“VENUM MALUM” BY MICHAEL R. COLLINS IS ANOTHER GREAT TITLE FROM INDEPENDENT HORROR PRESS GLOOM HOUSE PUBLISHING!

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: gloomhouse@yahoo.com 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: gloomhouse@yahoo.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   

BESIDES READING AND WRITING, I ALSO ENJOY GUITARS AND “60 YEARS OF FENDER” BY TONY BACON IS A WINNER!

60 Years of Fender: Six Decades of the Greatest Electric Guitars by Tony Bacon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


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.



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KEEPING THINGS DARK, LET’S GO VISIT LUNAR BAY AND CHECK OUT “THE DARK MATTER OF NATASHA” BY MATTHEW R. DAVIS FROM EMERGENT EXPRESSIONS AND GREY MATTER PRESS!

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!

Matthew R. Davis

HERE IT IS! THE FULL DAMAGED SKULL WRITER REVIEW OF T.C. WEBER’S FIVE STAR NOVEL “THE SURVIVORS!

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:

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09ZL9BPCR/

Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09ZLM43H2/

Want to learn more about T.C. Weber? https://www.tcweber.com/, or contact the author at https://www.tcweber.com/contact.

Want to follow your old pal Skull? www.damagedskullwriterandreviewer.com

Or follow my mortal host Brian James Lewis on Twitter@skullsnflames76

Author T.C. Weber

WANT SOME GOOD NEWS? MY REVIEW OF “DIET RIOT: A FATTERPUNK ANTHOLOGY” IS NOW ON GOODREADS!

HERE’S THE LINK:

Diet Riot: A Fatterpunk Anthology by Nico Bell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


DIET RIOT-A Fatterpunk Anthology
Edited by Nico Bell and Sonora Taylor
June 21, 2022
Reviewed by Brian “Skull” Lewis

Hello horror fiends! Welcome back to the Skullcave, where I’ve been reading a very cool collection of stories edited by Nico Bell and Sonora Taylor. Why are they cool? Well, because these stories show plus-sized people in a positive light. Instead of being made fun of or having their bodies be what makes them bad, Diet Riot celebrates bounteous bodies and makes them something to be proud of. Diversity is what makes the world a great place. Forcing others to fit one person’s concept of beauty is way too prevalent in our society and it’s wrong, damn it! That’s why the editors dedicated Diet Riot to: “Everyone who ever felt like they don’t belong.”

This cool, fatterpunk anthology starts off with Stephanie Rabig’s story Cinderella And Her Demon Godmother. When an angry girl calls forth a demon from Hell to kill some body shamers, she gets more than she bargained for. Enter Lucinda, a plus sized and sexy demon ready to get the job done. But, it’s complicated and no smart demon who’s allowed to go topside for a few hours is going to waste a brief reprieve from Hell. So, Lucinda takes her young friend out on the town in style and has some fun along the way. She also makes one last stop before returning home, to burn down a major asshole who thinks it’s funny to shame fat people. GREAT STORY!

Editor Nico Bell contributes her narrative tale Lake House to the collection. It’s the perfect mix of frightening and “fuck you haters!” Erin and her wife Lauren are trying to clean up the big mess of a lake house they’ve just moved into when things go very wrong. There might be a monster in the basement or maybe not, and Erin has an epiphany. Lauren just wanted to mold her like a piece of clay with wacky diet potions and pills. She never really loved Erin for just being her fine, fluffy self. That’s bad enough, but when Lauren drops the bomb of divorce on her, Erin decides to help her lose lots of weight super fast.

Curious Garden by E.E.W. Christman brings us to a horrifying fat camp for kids. Most people, let alone children, don’t think of going to fat camp as a fun vacation. Especially Camp GnuYu where the counselors are freakishly cheerful and bad morale is not tolerated. Failure is also not an option and anyone who passes out from exhaustion disappears in a mysterious way. Jeanie, the camper who narrates this chilling tale, wants to know why. But everything is hush-hush with the counselors acting even stranger as time goes by. They insist that to be loved, a person must be thin, but Jeanie doesn’t agree. Things reach a head when fellow sufferer, Kylie asks Jeanie for help. What they discover is a bizarre hidden garden that’s always hungry.

