which is perfect for modern times, short attention spans, reading on the train and anywhere else. Let’s get to it, shall we?

Punk rockers Eddie and Banksy are on their way to a party which is going to be one hell of a good time. Unfortunately, they get massively offtrack and find themselves in the middle of nowhere with a tire that’s way beyond flat. If that’s not enough, a frigid rain chases them to the only shelter available, an ancient stone cottage straight out of a horror flick. But any warmth and shelter is better than none, right? Eddie feels a bit unsure as he hands over payment for the night’s lodgings at Sally’s Dead and Breakfast, wondering if he heard her right. No matter how creepy she is, a warm fire blazes in the lounge beckoning the soaked travelers. While the kettle is on, Sally regales them with a tale called Cords about a village that operates somewhat on the scale of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery except in Sally’s story the sacrifices are everyone who hits their 35th birthday. They must go to the fissure and if they don’t, evil things make sure they do. Cool mix of futuristic in a derelict almost Victorian landscape.

After that creepy story, there’s at least some tea and possibly a telephone to get the hell out of this crusty inn. But tea’s not ready yet and “sorry dearies, no phone”. There are more stories though. The Brace is a terrifying tale of domestic abuse and the power of ghosts to help a young boy in a time of desperate need. Sally is quite the weird wordsmith and trots out her story The Weight of Nostalgia for her captive audience. Eddie and Banksy don’t want to hear anymore but where can they go? This speculative tale starts with an unseen narrator following a young boy who appears to be enjoying a day at the local sweet shop. Warm waves of nostalgia abound among the penny candies, original formula Coca-Cola, and ice-lollies, but something is amiss here in the land of almost reality. A strange government program that enables test subjects to recreate the past and a family cursed with cancer make us wonder if all life is just a trap that leads to suffering.

Finally, Sally brings tea to the now weary and bewildered travelers who hope this means an end to the horrors she’s been heaping upon them. But she’s got one tale left and it’s a doozy called The Greyfriars Transcripts. A caller to a radio show is looking for some advice about a very grim situation he’s stuck in. His day started normally enough until the baker making his breakfast told him a strange story about the train he planned on boarding. “They say the Greyfriars route is cursed” But the narrator just rolls his eyes and heads off to the train station. Whether that was a good choice or not is something you’ll need to grab a copy of Dead and Breakfast to find out, along with the fates of Eddie and Banksy. Your old pal Skull says it’s a winner!

Damaged Skull Writer and Reviewer rates Dead and Breakfast a very scary FIVE STARS. I’ve been fortunate to know Gary Buller for many years and have enjoyed his ability to make readers both chuckle and scream with his decidedly English writing style. Bottom line, his stories hold up with a timeless quality to them that keeps you turning the pages and feeling a bit sad when you’ve finished. Combine that with Eddie Generous’ vision for Unnerving-an inclusive, anti-hater press and person, who knows how to scare the hell out of readers and make them think. Anybody can jump scare someone at least once, but to have something more to say afterwards AND be a supportive member of the diverse community that horror writers are, you have to be someone special. Maybe just a bit crazy too, but aren’t we all if we’re honest about it?

For more information about Gary Buller, visit him on Twitter @garybuller

For more information about UNNERVING go to: @UnnervingBooks on Twitter

And don’t forget to follow me, your old pal Skull, at: www.damagedskullwriterandreviewer.com It’s a great way to help your favorite independent authors, poets, and publishers. Damaged Skull Writer and Reviewer is an inclusive blog where everyone is valued, except for haters who are heartily encouraged to climb into the nearest industrial trash compactor and press start. My human host, Brian James Lewis is a disabled poet and writer with PTSD who has 3 new Beat Generation style poems in Trajectory Journal issue 23, available now! As is issue 22 which contains his terrifying short story Following My Destiny about misguided mass shooter Chance McCandless. We’re also on Twitter @skullsnflames76 and Goodreads. See you soon!

