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Reviews Written by
Arch Stanton (Cornwall, England.)

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Cover
Cover
by Jack Ketchum
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Home Guard, 28 Aug. 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Cover (Mass Market Paperback)
Lee is a Vietnam Vet, suffering from post traumatic stress disorder brought about by his experiences during war, complete with symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia, nightmarish visions and hallucinations which haunt him.
He lives with his wife and faithful dog in the woods, terrified that if he integrates back into society he will hurt someone, so he removes and isolates himself.
Unfortunately though his wife is pregnant and concerned Lee will not be able to cope with the new arrival she temporarily goes back to her parents. With Lee left behind, alone, to guard his marijuana crops (that's how he makes ends meat).
Unfortunately though this loneliness coupled with the announcement from a fellow harvester that a local marijuana grower has been arrested by the feds, Lee's paranoia and scarred memories begin to take control..

Things getting even worse when an author and a group of his forty-something friends decide on a camping weekend up in the isolated woods, but as they indulge in a fairly respectful bit of outdoor fun, hunting and nature trekking, Lee spots them and his grip on reality begins to slip.
From there Lee starts to observe them and make traps so that the 'Vietcong' won't be able to get at him or his crops, and soon it is only a matter of time before he begins to hunt them down...

Pretty good this. Enjoyed.
Ketchum has the sense not to make this just another stalk and slash, instead opting for a sympathetic angle toward Lee (who is by no means heroic), and as is usual he doesn't quite go down the route you might expect. Which annoyed the original publishers no end, who were happy to go for just another 'nutter in the woods kills campers' story. However Ketchum refused to back down, not wanting to let down the vets who he'd approached and spoken to about their experiences in order to get the realism and depth of character he was looking for in Lee, and so eventually he got it some of his way. The integrity of his idea mostly held but he lost money doing it.

Story wise, this has some unusual characters, not least of all a weird love triangle between the author, his wife and his mistress (who his wife accepts and likes).. The likelihood of which never really ringing true.
The book's about 300 pages and starts to kick off halfway through, with some unnecessary early padding. Once they get to the woods though it does kick off and Lee starts hunting them down with his dog, crossbow and arsenal of nasty tricks and traps, from herein it delivers action and tension continually.

4.25/5


Chandler [DVD] [1971] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Chandler [DVD] [1971] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Offered by RAREWAVES USA
Price: £13.19

3.0 out of 5 stars As in Raymond.., 25 Aug. 2017
Warren Oates plays this ageing PI who is used as a dupe to lure out an assassination target.
Meanwhile he falls for the woman he's supposed to be keeping an eye on and then things get fraught when she outlives her usefulness as bait for the target.

A film which is so laid back it's horizontal. I'd not seen this before. Overall it gets some lousy reviews but I actually quite liked it.
The film is kind of daft and slightly convoluted. But Oates is good value (I could watch him all day long in stuff like this) and the vintage means it's kinda greasy and as hard boiled as you'd hope.
It's not a film I would shout about from the rooftops but for a neo-noir detective thriller it never outstayed it's welcome either.
Plus Oates' teeth are impressive. Admittedly not quite as impressive as Neville Brand's teeth in Cahill - US Marshall, but still pretty bloomin funny.
Don't expect tons of shootouts and action, keep your expectations grounded and you may be pleasantly surprised.

3.25/5


Mitchell [DVD] [1975] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Mitchell [DVD] [1975] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Offered by RAREWAVES USA
Price: £13.12

4.0 out of 5 stars Jacket Potato, 25 Aug. 2017
Joe Don Baker plays a cop who everyone seems to dislike, not that he gives a monkey's.
So his chief continually gives him grief and rubbish assignments, meaning that Mitchell ignores his bosses and goes about the lousy cases he gets given in his own way, namely with a degree of in-your-face, sloven honesty and an incorruptible integrity.. Generally upsetting just about everyone he comes into contact with; with good reason, because most of the people he meets are scumbags.

