Monday, December 22, 2014

On Her Majesty's Behalf by Joseph Nassise (an excerpt)


     Major Michael “Madman” Burke stood with his back to the sea and stared out into the semi-darkness, watching for movement.  Twenty feet behind him the waves lapped gently against the gunwale of the fishing boat that had carried him across the Channel, the same boat that, God-willing, would bring him back again when the mission was over.
     What in heaven’s name had possessed him to volunteer for this?
     It had been nearly a week since the Germans had launched a surprise attack against the cities of London and New York.  Tens of thousands of canisters of a new strain of corpse gas, one that affected the living rather than the dead, had been dropped onto the streets of the metropolises, turning those who came in contact into one of the ravaging undead now known as Shredders.  
     News reports from the States indicated that New York had been cut off from the mainland, the bridges and tunnels blown to rubble.  Armed units now patrolled the shoreline adjacent to the island of Manhattan and two reinforced companies stood guard at the egress to the ruined tunnels that connected them, determined to keep those who had been infected by the gas from getting out into the rest of the country.  There was talk of firebombing the city into oblivion in the hope of eliminating the threat in one fell swoop, though how much of that was rumor and how much was reality Burke didn’t know. 
     London was a different issue entirely.  The nature of the surrounding terrain made it nearly impossible to isolate the city and its infected inhabitants.  To make matters worse, the municipal units that might have been called in to maintain order within the quarantine zone were unavailable.  Practically every able-bodied male was on the other side of the Channel fighting to keep the German menace at bay.  To add to the chaos, communication had been lost with those few military units, such as the King’s Guard, that were stationed inside the city.
     Allied command outright refused to write off the city’s population without making some kind of effort to save anyone who might have survived the bombardment.  Burke had seen the effect of the gas and didn’t have much hope that there was anyone still alive within range of the bombing.  There were some, however, much higher placed in the chain of command than he, who held to the theory there had to have been some people who where inside during the attack, people who had seen what was happening to those exposed to the gas and had then taken appropriate measures to protect themselves.  Burke, however, didn’t believe it - if the gas hadn’t gotten them, the Shredders would.  What he believed didn’t matter, especially in the wake of the destruction of one of the world’s foremost cities.  People simply refused to believe that there was nothing to be done and perhaps that was for the best.  In the wake of the attack, a makeshift rescue operation had sprung up almost overnight.  Aircraft had dropped millions of hastily printed leaflets onto the city streets, directing those who survived to make their way east along the Thames estuary where they could be picked up and transported out of the danger zone.  
     Every available boat was then pressed into service, from fishing trawlers to four-man dinghies.  Night after night they crossed the Channel like some kind of ragtag fleet, determined to save whoever they could from the ravages of the undead.  Burke had been helping with the evacuation effort for the last several days, searching for survivors along the coastline, until he’d been tapped for tonight’s little jaunt.
     He shrugged his shoulders, trying to get the heavy pack resting on them to settle more comfortably.  The pack was part of a new weapon straight out of Professor Graves’ lab, a weapon Burke had agreed to field test.  It had sounded reasonable when the process had been explained to him back at headquarters, but now, with the sea at his back and the possibility of an unknown numbers of Shredders in the darkness ahead of him, he was starting to second-guess the whole venture. 
     He glanced down at the shockgun, as Graves was calling it, and wondered briefly if it was going to work.
     From a distance it looked like an ordinary rifle; it wasn’t until you got close to it that you began to notice just how much it had been modified.  The barrel was much wider, closer to the circumference of a shotgun than a rifle, and at least three inches longer than one might expect.  A pair of capacitors sat on either side of a vacuum tube, which in turn rested atop the barrel in just about the spot where the breach would normally have been.  The shoulder stock had been replaced by a large metallic canister wrapped in rubber.  A power cord ran from the bottom of the canister to a small hand crank at his belt and from there around his waist and into the bottom of the rucksack on his back.  It might not be the strangest thing he’d seen come out of Professor Graves’ underground lair but it was certainly up there with the best of them.
     As long as it worked, he didn’t care how ugly it was.  Just to be safe, he had his usual Colt 1911 automatic in a holster slung gunfighter-style on his right thigh.  Neither of them were a satisfactory replacement for the Tommy gun he’d been carrying around for the last few weeks, but carrying both the shockgun and the Tommy gun had been too awkward and he’d been forced to leave the latter behind.