MAYBE STEPHEN KING’S “ELEVATION” ISN’T CRAMMED FULL OF BLOOD SPLATTERING HORROR BUT IT IS A GREAT STORY FOR POST PANDEMIC LIFE WHERE MANY PEOPLE HAVE BECOME RUDE SELF SERVING A-HOLES. SKULL SAYS “GET IT!”

Elevation by Stephen King

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


ELEVATION
Stephen King
Scribner
October 30, 2018
Reviewed by Brian “Skull” Lewis

Hello again dear readers, it’s your old pal Skull with another review. As you know, I usually spend my time reviewing works by independent writers and presses. But sometimes it’s fun to see what the popular crowd is up to. Today’s review subject is Elevation by Stephen King. Obviously, Mr. King is not an author who needs me to say good things about his work. But I enjoyed this novella a great deal, and think most of my readers will, too. Let’s check it out!

For a few minutes, “Constant Readers” might think that they’ve entered a different version of King’s hit novel, Thinner. However, in Elevation Scott Carey is losing weight with no visible alterations to his middle-aged body. He’s a divorced man who lives alone and definitely didn’t get to enjoy any fun activities before being cursed. Scott doesn’t feel poorly or weak, either. Instead, there’s a bizarre buoyancy to his good-sized frame that initially gives him almost superhuman abilities. What doesn’t make him feel super is his neighbors letting their dogs crap in his yard every time they go running. When Scott approaches them about it, they are unnecessarily cold about it. Initially he’s pretty miffed about it, until he learns that Deirdre McComb and her wife Missy are the victims of some uncalled-for discrimination. Small towns are not always the warm and fuzzy places depicted on TV. Vegetarians might have slid by, but being lesbians doesn’t fly in Castle Rock

Scott discusses his strange medical situation with friend, Dr. Bob. The doc might be retired, but he’s sharp enough to know that something unique is going on. There’s no practical reason to explain why Scott is losing weight or why things he touches become weightless. That adds fear to his already depressed life. Sometimes it feels like the only true friend he has is Bill the cat, who he can’t touch anymore due to his odd condition. Talk about a bummer! With no treatment plan, Scott is free to mope and be bummed out. But instead he chooses the new route of supporting his neighbors, even if they don’t want him to. Why not? He doesn’t have much to lose. But when it becomes obvious that time is getting short, Scott realizes that he might have been wrong about that.

Elevation by Stephen King is a 5 STAR must-read novella in this reviewer’s opinion. King’s storytelling skills are as good as ever in this story that you’ll want to share with family and friends. Maybe even give a copy to folks who aren’t entirely convinced that what a person eats or who they love doesn’t change their status of being human. One thing that struck me about Elevation was the hard reception it got from a lot of reviewers on multiple sites. Complaints that it wasn’t long enough or dark enough prove that too many people come to a book with preset expectations. For me it made Elevation attractive, something I could read in the car during trips. There was also a lot of noise about the “political correctness” of the novella and insinuations that King was pushing agendas. Oh, the horror! This guy thinks we should be kind and try to understand our neighbors instead of immediately labelling them and slamming the door in their faces. Got news for ya, haters. That has been one of Stephen King’s “agendas” for his entire writing career. He didn’t start life with a silver spoon in his mouth and hasn’t forgotten it. What all those comments prove is that Elevation is a sorely needed book. Ignore the haters and check this one out.

And don’t forget to follow me, your old pal Skull, at: www.damagedskullwriterandreviewer.com which will help your favorite independent authors, poets, and publishers. This is an inclusive blog where everyone is valued, except for haters who are heartily encouraged to climb into the nearest industrial trash compactor and press start. My human host, Brian James Lewis is a disabled poet and writer with PTSD who has 3 new Beat Generation style poems in Trajectory Journal issue 23, available now! As is issue 22 which contains his terrifying short story Following My Destiny about misguided mass shooter Chance McCandless. We’re also on Twitter @skullsnflames76 and Goodreads. See you soon!




