Friday, October 21, 2016

WTF Friday: Body Rides by Richard Laymon

Well, another WTF Friday is upon us, which means we once again turn the Ruins over to my dark half. As regular visitors will know, Foster Medina has a passion for messed up literary diversions - books that are bizarre, twisted, grotesque, and kinky - and he's only too happy to splatter them across the page.

To borrow the oft-quoted cover blurb from Stephen King, “If you’ve missed Laymon, you’ve missed a treat.” Seriously, if you’ve never had the pleasure, I urge you to pick one up one of Richard Laymon’s books (One Rainy Night remains my favorite). His books are the literary equivalent of watching a low-budget slasher flick while riding a dilapidated old roller coaster – a deliciously enjoyable thrill ride that doesn’t require much from the reader, other than to strap in, hold tight, and enjoy.

Body Rides is pretty much your standard Laymon tale, but still more fun than anything else you’re likely to read this Halloween season. The basic premise, as is often the case with his work, is deceptively simple. After rescuing a beautiful woman from a vicious serial killer (this happens a lot with Laymon), a young man finds himself rewarded with a magic bracelet that allows him to leave his body and hitch a ride in anybody he chooses.

While outside his self, Neal experience the thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations of whomever he chooses to occupy. What he can't do, however, is control their speech or actions - he's just along for the ride. It's during his first long-distance ride that Neal discovers that not only is the serial killer he left for dead very much alive (again, this happens a lot with Laymon), but he’s come to finish the job - and there’s absolutely nothing Neal can do but watch from inside the body of the victim. Chilling, creepy, claustrophobic stuff.

A large portion of the book is dedicated to Neal’s frantic flight, along with establishing his relationship with a pair of women who become key to the eventual resolution of the story. By the end, all three of them have used the bracelet for various voyeuristic, investigative, erotic, and frightening body rides. Personally, I would have loved to share more in Neal’s experiences riding along in either Sue or Marta’s body, but we certainly get our fair share of Sue experiencing Neal, and the novelty/curiosity aspect is certainly handled very well. Laymon always incorporates a creepy, voyeuristic sort of eroticism with his books, and here it works exceptionally well.

Realistically, the story could have been a good 100 pages shorter, but Laymon’s books are always as much about the experience and the atmosphere as they are about the plot, and that narrative excess is part of the thrill. As for the ending, it's one of Laymon's best, a total WTF moment that completely betrays everything you expect from the story.

Paperback, 534 pages
Published March 1st 2004 by Leisure Books

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Horror Review: Deadraiser Part 1 by Stephanie & Wayne J. Keeley

Although I found the telling a little awkward at times, with some jarring transitions between journal and narrative points of view, Deadraiser: Part 1: Horror in Jordan's Bank was an effectively creepy horror story with a nice twist at the end.

Stephanie C. Lyons-Keeley & Wayne J. Keeley poke a bit of gentle fun at small town stereotypes and clichés, but make good use of the somewhat backwards town where cell reception is spotty at best, where news and gossip are still printed each morning, and where bumbling sheriffs, crotchety old docs, elderly priests still play an essential role. Like most small towns in these kinds of stories, there's something rotten at the heart of it, and the tendrils of evil spread throughout to ensnare Frankie and Chris.

Nightmares, ghosts, and demonic possession all play a role here, as does the concept of being chosen or foretold or chosen to play a role in the battle between good and evil. Human monstrosity plays just as big a role, however, with everything from greed and arrogance to tragic birth defects casting a shadow over the small town of Jordan's Bank.

An effective old school horror story, Deadraiser has some really powerful scenes that are sure to captivate fans of the genre. The characters themselves don't get a chance to really shine in this first installment, but they're established well enough for us to care about what happens. Personally, I would have preferred the cliffhanger twist at the end to be a little less definitive, but it certainly cranks up the tension for the next chapter.

Kindle Edition
Published September 5th 2016

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Waiting On Wednesday: Exercise Bike by Carlton Mellick III

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Exercise Bike by Carlton Mellick III
Expected publication: January 1st 2017 by Eraserhead Press

There is something wrong with Tori Manetti's new exercise bike. It is made from flesh and bone. It eats and breathes and poops. It was once a billionaire named Darren Oscarson who underwent years of cosmetic surgery to be transformed into a human exercise bike so that he could live out his deepest sexual fantasy. Now Tori is forced to ride him, use him as a normal piece of exercise equipment, no matter how grotesque his appearance.