The past few years have brought many competitive cooking shows to our living rooms. Who’s the best baker, barbecue pit-master, or candy maker? With insane prizes of big money and the chance to launch one’s career, there are always plenty of contestants. So when Crystal gets the chance to become part of the show Easy Bake, she eagerly signs up. But to her horror, the contestants who lose don’t get a big hug from Paul Hollywood and some fond words. Nope, they are eliminated on the spot, striking the fear of God into the survivors. Each round Crystal continues to survive until the semi-finals, but that just brings her closer to dying on the kitchen floor. Then, just as she’s giving up, an escape opportunity presents itself. Will the finalists escape or be cut down by the creepy security team of Scott and Zelda? To find out the ending of this great story by Sonora Taylor, make sure to get yourself a copy of Diet Riot-A Fatterpunk Anthology!

So what does your old pal Skull think of this unique and timely anthology? I give it a Hearty FIVE STAR RATING! In fact, I’m planning on purchasing a few copies when Diet Riot is released on June 21, 2022. One will be going up on the “Wall of Fame” and another will be going to a friend who is really going to enjoy this gift. While I never judge a book by its cover, I must say the cover of Diet Riot is a real beauty! Well done Tori Celeste at Vicki Be Wicked, LLC. For more information about Diet Riot-A Fatterpunk Anthology, visit
Nico Bell at: www.nicobellefiction.com
Stephanie Rabig at: www.stephanierabig.weebly.com
E.E.W. Christman : www.eewchristman.com
Sonora Taylor can be found at: www.sonorawrites.com or Twitter @sonorawrites
And please follow your old pal Skull at: www.damagedskullwriterandreviewer.com

Damaged Skull Writer and Reviewer recommends giving copies of this book to those you love who suffer poor self-esteem because of fat shaming and body discrimination. Diet Riot is a very empowering anthology that is artfully edited to give people of size a much needed round of applause. Your old pal Skull is a blues fan and agrees with all the musicians who revered a “Big Leg Woman” My mortal host Brian James Lewis is currently working on an essay that celebrates his love of plus sized goddesses. More on that soon!




View all my reviews

CURRENTLY READING T.C. WEBER’S LATEST WORK “THE SURVIVORS.” FULL REVIEW COMING SOON!

Hey there cats and kittens, it’s your old pal, Skull. Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated, mainly because I’m already dead. Ha-ha! I’ll be here all week, folks. Anyway, let’s get to business. This is the cover of T.C. Weber’s latest and greatest book THE SURVIVORS, which mixes cli-fi with suspense to bring readers a very intense read. Weber’s been kind enough to include trigger warnings for those concerned or who might not be familiar with horror. And yes, it IS available for purchase right now if you’d prefer not to wait for the review. Simply head on over to:

Paperback https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09ZL9BPCR/

Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09ZLM43H2/

Or head on over to the author’s page at: https://www.tcweber.com/ for additional information on all of his writing. Your old pal Skull promises a full review with more grisly, and intellectual, details by Friday. Until then, be nice to each other and…READ MORE INDEPENDENT HORROR!!!

SKULL SNEAKS OUT AND RUNS SOME ERRANDS DURING DAYLIGHT HOURS!

As you all know, Skull is not a fan of sunlight. He swears that it will make him crumble to dust if he’s out too long, not to mention destroy his eyesight. But who did I see sneaking around town today in MY car? Why Skull of course! He thought I wouldn’t recognize him with those sunglasses on…Hummph! Looks like somebody owes me some damn gas money! And, he better get his butt behind the Damaged Skull Reviewer desk pronto, or else The Skullcave might just get some windows installed in it!