     He glanced over to where his two companions were just now climbing the short ladder from the deck of the fishing trawler onto the pier where he waited, noting, not for the first time, just how different the two men were.
     Private Nicholas “Nick” Montagna was a twenty-two year old Italian-American kid from Philadelphia, with thick-burly frame and dark hair.  Nick’s father had been a watchmaker and his talent had clearly rubbed off on the next generation.  Nick was a virtuoso with anything mechanical, be it an internal combustion motor or a tiny set of brass clockworks.  He was loud, boisterous, and far too overeager, but Burke knew they’d drum the latter out of him pretty quickly and so he wasn’t overly concerned.
     Private Levi Cohen, on the other hand, was a quiet, shy kid a few years younger than Montagna.  He hailed from a Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn and had been some kind of scholar before enlisting.  So far Burke had discovered that the man spoke English, Hebrew, French and Italian.  He wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if that was just the tip of the iceberg.  Even though the kid was quiet, Burke got a sense of courage and unyielding determination from him.  Burke had a hunch he’d be as steady as a rock in the thick of things and that was just the kind of man he wanted on his squad.
     He waited for the two men to join him, saw the nervous look on both their faces, and decided a little pep talk might be in order.
     “All right, look.  We’re here to do a job; the sooner we get it done, the sooner we go home.  Stick close, keep your eyes open, and remember - as little noise as possible.”
     It wasn’t much as pep talks go, but Burke had learned that dwelling too much on the details just made the new men more nervous than they already were.  Short and sweet was best. 
     The mission planners had chosen Southend-on-Sea, a seaside community at the mouth of the Thames, as their designated test area.  The residents had been evacuated in the early days of the rescue operation, leaving a ghost town behind which provided plenty of room for Burke and his team to operate in.  Southend-on-Sea was roughly forty miles east of London, making it close enough for some of the more ambitious Shredders to have wandered onto its streets but not so close that the entire town would be overrun with the undead.
     Or so they hoped.
     Uncertainty over just what they would encounter once they came ashore was the primary reason they had docked halfway along the Pier.
     That and the mudflats.
     Southend-on-Sea might technically be on the sea, but at low tide it was isolated by over a mile of water too shallow to even row a skiff through.  As seaside vacations became more popular at the end of the last century, the town fathers had recognized that their beloved mudflats would keep them isolated and send seaborne traffic further south to Margate and other deeper-water ports.  Unwilling to see the probability of a prosperous future for the town falter, they’d pushed to have the Pier built in order to allow boats, both large and small, to have a convenient place to dock.  The Pier was an immediate success and it was extended several times over the years until it reached its current length of nearly a mile and a half.
     The pier was roughly twenty feet wide, with two rows of electric lamps bisecting its length equidistant from each side.  The mens’ boots struck up a steady rhythm against the wooden floorboards as they made their way along its length, the sound sending an eerie chill up Burke’s spine.  It was so quiet that their footsteps felt like an intrusion and he was worried that the sound would bring the Shredders out of the woodwork like flies to a corpse, but he and his men managed to traverse the distance without incident.
     The smell of the sea was sharp in Burke’s nostrils as he started down the length of the pier, the ocean brine a welcome respite from the stench of the unburied dead and the corpse fires that hung about the battlefield like a noose around the neck.  The sun had been up for a couple of hours, but the sky was filled with smoke from the fires that burned out of control in parts of London.  It filtered out much of the light, and Burke felt like he could taste the ash on his tongue as easily as he could taste the sea.
     A two-story brick pavilion with a sloping roof squatted like a spider at the end of the pier, guarding the entrance into the town, and Burke and his men approached it cautiously.  So far they hadn’t seen anyone, living or dead, but a building the size of the one in front of them could hide any number of horrors and Burke was determined not to walk into them blindly.
     Three sets of double doors provided entrance to the pavilion.  All of the doors were closed, though the glass in two of them had been broken out.  Burke headed for the nearest one after signaling for his two companions to wait where they were.  He crept forward in a crouch, not wanting to be seen by anyone through the broken window.  When he reached the door he flattened himself against the jamb beside it and then slowly rose up until he could get a glimpse of the interior.