Not great but nowhere near as bad as some would make out. I hadn't seen this before and it had sat on my shelf for ages. What a mistake!
2.4 on IMDB at the time of writing! Yeah right.. Just goes to show what idiots actually vote on there.
I thought it was a pretty decent little low budget cop thriller. Fairly dumb but loads of easy action. Exactly the sort of film, that due to an splendidly unglamorous lead in Joe and it's use of repugnant humour, most mainstream types would nowadays either dislike it or think it's cool to belittle it.
Well guess what chaps, the film's probably not aimed at you anyway.
JDB does a decent job as the slobbish, put-out cop and the film has a quirky sense of humour. Which is all sort of bent out of shape.
There's some good violence too.
Admittedly it's not as good as Framed or Walking Tall but it's still perfectly watchable, certainly if you like JDB. Which for my sins I do.
John Saxon, Martin Balsam & Linda Evans all add to it and are a bit of fun within their respective roles.

Fans of Freebie & The Bean would probably like this especially given it's ugly use of 1970s sports jackets.

The Warner Archives is a decent enough print for a forgotten about B movie.
3.5/5


The Curse Of Rathlaw
The Curse Of Rathlaw
by Peter Saxon
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Crabby Hermit, 6 Aug. 2017
After The Hermit of Black Loch is whipped by the Laird of Rathlaw (following an attempted, diabolical rape), the hermit takes umbrage at his punishment and curses the family of Rathlaw, and for this final act of devilry he is banished from his bothy in the highlands.
Months go by without event and then a series of omens that the curse is beginning to take effect are realised. Knowing he is up against dark forces the Laird of Rathlaw has one hope...... The Guardians!

The Guardians: A team of London based, swinging sixties, super occultists, joined in their desire to bring about the destruction of the followers of The Left Hand Path.
Formed by the mysterious and sinister Gideon Cross (who hardly ever helps out), they do battle against the powers of darkness in whatever form they take.

Steven Kane - Leader of the Guardians. A disgraced professor of anthropology who is highly knowledgeable on all things spooky. Kane has little in the way of innate powers but makes up for it in dedication, practice and wisdom.

Father John Dyball - An ex-padre of a Commando unit. He is an Anglo-catholic priest and equally handy in scraps and exorcisms.

Anne Ashby - The reincarnation of a witch, Anne is a talented psychic and medium. She is drawn to Gideon Cross like a moth to a flame and yet despises him. It is hinted that he has some form of power over her (due to their past incarnations). She is beautiful and smart. She also knows how to judo chop bad guys and often gets nekid. Kane fancies the pants off her but as with Gideon Cross he does not fully trust her.

Lionel Marks - A Jewish private eye. Marks doesn't have any super powers but he's good at snooping about and can handle himself against earthly bad guys.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this entry in the series, one of the best I've read, it's a bit like The Devil Rides Out meets The Hound Of The Baskervilles; only with goat headed devil priests, hypnosis, water kelpies, a killer dwarf, a creepy kid and his evil hag-like mother, a murderous satanic coven, plus all manner of crazy Scottish witch-lore. Sure it's tame by today's standards and rather dated, but that doesn't stop it being highly entertaining.
If you teamed up The Champions and The Avengers and gave them a pack of tarot cards, they'd probably wish they were as cool as The Guardians.

I read this as the penultimate novel in the series, though it's nearly impossible to get the right order, as although the UK releases on the Berkley Medallion label are numbered the order is incorrect in my opinion.

There are 6 books in the series:
Dark Ways To Death
Through The Dark Curtain
The Haunting Of Alan Mais
The Killing Bone
The Curse of Rathlaw
The Vampires Of Finistere

4.5/5 For what it is.


Prisoner No 6 Medallion Keyring
Prisoner No 6 Medallion Keyring
Offered by Collectazilla
Price: £3.00

5.0 out of 5 stars By Hook Or By Crook We Will, 6 Aug. 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I like the cult TV classic The Prisoner a lot.
It's unorthodox and unusual, brave and ambiguous. Some say way ahead of it's time and to a certain extent I would agree.
It is a program that answers no questions and refuses to hold your hand along the way, nor for that matter does it please you in the way you'd hope.
The Prisoner does not care. To each viewer it is a different experience.

