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Bryan Smith, Samantha Kolesnik team up for ‘Beleth Station’ from Clash Books

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Beleth Station

There’s nothing quite like an old school author collab to get me excited about the publishing world, and Clash Books has come through in a big way with the announcement of a new work from Bryan Smith and Samantha Kolesnik. Titled Beleth Station, the book will consist of two novellas set in the same fictional Pennsylvania town.

Bryan Smith is the author of over 30 horror/thriller novels including 68 Kill which was adapted into a 2017 film starring Matthew Gray Gubler of Criminal Minds fame. His other titles include the cult classic Depraved, House of Blood, and The Killing Kind.

Samantha Kolesnik may be newer to the game, but she’s become an essential indie horror author to watch with novellas like True Crime and Waif, both of which have garnered rightful acclaim for their raw, gritty storytelling.

Together the two will take us to Beleth Station, and while details about the book are being kept under wraps, we do know that they take place in a shared world with shared characters.

Said Kolesnik:

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime collaboration. It started with a tweet, of all things, and then hit the ground running and has never lost momentum. Beleth Station is one helluva fucked up place as far as literary settings go, and Bryan and I are wreaking havoc. But it’s the characters who are front-and-center in both of our novellas, which will be released together in one book.”

For his part, Smith has added that this is some of the most disturbing material he’s written since the previously mentioned Depraved. If you’re familiar with that book, well, you know exactly how bonkers this thing might be!

The collaboration does not have an official release date as of yet, but we’ll certainly be keeping our eyes peeled for it and you should too! For more information on the project, be sure to visit the official Clash Books website.

Books

‘Clive Barker’s Dark Worlds’ Set to Release Just in Time for Halloween

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Every so often something comes along that feels like a gift to the horror community. Clive Barker’s Dark Worlds has that feeling.

Clive Barker's Dark Worlds

Created by Phil and Sarah Stokes, the hardcover monograph is set for release on October 18, 2022 from Cernunnos Publishing, and will take fans of the author and filmmaker on a deep dive into the mind that created Pinhead, Candyman, Rawhead Rex, the Night Breed and more. According to a press release we received earlier today, it will contain sketches, handwritten manuscripts, and more, many of which have never been shared with the public.

The Stokes have been longtime collaborators and archivists of Barker’s work. In short, they’re the perfect duo for this project. In addition to their own thoughts on Barker’s work, Dark Worlds will also feature commentary from Ramsey Campbell, Quentin Tarantino, Neil Gaiman, China Miéville, Peter Straub, Armistead Maupin, J.G. Ballard, Wes Craven, and more. Of course, the man himself wrote the book’s afterword.

Clive Barker's Dark Worlds
Clive Barker’s Dark Worlds marks the first monograph dedicated to the prolific artist.

Retail on the book comes in at $50, a small price to pay for the promised content. Keep your eyes peeled for Clive Barker’s Dark Worlds this October and stay tuned to iHorror as the release draws closer for more info!

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Books

Horror Pride Month: David R. Slayton, Author of ‘White Trash Warlock’

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David R. Slayton

A few months ago, I was looking for a new audiobook to dig into. Since re-entering the leaving-your-house workforce, audiobooks have helped me survive the daily commute. I wanted something that blended genres and fed my love of horror, fantasy, and gayness. As I combed through the thousands of Audible titles, I found a book called White Trash Warlock by David R. Slayton. The book concerns Adam Binder, a gay witch from Oklahoma who ends up confronting a monstrous entity attacking Denver and driving people insane.

Gayme. Set. Match. I was so in!

By the end of the book, I was in desperate need for more. Luckily for me, the second book in the trilogy, Trailer Park Trickster, was already available, and though it ended on the mother of all cliffhangers, I knew there was at least one more book, Deadbeat Druid on the way.