     Vendor carts were knocked over, storefronts left open, the gleam of broken glass; plenty of signs that the building had been deserted in a hurry, but he didn’t catch the telltale flash of movement.
     “Follow me,” he said, “and stay close.”
     He reached out with his mechanical hand and eased the door open, praying all the while that it wouldn’t squeak, and then slipped inside.  A moment later Montagna and Cohen followed suit.
     They found themselves standing inside a large, open space.  Two rows of thick, round support columns that were designed to hold the weight of the ceiling ran down the middle of the space.  Between each column were three rows of iron benches; seating for those waiting to disembark on a particular vessel.  The walls around the interior space were lined with vendor stalls and small shops; a pastry shop, a butcher shop, a pub, a barber shop - various shops that sold curios and souvenirs and the like.
     Burke and the others had entered through the right-most door, putting them on one side of the open space.   They began making their way along the length of the building toward the exit doors at the far end.  Even from here they could see through the windows in the doors to the road beyond that led up a short hill to the town.
     That was their destination.
     They had crossed about half the length of the room when they heard a clatter come from inside one of the shops.
     Burke immediately stopped, holding up a clenched fist in a signal for those behind him to stop as he settled into a crouch.  The soft rustle he heard from behind him told him the others had understood. 
     He swept his gaze along the stalls on the side of the building where he’d heard the noise, searching for the source of the sound.  Most of the shops and stalls were in shadow and the dim light filtering in through the windows wasn’t making things easy.  Thankfully, whatever was making the noise wasn’t trying to be quiet about it; the clatter came again and Burke was able to pinpoint it as coming from the inside of a barber shop about twenty yards away. 
     Burke looked back at his companions who were crouched a few feet behind him, pointed at his eyes and then at the barber shop, indicating that he was going to take a look.  Both men nodded that they understood.
     One of the large columns providing support to the ceiling was a few yards in front of him.  It would give him both an unobstructed view of the entrance as well as a bit of cover should he need it, so Burke chose that as his destination and headed for it as quietly as he could.  He slipped in behind the column and peered cautiously around the edge just in time to see a Shredder lurch unsteadily out the door of the shop and into the main room.
     It had been just a boy when the gas fell; Burke guessed twelve, maybe fourteen years old.  Tall and thin, with a mop of dark, unruly hair that probably hadn’t wanted to cooperate much even when the boy had been alive.  Burke couldn’t see the creature’s green-grey skin in the building’s dim light, but the way it stumbled about, seemingly disoriented, was proof enough that it was no longer one of the living.
     Looks like we won’t have to go into town after all, Burke thought.
     He reached down and began to rapidly wind the hand crank on his belt at his hip.  He winced at the high-pitched whine the crank made as he spun it in its seat, but that couldn’t be helped; without the charge, the weapon was about as useful as a peashooter.
     Across the room, the Shredder began looking about, searching for the source of the sound, no doubt eager to rip and tear the flesh from his bones in the characteristic way that had earned those infected by the gas their nickname.
     The whine became a steady tone, indicating the gun was ready to be fired.  Burke made a mental note to tell Graves that he had to find some way of reducing all the noise.
     Nothing like having your weapon give away your position!
     Graves had warned him that the gun delivered quite a kick so when Burke was finished charging it, he held it the same way he would a room sweeper, with the stock tight against his waist and the barrel braced in his artificial hand.  Satisfied, he stepped out from behind cover.
     The Shredder spun in his direction the moment he revealed himself, but did not yet begin its inevitable charge.
     Burke didn’t intend to wait; he lined up the shot as best he could, braced himself, and pulled the trigger.
     The gun roared, the sound echoing in the enclosed space, as a metal spike about the size of a tent peg shot from the barrel of the gun, sparking with the electrical charge he’d just given to it. It flew through the air with a whistling sound, headed directly for the Shredder, and Burke was already starting to grin in victory when the Shredder twitched to one side and the projectile shot harmlessly past and ricocheted off the wall of the barber shop behind it with the crackle of a sudden electrical discharge.
     For a moment, the soldier and the Shredder stared at each other with almost identical expressions of surprise. 
     Then the Shredder screamed, a hideous shrieking sound, and launched itself forward in a frenzied rush.