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Your Old Pal Skull

Read the Spring 2017 Issue

Thanks to THIRD WEDNESDAY for a cool trip down memory lane! Their spring 2017 issue included my flash nonfiction piece DRUG HOUSE Inspired both by the actual drug house across the street from my home, and a trio of neighbors who became very dependent upon it, but not for the reasons you might expect. This was the first time I’d received a check for my writing and I was mega excited. Still happy with what I wrote, too. To read for free, click the link below and scroll to page 5.

Third Wednesday Magazine



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STARTING THE NEW YEAR OFF RIGHT WITH “THE UNDERTAKER’S DAUGHTER” BY JOHN JAMES MINSTER!

THE UNDERTAKER’S DAUGHTER
John James Minster
October 25, 2022
Hellbender Books
Reviewed by Brian “Skull” Lewis

Hello horror fans! It’s me, your old pal Skull, with a new novel by John James Minster, The Undertaker’s Daughter. This is high school horror taken to a higher level by some old Jewish magic that makes it fresh and inclusive to those familiar with the traditions and educates people who aren’t. Like myself, for instance. Hey, even a member of the undead community can’t know everything! Anna Dingle is a smart young woman who helps her undertaker father with the family business. But she’s tired of being viewed as a plain jane with a brain. Anna wants to be seen as beautiful and sexy, the desire of handsome high school hunks. Especially one lucky guy named Timmy who plays guitar like he was born to do it.

Anna’s bestie, Naomi offers her assistance, with stunning results. But things don’t go exactly as planned. Even though she blows Timmy out of the water, she doesn’t do it without attracting a truckload of trouble. Namely, Bruce Barnette and his crowd of cruddy cronies, a group of garbage that make the mean kids in Stephen King’s Carrie seem kind of friendly. At least they had a few redeeming qualities. Barnette’s crew could’ve been close friends of theirs, though. So instead of a dreamy teenage love summer, Anna and Timmy spend way too much time worrying when Barnette will strike again.

Things reach critical mass when family is dragged into the mess. Once again, Naomi comes to the rescue. More than just a pretty face, she’s deep into the study of ancient religious mysteries and a recent discovery leads to her creating a powerful protector from one of the funeral home’s cadavers with a unique history. Since reason and the local criminal justice system haven’t been much help to the girls, it’s time to fight fire with fire! Or is it? Anna’s got a conscience and doesn’t want to pollute her life with bad energy, but is she making the right decision? There’s only one way to find out and that’s to grab a copy of The Undertaker’s Daughter by John James Minster from your favorite bookseller.

Damaged Skull Writer and Reviewer gives The Undertaker’s Daughter A FIVE STAR RATING! This is a powerful story full of plot twists that delivers some serious messages. So, while it starts out in a bright and cheery high school fashion, this ain’t Barbie and Ken in plastic paradise. One quick note: those sensitive to reading sexual assault scenes should proceed with a bit of caution. On the other end of the spectrum, fathers who love their daughters may do some fist pumps when the big bad wolf finds out what it’s like to be prey. Overall, a solid horror novel about bullying, family, friendship, faith and the power of love. Recommended.

Want to find out more about John James Minster? Then head on over to:

Website: http://johnjamesminster.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/johnjamesminster/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/author/johnjamesminster

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/minsterwriter

You can also order The Undertaker’s Daughter directly from Sunbury Press here:  https://www.sunburypress.com/collections/john-james-minster

And don’t forget to follow me, your old pal Skull, at: www.damagedskullwriterandreviewer.com which will help your favorite independent authors, poets, and publishers. This is an inclusive blog where everyone is valued, except for haters who are heartily encouraged to climb into the nearest industrial trash compactor and press start. My human host, Brian James Lewis is a disabled poet and writer with PTSD who has 3 new Beat Generation style poems in Trajectory Journal issue 23, available now! As is issue 22 which contains his terrifying short story Following My Destiny about misguided mass shooter Chance McCandless. We’re also on Twitter @skullsnflames76 and Goodreads. See you soon!

John James Minster