In the meantime, I made it my mission to track down the author to let him know just what his books meant to a gay, horror-loving, romance addict–and fellow author–in a small town in East Texas. I also immediately floated a pitch to interview him for Horror Pride Month this year, and was excited when he agreed.

As we settled in to chat, I told him again how much I appreciated the books, but I also had to ask, “Where and when did you meet Adam Binder?”

The story did not let me down.

As it happened, Slayton had been trying to write epic fantasy which, from personal experience, I can tell you is a daunting task. As it turned out, however, he was also a fan of urban fantasy and had been formulating a story about a doctor, his wife, and their child in Denver, the city that the author calls home.

“So I had this whole plot, but what I didn’t have was a main character,” the author explained. “I sort of put it in the back of my brain and forgot all about it, and then one night I was driving through the Carolinas. The moon was full. It was hanging over the road. The trees were hanging over the road. And that Kaleo song ‘Way Down we Go’ came on the radio.  This character popped into my head, and I just start asking him questions. I said, ‘who are you?’ and he said, ‘Well, I’m just like you. I’m from Guthrie. I grew up in the woods.’ I started thinking I could merge this to that urban fantasy plot but that urban fantasy plot is still very Denver focused. Adam said, ‘Well, I could go to Denver.'”

And that’s just what he did…does…you know what I mean.

While the elements are fantastical and sometimes downright harrowing, the story of Adam Binder, a witch who has very little power in the grand scheme of things, and his mostly mundane family is rooted in a sense of reality. That truth, the realness of it all, was derived from Slayton’s own experiences. He even went so far as to name Adam’s mother after his own grandmother.

“Her name was Tilla-Mae Wolfgang Slayton and she was everything that the name implies,” he says.

As for the fantasy, he says, he was careful where he pulled his influences from while writing the novels.

“Someone who recently interviewed me said they didn’t understand why I didn’t use American folklore and myth,” he said. “The thing about it is, when you’re talking about American mythology you’re really talking about Native American mythology. I’m a very white person. I don’t want to appropriate that. So I was looking around at what mythologies are out there and what could I draw on from my own heritage and what can I do to take something that’s really well-known and tropey and flip it on its head.”

And so he created Elves who believe themselves to be hyper-modern yet they walk and dress and talk like they’ve stepped right out of a noir movie from the 1940s. Then, he brought in the far-too-seldom-used Leprechauns, giving them the swagger of a character from Peaky Blinders. I’m not even going to explain the gnomes to you. You just have to read it for yourself. The mix and mash, push and pull, of what we know and what we expect is what keeps the reader on their toes and that brings the author a great deal of satisfaction.

As it’s Pride, of course, we had to discuss the fact that the book has a gay protagonist.  Anyone who has spent any amount of time in a comments section where anything queer is remotely mentioned knows what most of us face when we set about writing about ourselves, placing ourselves in the narrative. The homophobes come out of the woodwork hurling accusations of forcing agendas and wokeness when all we really want is to read stories where we exist.

For Slayton, there was no question about Adam’s sexuality from the beginning. It wasn’t an agenda. It was who he was.

“It’s vital to me,” he said. “Most of my inspiration in what I write comes from seeing a gap in the market. I grew up in Guthrie in the woods. I didn’t have access to a lot. My mother was very religious so what I was allowed to read was very limited. What I could find in fantasy, whenever there was an LGBTQ character, they were either barely there or they died tragically. There was an AIDS analog or coming out was a thing.  I love seeing more of the representation spread and good representation in particular. That’s part of why I started writing White Trash Warlock. I don’t see a broke, gay witch from Oklahoma on the page. So, I thought, I’m going to write that. Since it is urban fantasy, prejudice and issues around Adam’s sexuality are present, but I didn’t want it to be the main thing in the story. Better writers than me have written about all that so I don’t want to read it.”

The formula is certainly working for Slayton. His books have captured the imagination of readers around the world. The blending of his own mixture of horror and fantasy is thrilling and compelling. For me, it gives me the same thrill of the first time I read Gaiman, Pratchett, and to an extent, even Barker.