About the Author

Joseph Nassise is the author of more than twenty novels, including the internationally bestselling Templar Chronicles series, the Jeremiah Hunt series, and several books in the Rogue Angel action/adventure series from Gold Eagle. He’s a former president of the Horror Writers Association, the world’s largest organization of professional horror writers, and a multiple Bram Stoker Award and International Horror Guild Award nominee.


About the Book

On Her Majesty’s Behalf
by Joseph Nassise

After a surprise attack on London and New York, the Germans introduced a new type of gas—corpse gas—a revolutionary weapon that resurrected the bodies of the dead.

For those who survived the killing fields of France, the danger has only just begun. Veteran Major Michael “Madman” Burke and his company have just been assigned a daring new mission by the president himself: rescue the members of the British royal family. But Manfred von Richthofen, the undead Red Baron and newly self-appointed leader of Germany, is also determined to find the family.

In the devastated, zombie-infested city of London, Burke and his men will face off in an unholy battle with their most formidable opponent yet: a team of infected super soldiers—shredders—who have greater speed and strength than their shambler predecessors. If they don’t succeed, all of Britain will fall into undead enemy hands.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

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

The first week of December was an incredibly busy one, with more visitors wandering the ruins this week than we usually see in a month!

Coming up this week? A guest post from Joseph Nassise , my Top Reads of 2014, more reviews, more tough travels, and another WTF Friday.


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 quiet week, with just a few new arrivals.Wrapped in Plastic: Twin Peaks by Andy Burns is a title I requested about a month ago, which explores "the groundbreaking stylistic and storytelling methods" that made it such a quirky, water cooler sensation a quarter decade ago. Servant of the Red Quill is a new Baker Johnson Tale from Terry M. West that promises a 1920s atmosphere, haunted objects, Marquis de Sade, and deadly demons. Finally, Tentacle Death Trip by Jordan Krall was a free Kindle read that I suspect you'll see in a future WTF Friday feature.


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. I'm working hard to clear out my review queue before the end of the year, looking to a fresh start for 2015, so I'm giving several titles a shot this week:

A Play of Shadow by Julie E. Czerneda
The second Night's Edge tale sees Jenn and Bannan escape the magical confines of Marrowdell through the dangerous realm of the Verge.

Mirage by Clive Cussler
My first encounter with Juan Cabrillo combines the action/adventure of Clive Cussler with the technological mystery of the legendary Philadelphia Experiment.

The Lost Level by Brian Keene
I'm ridiculously excited by Keene's lost world adventure homage to the likes of Burroughs, Howard, and Wells . . . along with Mellick III and Lansdale!

What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, December 19, 2014

WTF Friday: Carlton Mellick III & Kevin Strange

Every once in a while, as the mood strikes me, I like to indulge in those titles that are a bit odd . . . a bit different . . . a bit bizarre . . . and a bit freaky. These are books that don't get a lot of press, and which rarely get any retail shelf space.

They're often an underground of sort of literature, best shared through guilty whispers, and often with embarrassed grins. These are our WTF Friday reads!

A pair of Bizarro style reads for you today, with my own review of Carlton Mellick's latest, and Donald's review of a Kevin Strange classic (complete with an appropriately twisted holiday gift).