Set in a health food dystopia, "Exerice Bike" is an absurd horror tale of domination and submission, power and obedience, desire and desperation, from Wonderland Book Award winner Carlton Mellick III.

Keeping with the Halloween horror theme, Mellick is the granddaddy of bizarro horror, and I love how twisted this one is. Should be a fun, mind-melting, read.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Horror Review: Cthulhu Armageddon by C.T. Phipps

Cthulhu Armageddon is a book that blends the elements of several genres, and does so with some surprising success. There's definitely some Mad Max insanity behind it, but what struck me most strongly was the way C.T. Phipps pays a sort of homage to Stephen King's The Stand, while taking a page out of Brian Lumley's book and swapping the awkward biblical mythology for the far more satisfying (and terrifying) Cthulhu mythos.

This is the story of John Henry Booth, a stone-cold exterminator of threats to the remnants of humanity. A loyal solider and respected leader, he is forced to question his very existence when a mysterious encounter leaves him branded a traitor. Declared dead, he sets out with a disgraced torturer to find the truth, seek his revenge, and continue his mission - but only after his wife's monstrous attempt at betrayal goes awry,

There's so much to like about this story - action, horror, humor, and some heavy emotions. It's an incredibly fatalistic look at humanity's future, but it's Booth's interactions with the women around him give us a reason to keep going. From his affection for a cursed child and a solider thought lost, to his awkward trust for both a torturer and a cult leader, Phipps keeps the monstrous from completely overwhelming the humanity.

For those wondering about the Cthulhu aspect, it is a significant part of the story - not just window dressing. This is a book that gets very trippy at times, complete with dream world encounters, gods and old ones, magic, and inhuman power. More than once I had to stop, go back, and reread a section just to appreciate how much was going on. The opening discovery of "a genuine, honest-to-god cathedral with soaring towers and architecture" in the middle of nowhere, constructed of "stones seemingly formed from the very night itself," sets the tone for the story, and the climax deep within that same alien temple delivers on every level.

Comprised of equal parts horror, science fiction, and weird western, Cthulhu Armageddon is that rare book that delivers on them all, and which should appeal to a wide audience. It's dark, grim, and deeply unsettling, but unlike its subject matter, never entirely alien.

Kindle Edition, 267 pages
Published August 22nd 2016 by Crossroad Press

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Kenneth Brown talks Lovecraftian horror in Coolant

First allow me to thank the great folks over at Bewitching Book Tours for making this possible and Beauty in Ruins for allowing me to yammer about.  It is not often I get the opportunity to prattle about myself in some form or another.  Really though what is it that I can discuss that won’t make my insides start tying themselves in knots of anxiety?  At this juncture the only thing that comes to mind is one thing, one tidbit of talk that I hope to expand to a reasonable word length for the pleasure of the reading audience....

And that is the question that has been asked to me:  “Why are you inspired by Lovecraftian Horror?”

Sure, aside from the tentacles and writhing amorphous monstrosities people may not associate much else with Lovecraft horror or cosmic terror.  I believe there is a disconnect with the major populace and the breed of terror spawned by the cacophonous mind of H.P. Lovecraft.  Aside from big squid monstrosities most people see little else.  But for myself there is something more that harken the eldritch terror in these stories.  For me it is that void of hopelessness that cracks a human being’s sanity that is key.

Why are Cthulu, Hastur, and the other Old Ones so terrifying?  For me it is that not only are they giant monster gods of a terrible and foul and design but also they are alien in their intent and formidable in power.  This leaves mankind little to nothing we can do in their wake.  It is this hopelessness that spawns the true terror in cosmic horror.  It is that spiral of no return that leads to the path of insanity.  It is more than ghouls, zombies, and vampire demons simply out to suck blood and devour souls.  This is where I find inspiration.

I take this hopelessness that dances with madness and that is where I try to write.  In that regard I do my best to mix the things that have led me down that road of despair.  It is the mundane and everyday things that jab and prod and my brain and what I try to convey.  Broken relationships, a job that turns an everyday person into a drone, the isolation of being outcast or different, through these aspects is where I can see the real tethers of madness be pulled and brought forth.  Not to fret, as those who have read, I still utilize forbidden lore, the elder signs, and big monsters filled with tentacles and teeth.  But doesn’t the dread intensify when we get that hopelessness in there?  I know it does for me at least.