So anyway, what better way to express my enjoyment for the show by way of a subtle gesture in the form of a keyring attached to the key that powers my own Village Mini Moke.
A gesture which will no doubt go over the heads of those I want it to, yet stick out like a sore thumb to others who are initiated.
Ahh the initiated, those that see the keyring and instantly think... Wow, look. He likes The Prisoner. He must be really cool.

It will be like a sole beacon of light in what is otherwise a dense fog of ignorance and false, modern, fanboy iconography.
Sure by all means wear your silly 'geek chic' but remember there are many Number 2s out there but only one Number 6.

The keyring is how it looks in the picture. For the cost of 3x Work Units it is well made and does not look cheap.

Be seeing you...


The Nightrunners
The Nightrunners
by Joe R. Lansdale
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.77

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Road Kill, 19 July 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Nightrunners (Paperback)
Monty and Becky were once a happily married couple, both teachers, both middle class graduates, Monty a pacifist, with socialist ideals, both deeply in love.... but not any more.
Ever since Becky suffered a terrible sexual assault at the hands of some of her pupils they have become torn apart; Becky unable to relate to Monty with any physical affection, and what's worse she has been having terrifying dreams of the past events that ruined her life.

In an effort to mend their busted marriage they decide to go on holiday to their friend's cabin in the woods in the hope that Becky might get over her terrible ordeal from the year before but shortly after their arrival her nightmares become even more lucid and she starts to believe they could be premonitions of things to come...

Meanwhile the scumbag gang of delinquent sickos that raped her have just had some bad news of their own, their leader who took the rap for their actions has topped himself in prison and now they want revenge and are hunting Becky down to finish what they started.
However as their interstate killing spree begins this is clearly no ordinary road trip of revenge, because their one time leader is still guiding their actions, only this time from beyond the grave.. And if they don't complete the sacrificial rape-murder of Becky the way they should have originally, they're gonna owe a big debt to a sadistic demonic entity known as The God of the Razor, and he's the last guy you want to get on the wrong side of...

A very early novel of Lansdale's this. Sort of splatterpunk before splatterpunk really existed, kinda like early Ketchum, and I believe he wrote this in the earlier 80s, even though it wasn't released until 1987.
Lansdale himself considers it to be his best 'early' work and in fairness you can kind of see why.
It's a sort of cross between one of those 1970s rape-revenge movies and an out and out supernatural psycho-slasher. Which to be honest, these days is rather uncharacteristic for JRL (Okay, 'Prisoner 489' excluded coz that was a bit like an 80s slasher movie).
True, you could argue that it's not quite as polished as his later works and that it's a little ragged round the edges (uncouth maybe a better term), but that doesn't stop it from being supremely entertaining on levels of both viscera and imagination. With the characters Lansdale draws on being solid and some of the dialogue and descriptive language used very funny.
I rate this, for an early attempt it's pretty darn good. Wait, what am I saying, for any attempt this is pretty darn good..!
Though I will say this, and that is that it's probably not for the easily shocked, as there are a number of rather gruesome and sadistic set pieces, which may have been toned down slightly in later stories.
4.5/5 Recommended. A great read.


I'm Not Sam
I'm Not Sam
by Jack Ketchum
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.26

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Problem Child, 19 July 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: I'm Not Sam (Paperback)
Sam is a pathologist who is married to Patrick, a graphic novel artist.
They love one another deeply and although they are unable to have children they live a complete and fulfilled adult life in their remote but plush detached house.
One night they go to bed as usual but the next day when Patrick wakes up he finds Sam sat down sobbing and when he approaches her to find out what is wrong it quickly becomes clear that Sam has had some sort of breakdown.
For although she is physically in perfect shape, mentally she is not. She does not recognise him, nor does she accept the name Sam. As far as she is concerned her name is Lily and Lily is aged 6.
At first Patrick takes her to see their family doctor, who can find nothing wrong with her, apart from a certain degree of what on face value appears to be selective memory loss, with the fact that she has the mind and cognitive abilities of a little girl.
Has she had a breakdown?
Is she suffering from some sort of rapid onset Multiple Personality Disorder?
Is she possessed?
Patrick does not know, but he intends to find out why and try to bring back his wife, Sam, at any cost...