Continuing his long-running trend of Bizarro successes, Carlton Mellick III invites us to gorge ourselves on a rain of candy in Sweet Story. It's an entertaining story that's equal part bizarro horror, fairy tale homage, children's story parody, post-apocalyptic thriller, and dark morality play. Not to indulge too much in sweet allusion, but it's like the richest chocolate bar,coated in the finest candy, surrounding a core of sponge toffee . . . which hides a surprise center of the thickest, foulest medicine.

It all begins, innocently (and weirdly) enough with a young girl, her chubby admirer, and a chase through the blurry side of town to find the end of the rainbow. Because this is fantasy, they actually find the end. Because this is parody, the leprechaun turns out to be actual a dirty old homeless man. Because this is Bizarro, he's actually a rainbow pirate, and he offers the children one wish each.

Little Timmy Taco wishes he and Sally could be married forever, while little Sally Sandwich wishes it would rain candy forever. Oh, and her pet turtle wishes he could fly . . . which he does.

Since 'be careful what you wish for' is the oldest kick in the teeth fairy tales have ever offered us, it's no great surprise that those wishes don't turn out well for anyone. Just imagine what might happen if it were to rain candy instead of water, with jawbreakers and hard candy plummeting from the sky, and you can imagine the kind of sweet, sticky, bloody, catastrophic damage that ushers in the end of the world.

Carrying us into post-apocalyptic horror is a goth sister (who is very much an older, darker mirror of Sally), a spiteful mother (who drinks almost as much as she bitches and whines), a disturbingly creepy dad (who smiles and laughs at everything, no matter how horrible and grim, and does so without the slightest sense of irony), and a bunch of talking toys (who have an odd predilection towards torture and murder).

By the end of Sweet Story, Mellick has abandoned us in a world of cannibalistic madmen whose teeth rotted out long ago, alongside two kids who learn the hard way what 'till death do you part' means in the context of a wish to be married forever. It's a fantastic tale that goes wrong at every turn, but which does so with fairy tale style and childish flare. Just don't blame Mellick if you come away from it never wanting to see another piece of candy for as long as you live.

Paperback, 120 pages
Published July 1st 2014 by Eraserhead Press

Murder Stories for your Brain Piece is top-notch gross out horror. Thanks to Kevin Strange, your brain piece will never again center itself right inside your cranium after reading this.

Killing Jessica Again was my overall favorite, with a story of love taken to an extreme, and a murder story of pure raging madness. This is actually a surprise for me from Kevin, as he took a different approach with this story.

Loch Ness Lay is for all you monster erotica fans, with Kevin Strange dropping a visual of bizarre fetishes, all beginning with a woman who joins a boat ride in search of Nessie. But she wants more, she has this hunger for snakes and reptiles, but its not the taste she is after. It's what married people do in bed, or boyfriend, girlfriend kinda stuff . . . I'll be PG-13 and say that it will take your smut-reading mind for a ride on the wild side.

Kevin told me "I save the best for last" and, my god, he was not kidding. The Last Story is a flash before the eyes, as a man recalls all his past deaths and raging boner moments. Extreme blood splattering, crawling bugs, and sexual brain gore "for your brain piece."

Kevin Strange never disappoints. If this is your first book, then you're in for one heck of murder plot and some Bizarro horror gruesome goodness.

Paperback, 172 pages
Published August 17th 2014 by Strangehouse Books

Now, as for that appropriately twisted holiday gift, stop by today, sign up for his monthly newsletter, and on Christmas Day he will deliver a free digital chapbook to your inbox - THE WITCH WHO F*CKED CHRISTMAS!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

First Books VS Second Books by Lee French and Erik Kort (#HarbingerTour)

The differences between writing a second book than the first

With the first book, we spent a lot of time initially working on the setting, the characters, and the basic arc of the major points of the series. Chavali's powers and abilities had to be defined and mapped for growth, and we had to construct her clan and make hard decisions about who got to live and who had to die.