I thank you all good folks who have taken time to read my little attempt at a guest blog.  Please give “Coolant” a read and see what I am trying to convey.  There are other tales out there as well along with some new releases just around the bend.  I am hopeful at least that some of you, will see that hopelessness in the same ways that inspired me to work in Lovecraftian terror.


About the Author

Kenneth Brown was born in the Philippines and somehow arrived to the backwoods of Kentucky riding atop of a three-legged burro. From there Kenneth was in and out of chicken coops and barn houses until being snatched up by local pest control workers who had mistaken him for the Pope Lick Goat Monster.

Kenneth learned to read and write, and not to bite the other children, before making a grand escape from the local psychiatric ward, even though he checked himself in. His writing wavers between the macabre and disturbing, when it is legible and not written in crayon.

At this time, Kenneth's biggest achievement is remaining in the neighboring farm house for three weeks without being noticed. He dreams of bringing steam powered monstrosities to life and wearing ridiculously long top hats and brass goggles.

In his spare time, Kenneth enjoys writing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, cock fighting, and staring at the summer camp across the lake while wearing a hockey mask. The burro is still hanging in there.


About the Book

Kenneth Brown

Genre: Horror/Lovecraftian Horror
Publisher: Gorillas With Scissors Press
Date of Publication: 05-01-1986
ISBN: 978-1533272034

Number of pages: 244
Word Count:  25,000

Cover Artist: Gypsy Heart Editing

Book Description:

Reeling from the recent struggles in his professional and family life, Ian Marshall attempts to bring things around. He has a new job, new home, and an outlook for a better future.

But after discovering a box filled with the belongings of a stranger, Ian’s world begins to spiral out of control. Nightmares and reality collide into a twisted amalgam that threatens to encompass Ian.

Before long all that’s left for him is the strange project he is determined to complete, no matter the cost.



“Eli? Was that the guy who quit?” Ian asked being led further back into the workshop. The two entered a hallway and turned into a locker room.
            Barry turned to Ian. “What did you just say?”
            “Eli. That’s the guy who quit, right?”
            The eyes on Ian’s coworker grew wide and his jaw dropped. “No one told you?”
            Inside the locker room the noise of the machines and yelling of the workers were drowned out. Ian turned to the older man, the question still fresh in his mind. “Told me what?”
            Releasing a groan, Barry leaned against one of the old green lockers that had occupied the workshop locker room longer than most of the employees.
            “Steve didn’t tell you?”
            Ian shook his head.
            “God dammit. No, Eli didn’t just quit—the cops had to drag him out of here.”
            “Did he get into a fight with someone?” Ian imagined a blank-faced man in a uniform slinging punches with another foul-mouthed machinist. A smile appeared as he thought about Tony taking a hard right hook.
            “Nah,” Barry answered shaking his head. “Damn fool lost it. After eight years here he finally lost his mind.”
            “What do you mean? Was he on drugs? Drinking?”
            Barry shrugged his shoulders. “Beats the hell out of me. He came in, started ranting, and gave me two to the gut and one to the face. Then he took a swing with a torque wrench at Lutz. Broke the fucker’s jaw and kept him out for weeks. Eli just kept on ranting and screaming. They had to empty out the workshop and call the cops in to come and drag him out.”
            “I guess his loss is my gain,” Ian answered with a labored chuckle. He hoped he had not offended the man about the termination of a longtime peer.
            “Ah, screw it. Never liked the guy to begin with. He never drank or smoked. I think there was one time we got him to go to the titty bar with us. The son of a bitch acted like we were wasting his time.” Barry moved away from the lockers, eager to hightail it out of the shop and away from Ian.
            “You’ll be working ‘til four in the morning. Boss-man wants you on overtime, taking in special orders and touching up parts. Around midnight, the last second-shifter’s will be out of here and it’ll be just you late-night boys—you, Reggie, Mark, and Tony.”
            “Another Tony?”
            “No, same jackass who’s out there now.” Barry laughed. “Like I said, give it some time and you guys will be fine. He’s just pissed he had to come in and take care of some project he’s working on.”
            “I hope so.”
            “Anyway, you’re allowed to work on side projects. Langer wants us to pay for the steel but that’s one perk you guys on graveyard shift have. You can just use it. Don’t go crazy and the boss won’t get pissed. Tony and Reggie have the keys to close up shop, so you don’t have to worry about that.”
            Barry moved over to the locker adorned with a fist-sized dent. From his pocket, the machinist pulled out a key. “This one’s yours,” he said, handing the key over to Ian. “Nobody’s had the chance to clean out Eli’s crap out of there yet, so that’s your first job. All right?”
            “You want me to throw his stuff out?” The idea of taking the man’s possessions and trashing them after such a breakdown didn’t sit well with him. “Could I just have it sent to him or his family?”
            “Jesus, you boy scout,” Barry said, rolling his eyes. “Throw it out, keep it, build a memorial to the crazy asshole for all I care. Anyways, I don’t think he had anyone. Never talked about having a bang-piece. Just get it done and then look at your blueprints. And oh yeah, your equipment is the closest to the locker room.”
            With a pat on the shoulder Barry moved away from Ian and towards the exit. “All right guy, that’s me. I’m done for the night. Take ‘er easy.”
            Ian gave a farewell wave to Barry. The other man did not notice as Barry was focused intently on leaving the job for the day. Now alone, Ian ran his fingers across the dent smashed in to the metal. So much force had been applied in the punch that each knuckle had individually dented the locker. Using the key given to him, Ian unlatched the lock and opened the storage locker that was now his.
            A pungent odor wafted into Ian’s nostrils. No doubt the stench came from the dripping, brown paper bag.
            “Well, that’s the first thing to go.” Ian gagged, tossing the rotted food into the nearest waste bin. With the trash gone, Ian felt free to explore the rest of this unknown man’s life.
            Inside the locker door were several photos of a pudgy, tanned man. The Latino man’s face stretched as he smiled back at Ian from the picture. Next to who must have been Eli was the shape of another person. Marker scribbles and scratches marred the image of the other person, leaving Ian unable to make out any facial characteristics. Though obstructed, the second figure held a lithe and curvy outline. The way in which the man held the other person had Ian assuming it must have been his significant other.
            “With a group like this, its no wonder you didn’t talk about your ex-girlfriend,” Ian muttered, taking the photos down.
            Aside from the sentimental trinkets, many of the items were standard and worth keeping for Ian. A couple of pairs of calipers and a digital micrometer set were neatly stored in their cases. Blank notepads were placed on the upper shelf. Ian even found a pair of wearable work boots, like new and fitting, if maybe a little big. Putting the items he could use off to the side, Ian disposed of the rest in the trash. Finally, at the back of the locker, buried under a pile of work shirts that were too large for him and reeked from weeks of being unwashed, Ian felt the top of a metal container.
            Throwing away the old shirts, he discovered an old-style toolbox underneath. Packed away behind the boots and discarded clothing, the pail must have been forgotten by the former occupant. With a labored grunt at the full weight of the box, Ian prayed to not find any more rotting garbage. With the toolbox pulled out into the light, Ian flipped the top open.
            “What the hell?” Ian muttered, picking up a steel cube out from the large, tin box.