This was really good, I thoroughly enjoyed this. Superb.
It's weird, disturbing, funny and upsetting.
The premise of your perfectly normal, fully grown wife and life partner suddenly reverting to a happy little girl that refuses to accept she is anyone other than, Lily, aged 6, is really quite unsettling. Lily has all the urges a normal 6 year old has, she wants to play with dollies and eat peanut jelly sandwiches. She is naive and happy in her own little world. But Patrick also loves his wife deeply and he also has urges and wants her back from wherever she has disappeared to, whilst desperately trying not to scare, upset or hurt Lily in any way.
The book asking some deeply disturbing moral questions, certainly around love and sex, and like I said, I found it genuinely quite emotional at times.
Great book. The author asks that you leave a break in between reading 'I'm Not Sam' and 'Who's Lily' (a sort of bonus epilogue that comes as a short story accompanying the novella) and I can see why.. Because there's a good reason.

Recommended.
5/5


Ravenous
Ravenous
by Ray Garton
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.90

4.0 out of 5 stars Snap, Crackle & Pop, 17 July 2017
This review is from: Ravenous (Paperback)
Late one night whilst driving home on a lonely mountain road in the town of Big Rock, an overweight wife and mother is viciously, sexually assaulted by an unknown assailant.
Somehow the victim manages to get lucky and kill her attacker, but unbeknownst to her the damage is already done.
Later that evening the John Doe rapist, gets off his slab in the morgue and walks out, tearing to pieces the security of the local hospital and a deputy police officer still present.

The sheriff is confused. The bodies have been attacked by what appears to be a large, powerful animal. Torn to pieces.

Meanwhile a mysterious stranger moves into town and seems to have some answers and a whole arsenal of silver weaponry, but his answers are just too incredible for the Sheriff to take seriously.

Big Rock is about to change, well some of it is...

I'd fancied this for some time, it gets some really good reviews but I'd never read any Garton before, so I picked it up and started reading it. I had only just started it when some other book landed on my doormat and I ended up getting sidetracked and putting this back down. Needless to say I picked it up recently and gave it another bash.
And............. It's pretty good.
Well, I enjoyed it.

In this the werewolf curse is not spread through bites or scratches but rather through sexual intercourse, which means that amongst the sexually promiscuous/unfaithful/assaulted the virus spreads like wild fire.
The werewolves are completely voracious in their appetites when it comes to feeding and ****ing, and within a short space of time they are greedily raping and eating their way through the cast of characters, which provides for plenty of gruesome entertainment and a full scale battle for human survival by the end.
Mostly the characters and story are pulpy and throwaway, with the whole thing rather reminiscent of The Howling (the film, not the book!), however those that like plenty of action and some knowing genre humour will enjoy it.

There's a cracking little chapter where a woman changes and bursts out of her condo and proceeds to attack her astonished neighbours that come out to investigate the ruckus, starting with a mother and her children next door but one.
Which is an example of what I mean when I say that this may unsettle some readers due to the books intended meanstreak, which means no one is safe from attack and mutilation, be they undeserving, innocent children, nice guys or the 'heroes' of the book.
No one is safe.

There is a follow up entitled: Bestial. Which I will read in due course.


Old Flames
Old Flames
by Jack Ketchum
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars A hot date, 17 July 2017
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This review is from: Old Flames (Mass Market Paperback)
Two novellas in this Leisure Books release.

First up: Old Flames.