For the second book, we already had the basics and prodded the setting for more details. Chavali naturally flowed - and continues to as we work on the third book (expected to be available in April of 2015). The hardest part turned out to be making sure we didn't contradict details mentioned in the first book.

Several times, I had to flip through my copy of The Fallen to check where this character came from, or how that character was described, and that sort of thing. This task will only get more onerous as the series goes on; it's hard to foresee which details will matter for note-taking!

We consider The Fallen to be an origin story, a foundation for understanding everything that happens after it. Harbinger, on the other hand, is a piece of a puzzle laid over that foundation. The books yet to come will continue to reveal the picture, bit by bit. Along the way, Chavali will in power and mature. Don't worry, though, she'll always be cranky.


About the Authors

Lee French lives in Olympia, WA with two kids, two bicycles, and too much stuff. She is an avid gamer and active member of the Myth-Weavers online RPG community, where she is known for her fondness for Angry Ninja Squirrels of Doom. In addition to spending much time there, she also trains year-round for the one-week of glorious madness that is RAGBRAI, has a nice flower garden with one dragon and absolutely no lawn gnomes, and tries in vain every year to grow vegetables that don't get devoured by neighborhood wildlife.

Erik Kort abides in the glorious Pacific Northwest, otherwise known as Mirkwood-Without-The-Giant-Spiders. Though the spiders often grow too numerous for his comfort. He is defended from all eight-legged threats by his brave and overly tolerant wife, and is mocked by his obligatory writer’s cat. When not writing, Erik comforts the elderly, guides youths through vast wildernesses, and smuggles more books into his library of increasingly alarming size.


About the Book

Title: Harbinger
Series: The Greatest Sin #2
Author: Lee French and Erik Kort
Publication Date: October 2014
Genre: Fantasy

Adjusting to her new life as a soul-bound agent of the Fallen has Chavali pushing herself harder than ever before. Between learning to fight, dealing with idiots, and climbing stairs - lots of stairs - she has little time to waste on thoughts of the future. Or the past.

When another agent fails to report in, Chavali is sent on the mission to discover her fate. Ready or not, she saddles up for a new adventure with new dangers.

The search takes her to Ket, a coastal city slathered in mystery. There, she faces ghosts from her past and demons of her future as she seeks answers. All she seems to find are more questions.

Plague, murder, lies, espionage...this city harbors much more than meets the eye, and maybe too much to handle.


Tough Travels – Travelling Folk

Every Thursday, Nathan (over at Fantasy Review Barn) leads the gang in touring the mystical countryside, looking for fun and adventure. His Tough Traveling feature picks one of the most common tropes in fantasy each week, as seen in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynn Jones, and invites us to join in the adventure. All are invited to take part, so if you're joining the journey late, no worries . . . we'll save you a spot in the caravan.

This week’s tour topic is: TRAVELLING FOLK

TRAVELLING FOLK are quite common. They are of two kinds: Land travellers and River travellers.

These people are merry, colourfully dressed, dishonest, and knowledgeable…they will cheat you, cure your wounds, and hustle you off to the cart of their oldest lady who will tell you something about the future you need to know.

The first group that comes to mind are the The Tuatha'an of The Wheel of Time, also known as the Traveling People or simply Tinkers. They hold to the Way of the Leaf, vowing to do no violence, regardless the cause or provocation, going so far as to be vegetarians. Given their unfair reputation as thieves and kidnappers, they avoid the cities, sticking largely to the Aiel Waste. As for why they travel, they are searching for The Song that was lost to them long ago.

Another that comes immediately to mind is the Tsingani of Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel novels. Stereotypical Eastern European traveler, they're known as much for their bright clothes and dancing as for stealing and breeding champion horses. Hyacinthe, a half-Tsingani boy who befriends Phédre in the first book, spends most of his time soliciting business for his mother's fortune-telling, He works along side Phédre to discover the truth about her past, although his mother warns them both that they'll regret it.