MATTHEW WEBER’S NEW RELEASE “BOBCATS” IS A NOVEL THAT MIXES COMING-OF-AGE WITH HORROR TO CREATE A GREAT READ FOR ALL AGES!

BOBCATS
Matthew Weber
June 25, 2021
Pint Bottle Press
Reviewed by Brian “Skull” Lewis

Hello frequent readers, it’s your old pal, Skull with one hell of an excellent read to tell you about. Bobcats by Matthew Weber is without a doubt, a 5 Star read that fans of adventure and excitement will want to add to their libraries. So, if that’s all you wanted to know, Damaged Skull Reviewer highly encourages you to purchase this recent release from Pint Bottle Press. For more details, stick around!

Still here? Great! Here we go. Bobcats brings together opposite sides of the spectrum: A group of seventh grade boys who call themselves the Bobcats are planning an important camping trip. Actually, this is the trip of a lifetime, something they’ve wanted to do since their group was formed by Joey Kilgore and his late father, who was the group’s role model. Paul, Joey, Trainwreck, Clarence, and Davey. Clean livers, all-American boys ready to do good stuff like hike up Black Oak Mountain.

On the other side of town, some very unwholesome adults are meeting up as well, but their activities are not about character building in the least. Well, unless you think killing people is a positive activity. C.D. is on the hook for some missing narcotics he was supposed to pay the big boss for, but he got ripped off. His punishment? Picking up a freaky dude named The Cleaver and driving the guy to his next murder job. The Cleaver is huge, scary, and very smelly, so transporting him is no picnic.

After the boys figure out a sneaky plan to get parental permission, they are off into the wild! But not without some major complications like arguing over a gun, accepting each other’s shortcomings, and a big thunderstorm. The trail is old and unused, but there is a creepy presence that hangs over Black Oak Mountian like a shroud. Still the boys keep on truckin’ with hopes of fulfilling this challenge and earning their way into manhood. But when the criminals also show up on Black Oak Mountain, all bets are off.

The Cleaver’s got some mighty odd ways and C.D. is stuck doing his bidding until the job is complete. Unfortunately, that requires going up the same mountain the Bobcats are on. Things go from looking gloomy to being downright scary fast, forcing the kids to retreat as the killers go into pursuit mode. Having the Cleaver on your tail isn’t something to wish on your worst enemy. The guy is a killing machine that’ll stop at nothing to finish his jobs. He may be gross and weird, but he’s got supernatural strength and the hunting skills of an animal. The only thing that’s going to slow him down is an army or some really determined Bobcats!

Damaged Skull Reviewer gives Bobcats 5 BIG STARS and a hearty recommendation to ALL READERS! This is a damn fine book about coming of age, facing your fears, and standing your ground no matter what. Trainwreck, Paul, Davey, Clarence, and Joey are all great characters and the best part of this book is what Stephen King fans keep coming back to the well for. The humanity, the human spirit, and ultimately love. Despite the horrible things that happen and ordeal the characters must face, hope remains shining through like a beacon in the night. No matter how bad and scary they are, no one is completely bad and likewise, even the good guys have a few secrets because in the real world, who doesn’t?  It’s when shit gets crazy that you see the truest form of a person. Trainwreck elects to stand and fight while the others retreat. Clarence and Joey elect to rescue a hurt comrade, even though it may cost them their lives. Evil is out there, no matter what form it takes and things do happen for a reason. The surprise conclusion is a perfect way to end the book because without friends, we’re nobody.

Thanks for stopping by Damaged Skull Writer and Reviewer, for more into on this fantastic read go to: www.pintbottlepress.com Matthew Weber is one heck of a horror writer, who’s also the publisher of some great anthologies. Check out the Double Barrel Horror series along with Pint Bottle Press’ other selections. I found Weber’s previous short horror collection Teeth Marks to be great reading. Whatever you do, check them both out!