Dora Welles owns her own antiques business in New York and is an attractive independent, successful woman.
You'd think she'd done well for herself, but something is beginning to rankle her. Because no matter how well she does for herself she struggles to find a worthy partner.
It's not that she sets her standards too high (or low) but rather that all the men she meets are users.

Then one day a friend of hers, recommends a detective agency which specialises in old flames, past relationships, that kind of thing.. And Dora decides to take her friend up on her suggestion and track down her first love and college sweetheart, Jim.
Jim was always a nice guy, a happy guy..

Only problem being that when the agency finds Jim and Dora 'accidentally bumps' into him, he's still happy. Happy with his job, happy with where he lives, and worst of all happy with his wife and kids.
But Dora is not about to let Jim's happiness stand in the way of her own...

I enjoyed this.
It's not particularly visceral or steamy but it certainly has a sort of Fatal Attraction bunny boiling thing going on.

Ketchum does a decent job with Dora in making her both a character you can sympathise with but one which, certainly by the end of the book, is also utterly ruthless.
Not his best work that I've read but undoubtedly a decent psycho thriller from the ever dependable JK.
3.5/5

Review of Right To Life (the bonus novella included) to follow.


Hangman's Hotel And Other Stories
Hangman's Hotel And Other Stories
by Guy N Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Hunters of the supernatural., 30 Jun. 2017
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A collection of mostly supernatural horror stories by Britain's greatest (well, to me anyway) pulp horror author.

There are 14 stories in total, by the title I have given a brief synopsis to help you understand if the book is for you or not.

1) Hangman's Hotel. - A nasty old judge visits the prison (now a hotel) where he sent many men to be hanged. Reminded me a little of The House Of Whipcord.

2) The Black Druid. - Our nearest and dearest may not be all that we believe them to be.

3) Crabs: The Survivor. - Local hunter catches crabs.

4) Savage Safari. - Safari hunter's face a lost world of jurassic mayhem. Cryptozoology fun.

5) Zombie Gunfighter. - A lynching and an embittered medicine man lends itself to a town's destruction.

6) Dead on Cue. - A Christmas time hunt goes wrong with ghostly echoes from the past causing modern repercussions.

*7) Devil of the Dark Forest. - A Christmas time hunt goes wrong with ghostly echoes from the past causing modern repercussions.

8) The Witch of Warsaw. - Sabat Vs Polish communist occultists.

*9) Death in the Snow. - A Christmas time hunt goes wrong with ghostly echoes from the past causing modern repercussions.

*10) Beast in the Mist. - A Christmas time hunt goes wrong with ghostly echoes from the past causing modern repercussions.

*11) The House in the Wood. - A Christmas time hunt goes wrong with ghostly echoes from the past causing modern repercussions.

*12) Winged Evil. - A Christmas time hunt goes wrong with ghostly echoes from the past causing modern repercussions.

*13) Poacher's Curse. - A Christmas time hunt goes wrong with ghostly echoes from the past causing modern repercussions.

14) Dwellers of the Dark. - Guy N Smith is haunted by a big cat.

The titles marked with an asterisk (*) all previously appeared in Country Life magazine.

The biggest issue I had with this collection is that many of the stories share very similar themes. Which left me sat there thinking 'for heaven's sake, not another story about hunters and ghostly animals!'. As you can see from my synopses at least half of the stories follow very similar themes, which is a shame because I know Guy's a big fan of hunting but that doesn't necessarily mean I want to read about poachers and gamekeepers in every short story I read by him..
Clearly this is because his target audience for almost half the stories in here were aimed at his readership in Country Life.

Oddly it is his other stories that truly stand out, with Hangman's Hotel, Crabs: The Survivor, The Witch of Warsaw, Savage Safari and Zombie Gunfighter probably my favourites.
Needless to say that the Crabs story and the Sabat story (Witch of Warsaw) are worth reading this collection for alone. Both of those are really quite gruesome and fans will appreciate them.

Overall verdict for Hangman's Hotel: Average. Don't get me wrong there're a few crackers in here but probably best read in small chunks because otherwise I felt it was a bit samey.


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