One of the more unusual depictions I can remember of travelling folk is the Gypsy Nation that Elric encounters in Revenge of the Rose. They are enormous caravan of travelers who live in (quite literally) a traveling wooden village, circling the world on a mile-wide pathway that is constantly repaved by the trash they leave behind and then roll over on their next pass. I remember them as much for their insistence that life is about either moving or dying as I do for that globe-spanning road of trash.

Finally, it's not fantasy, but how can you talk about stereotypes of the traveling folk and not mention Stephen King's Thinner? Here you have a fat, arrogant bastard who has just escaped a vehicular manslaughter charge when, on his way home, he gets distracted by his wife's handjob and runs down an old Gypsy woman. When he uses his legal connections to get the case dismissed, the old woman's father lays a Gypsy curse on him, caressing his cheek and whispering the word "Thinner." Billy tracks down the old man, following him to the dirty, chaotic, colorful traveling gypsy village you'd expect, but a cure doesn't come easily.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Most Anticipated Thrills & Chills of 2015

As we head into the final month of the year, I am taking a few Wednesdays to expand upon the usual "Waiting On" Wednesday event (hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine) and focus not just on one title, but look ahead to next year.

We've covered Fantasy and Science Fiction earlier this month, so we're wrapping things up this week with my Most Anticipated Thrills and Chills of 2015. Here you'll find some adventure, some horror, some thrillers, and some action-packed pages that are perfect popcorn reads.

So, grab your fedora and your leather coat, strap on your rifle and your GPS, get our your map and your ancient codex, and let's see what's out there . . .

We kick the new year off with the seventh and final adventure of Odd Thomas, in Saint Odd by Dean Koontz. Seventh adventure? Really? Wow. I've only read the first book so far, back when it was originally released, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Odd not only has the ability to see the dead, but he can also see bondachs, shadowy figures that hover around certain people just before their death. Apparently, after a life on the road, this book brings his journey full circle, back to where it all began, and back to where he lost his true love. [January 13th]

Also coming in January: The Deep by Nick Cutter

The coldest month of the year brings us a perfect book to curl up with before the fire in Cannonbridge by Jonathan Barnes. "Something has gone wrong with history in this gripping novel about a lie planted among the greatest works of English fiction." How's that for an opening tagline? As the world prepares to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Matthew Cannonbridge's greatest work, one person realizes something has gone wrong with history, and that the man who rubbed shoulders with Byron, Shelley, Godwin, Dickens, Tennyson, Kipling, and Stevenson is a complete fabrication. [February 10th]

Judging by the massive onslaught of titles coming in March, either the long term weather forecast is going to be keeping us indoors, or we're all hitting the beach for a glorious spring vacation. Picking just one title to highlight was tough, but I've decided to go with the historical action and adventure of Dead Wake by Erik Larson. Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the nautical disaster, the novel explores the sinking of the Lusitania from both sides of the tragedy, taking us from the decks of the luxury ocean liner to the bowels of the German U-Boat. This is a story that's even more fascinating than the sinking of the Titanic, and I'm anxious to see what Larson can do with it. [March 10th]

Also coming in March: Doll Face by Tim Curran,
The Assassin by Clive Cussler,
Orphans of Wonderland by Greg F. Gifune,
The Devil's Detective by Simon Kurt Unsworth,
The Doll Collection edited by Ellen Datlow,
The Fifth Gospel by Ian Caldwell,
The Einstein Code by Tom West,
& The Shadow Cartel by Layton Green

Spring brings us the tenth Nina Wilde and Eddie Chase adventure from Andy McDermott in Kingdom of Darkness. This time around, a ninety-year-old Nazi war criminal with the body of a healthy forty-year-old sparks a chase around the world, to the newly discovered tomb of Alexander the Great. Hidden inside is a guide to the spring waters of eternal life, which a group of Nazi survivors are just as eager to find. Nina's kidnapping draws Eddie to a secret Nazi enclave in Argentina, sparking a final battle to keep history's greatest evil from living on forever.[April 28th]

Also coming in April: The Dunfield Terror by William Meikle,
X-Files: Trust No One edited by Jonathan Mayberry,
& Positive by David Wellington