WANT TO GET OUT OF THE HOUSE AND DO SOME SHOPPING? TRY A TRIP TO “A DISGUSTING SUPERMARKET OF DEATH!” BY JAMES C. HARBERSON III

A DISGUSTING SUPERMARKET OF DEATH
James C. Harberson III
February 1, 2021
Markosia Press
reviewed by Brian James Lewis

Hello Horror Lovers! It is once again a pleasure to greet you from the Skullcave, the underground lair of Damaged Skull Reviewer. Today we’re going on a field trip to A Disgusting Supermarket of Death. Doesn’t that sound like FUN? Coming to you from Markosia Press and written by the undeniably twisted James C. Harberson III, this book is not for the faint hearted or easily offended. If that’s you, please step away from this review right now. Better yet, RUN!!!

I’m pleased that so many of you have opted to continue with the tour. A Disgusting Supermarket of Death is packed with nuts, creeps, killers, dead bodies, and a lot of horror humor. Wait…humor? But of course! Where would horror be without humor? It’s that perfect mix of comedy and tragedy that makes for the best drama and this Disgusting Supermarket of Death is practically overflowing with both. So join your old pal Skull, as we lurch our way down each aisle as the blood flows.

Getting the party started is a demented little ditty called “Extra Credit” about a prison warden who likes to make some extra cash by showing off superstar serial killer “Hodgepodge” to eager attendees of crime conventions. First, the warden sets out the bait, then he waits for the vermin to fall into his trap. Then it’s time to collect the cash and bring the selected ones to the prison for a special experience they’ll never forget. Good times! You’ll definitely want to check this out.

How about a little “Unforbidden Knowledge?” This story is about a horror movie that is garnering the most bizarre reviews ever. Noted critics and social media experts are laying waste to themselves in rather imaginative ways after watching a film called The Fecularium. When ace newspaper reporter Cotton Dellinger looks into the situation, things get even more weird, until the authorities get involved. But NYC court system is no match for The Fecularium. Courtroom pandemonium and death raises more questions than answers. Naturally, the public is rabid to see it, but the movie is banned, domestic copies destroyed. Not all the foreign copies are though and tonight there’s a special showing…

Speaking of stuff that lands square in “what the fuck?” territory, check out #meatoo. Meet Anton Mack, undertaker to the stars. This guy is used to odd requests and is doing well for himself. But the stakes and payoffs get much higher when he becomes the underfucker to the stars. You know how it is, all the Hollywoods are rich as hell and bored off their asses, so some of them decide they like doing the dirty with the dead. Call it necrophilia, call it being kinky after taking too much dope, call it whatever, as long as Anton gets paid. In case you wondered about that,THIS story is where Harberson’s book title comes from. But things can get rough in this line of work, so you better not make a mistake…or fail any tests.

So, what does Damaged Skull Reviewer think of A Disgusting Supermarket Of Death? This collection is GREAT! As in 5 STARS worth of greatness! Perfect, bite-sized stories to give you an escape from that overrated thing called reality, without keeping you up all night turning pages. It felt kind of luxurious to come back to this book daily for a dose of Harberson Horror Humor. At over 250 pages there’s a lot of enjoyment to be had from James C. Harberson III’s A Disgusting Supermarket of Death! Seriously readers, get yourself a copy of this book. You won’t regret it and it’s awesome for scaring away people that want to talk to you at the doctor’s office. Worked for me!

Thanks very much for stopping by to see your pal, Skull. Want more info? Then check out Markosia Press at: www.markosia.com and check out fellow upstate New York resident James C. Harberson III at the following links below:

Author: Jim Harberson (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19908137.Jim_Harberson)

Publisher: Markosia Enterprises Ltd. (https://markosia.com/2021/02/01/a-disgusting-supermarket-of-death-out-now/)

Amazon Link: https://bit.ly/ADSODAMZ

Barnes & Noble Link: https://bit.ly/ADSODBN


Author James C. Harberson III reading his previous work “Stay Alive”