This brings us, of course, to the final book in Slayton’s trilogy. With Deadbeat Druid on the horizon, it would have been criminal not to ask for a peek of what’s to come.

“At the end of Trailer Park Trickster, Adam is very much sent on an Odyssey,” he said. “Instead of using islands, I’m using real towns. Some of them just have a cool, creepy true crime thing connected with them; some of them just have interesting events connected to them. I’ve really enjoyed researching the history of these places. In Deadbeat Druid, you’ll get a little more of that.”

Yes, but what about Adam Binder and his sexy but very “everything is black and white” possible boyfriend, Vic, who he inadvertently made into a Grim Reaper?!

“I play a lot of D&D so I think in those terms,” Slayton pointed out. “Adam is chaotic good, which means that he always does the right thing, even if it’s against the law. Vic is lawful good, which means he will always do the right thing but it has to follow the law. By the end of book three, they’ve both taken steps toward each other and neutral good. Not everything is black and white and not every law is bad.”

To learn more about David Slayton, visit his official website and look for his novels online and in bookstores!

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‘When it Rains’: Mark Allan Gunnells Dives into Eco-Horror and Paranoia

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When it Rains

There’s something deeply unsettling and all-too-familiar about Mark Allan Gunnells’s new novella, When it Rains. Maybe it’s just living through a pandemic for the last couple of years. Maybe it’s the very real, looming climate crisis. Either way, the author deftly cuts to the bone with a story that feels like it could have been pulled from the local news.

On a seemingly normal, sunny day, a mysterious rain begins to fall. That, on its own, isn’t so strange. What’s strange is that it doesn’t feel like rain at all. It’s a slimy, globular, oily substance. It also happens to be covering the entire world. Rather than focusing on the world’s reaction, however, the author drops us into a small, posh university campus where students and locals take shelter from the storm inside a bookstore/cafe.

As paranoia grows over what the storm might be, the small crowd turns on each other, exiling those who were caught in the rain.

It’s interesting that Gunnells sets the story sometime in the future beyond our own pandemic experiences. He rightfully gave his characters memories of the past and how things were handled. It’s also quite remarkable how throwing out a term like “self-isolating” causes a visceral, knee-jerk reaction in the reader.

The author also draws upon his encyclopedic knowledge of horror films, television series, and books to underline his character’s thoughts. References to The Mist, The Stand, and even the classic Twilight Zone episode “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” remind us that this idea is nothing new, but that doesn’t make it any less scary. Whether it’s a pack of rowdy neighbors on the street or religious zealots in a supermarket, human nature is often the most terrifying monster of all.

But perhaps the most potent, exacting truth in Make it Rain is that humans have a remarkable propensity to be entirely right and wrong simultaneously. Our vestigial fight or flight responses can and often do lead us down paths to destruction. Is it because we are too far removed to sense the sources of real danger around us? Or because we’ve become so numb to those dangers that they feel more like a fact of life?

I’m not sure I have an answer to that question. Neither does the author, but he certainly seems to be asking someone…anyone…to let us know.

When it Rains features an interesting cast of characters, but sadly none of them are quite as filled out as they perhaps, could have been. I couldn’t help but wonder if this wasn’t due to a need for brevity in the storytelling or if it was a plot device in and of itself. We’re given just enough background on the players in this horror drama to seemingly put faces to the names, perhaps to give us the same glimpse into each that the group of mostly strangers have with each other.

The exception here is Vincent, the husband of Tony who works in the campus bookstore. He’s more fleshed out than any character in the book, and ultimately becomes our flawed moral compass.

As a whole, however, When it Rains is an exciting, quick read, perfect for a rainy afternoon…or maybe you should wait until it’s sunny out. Either way, you’re in for a real treat.

You can pick up a copy of When it Rains by CLICKING HERE. The book is also available on Kindle Unlimited!

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