There's no single bigger title I'm looking forward to next year than the long-awaited new horror novel from Clive Barker, The Scarlet Gospels. How long-awaited? Well, he began teasing it back in 1999, then was dropped by his adult publisher just as he announced the completion of the first draft. In a truly iconic battle of good versus evil, Harry D'Amour (supernatural detective) faces of against Pinhead (Cenobite priest of Hell). Said to be "bloody, terrifying, and brilliantly complex," it's a novel that is promised to make your "worst nightmares seem like bedtime stories." Damn, but I want to read this! [May 19th]

Also coming in May: Piranha by Clive Cussler,
Palace of Treason by Jason Matthews,
The Forgotten Room by Lincoln Child,
Black River by Tom Harper,
Detours by Brian James Freeman

June brings us the first of two new releases from Stephen King with a sort-of sequel to Mr. Mercedes in Finders Keepers. Once again revisiting the theme of the psychotic fan and the reclusive writer, only this time the writer hasn't just disappeared from the shelves, he's sold out and launch a career in advertising. This time it's the trio of heroes from Mr. Mercedes who must step in to save the day, protecting a boy who found the author's lost manuscript from the vengeful murdering fan who has just been released from prison. [June 2nd]

Also coming in June: Iron Wolf by Dale Brown

Summer kicks into high gear with the eleventh Sigma Force novel from James Rollins, The Bone Labyrinth. Unfortunately there's no cover and no cover blurb yet, so we don't know much about it, but his Sigma Force novels always make for perfect summer beach reads. Similarly, July brings us a new Daniel Silva novel, currently Untitled, which will continue the blockbuster adventures of Gabriel Allon. [July]

Summer continues with The Eternal World by Christopher Farnsworth. It seems as if 2015 is destined to be the year of the fountain of youth, with this being a second novel to incorporate that particular MacGuffin. This time the source has already been destroyed, and a shadowy empire turns to the darkest, most dangerous fringes of experimental science to achieve a medical breakthrough. When the scientist in question discovers who he's really working for, and uncovers the truth about his exotic new girlfriend, a pawn becomes a predator. [August 4th]

Also coming in August: Lost Canyon by Nina Revoyr

While we don't have a cover or a firm release date yet, we do know that Fall will see the release of The Survivor by Vince Flynn. What makes this such a significant event is the fact that we all assumed we had seen the last of Mitch Rapp with Flynn's passing in 2013. Earlier this year it was announced that Flynn's editor has tapped Kyle Mills to complete The Survivor, which Flynn was writing at the time of his death, as well as two additional Mitch Rapp novels. I've only read one book by Mills (his stunning debut, Rising Phoenix, which involved curing America's drug problem by poisoning the supply), but he seems a fitting choice to provide fans with some closure.

This Autumn also brings us The Secret Lives of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost, which is probably my second most anticipated title of the year. Frost has promised that the novel will reveal what has happened to the people of Twin Peaks since we last saw them twenty-five years ago, while also shedding some additional light on the core mystery of who killed Laura Palmer. When Lynch and Frost announced a cinematic follow to Twin Peaks hitting screens next year, picking up the story in real time, I thought that was awesome, but having a book to fill in those gaps is utterly amazing. In addition to being co-creator of the original series, Frost has proven his literary chops with several novels and a few non-fiction pieces as well, so this isn't just some cheap tie-in.

No cover or listing of titles yet, but we do know that November will bring us a new short story collection from Stephen King, entitled The Bazaar of Bad Dreams. These are all previously published "but hard to find" stories, and King has promised "it should be a pretty fat book" of about 20 stories. Since I think King is at his best in either short fiction or doorstopper epics (his middling novels have never quite resonated with me), this is exciting news indeed. We do know that they'll all be solo stories, no collaborations, and the selections have been made, so it's just a matter of waiting for the big reveal. [November 30th]

*please note, of course, that publication dates can (and often do) change frequently, so please let me know if you spot a title that's shifted down the calendar