            The steel felt heavy in Ian’s hand. He guessed it possibly weighed close to eight pounds. It was nearly symmetrical in length and width, with each side close to eight inches. Ian’s fingers ran along the edges of the metal, feeling each sharp angle. Instead of the shine a project gets after being finished on a surface grinder, the cube was rough and incomplete. 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

From the Shelf to the Page: This Week in the Ruins

In case you missed it, here's what happened in the Ruins this week . . .

WTF Friday: In the Arms of Love by Bryce Calderwood

Giant monsters are f*cking cool guest post by Justin Stewart

Cover Reveal: Whitechapel Paranormal Society by E. J. Stevens

Waiting On Wednesday: The Feast of All Souls by Simon Bestwick

Horror Review: Baker (Demons and other Night Things) by Terry M. West


Stacking The Shelves and Mailbox Monday are a pair of weekly memes that are about sharing the books that came your way over the past week, and which you've added to your shelves - whether they be physical or virtual, borrowed or bought, or for pleasure or review.

A great selection of review titles once again this week:

The Last Sacrifice by James A Moore

The Librarians and The Lost Lamp by Greg Cox

Treachery's Tools by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

Unhonored: Book Two of The Nightbirds by Tracy Hickman and Laura Hickman

A used bookstore haul from my trip across border with some out-of-print Jerry Ahern,William Barton, Robert E. Vardeman, and Victor Milan; as well as some mass market editions of Jacqueline Carey, Fiona Patton, and Janny Wurts:

And, finally, a handful of Kindle freebies to stock the WTF Friday shelves:



It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is another weekly meme, this time focused on what books are spending the most time in your hands and in your head, as opposed to what's been added to your shelf.

With the Halloween season in full swing, I'm continuing my tour of the darkest corners of my review shelves . . .


What's topping your shelves this week?