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The Twelve Books of Christmas: Part Twelve

December 24, 2018 11 comments

My twelfth book of Christmas is not actually published until February, but it can be pre-ordered now – and arrive in time for Valentine’s Day, so there’s another holiday covered. You’re welcome.

Following on from the success of Colonial Horrors, I have assembled another anthology of pioneering horror stories, this time from female authors. More Deadly than the Male includes a story by Mary Shelley, of course, but there are some surprises as well. When she was not writing about the March family in Little Women and its sequels, Louisa May Alcott took time out to write one of the first mummy tales. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote several ghost stories, one of which is also in the collection. British readers of a certain age will remember Edith Nesbit’s classic The Railway Children with affection, but may not be aware of her extensive horror output. There are also obscure names like Vernon Lee (Violet Paget, adopting a male nom-de-plume in order to be take seriously) and forgotten ones like Alice Rea.

The publication date is well chosen, since February 2019 will be the tenth annual Women in Horror Month, while March is Women’s History Month. All of the ladies in this collection led surprising and inspiring lives: some were remarkable only for the fact that they made their mark in the male-dominated world of literature, while others achieved far more.

Most surprising of all, perhaps, is the claim made in a BBC online article that at the height of the 19th-century fashion for horror stories, more than 70% of published tales were written by women. They often brought a psychological dread to their horror, as well as some social commentary: Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wall-Paper” is a vivid portrait of psychological disintegration on the one hand, and on the other a savage indictment of the so-called “rest cure” – effectively a form of solitary imprisonment which kept women from embarrassing their families, under the guise of paternalistic concern for the delicate nature of the “weaker sex.”

Here are extracts from some early reviews:

“Davis (Colonial Horrors) has done thoughtful literary excavation, and the stories he has selected are a trove of fantastic gems.”
– Publisher’s Weekly

“An incredible collection of lesser-known ghost stories from female writers of the 18th and 19th centuries.”
– Goodreads

…and here is a link to the book’s page on the Pegasus Books web site.

This concludes my twelve books of Christmas. Thank you for reading, and I hope you have found something interesting – and perhaps some  inspiration for a last-minute gift – among them. Links to various online retailers can be found on the My Books page, but if you find them at a brick-and-mortar store, your purchase will help them as well as helping me.

Merry Christmas to all, or the compliments of whichever season you celebrate at this time of year. May 2019 be a year in which unity triumphs over division, compassion over hate, and understanding over fear. And may it be a year in which more people discover, or rediscover, the joy of reading.

Click here for Part One: Colonial Horrors.

Click here for Part Two: Nazi Moonbase.

Click here for Part Three: Werewolves – A Hunter’s Guide.

Click here for Part Four: Theseus and the Minotaur.

Click here for Part Five: The New Hero, vol. 1.

Click here for Part Six: Knights Templar – A Secret History.

Click here for Part Seven: The Lion and the Aardvark.

Click here for Part Eight: Thor – Viking God of Thunder.

Click here for Part Nine: Tales of the Frozen City.

Click here for Part Ten: Blood and Honor.

Click here for Part Eleven: The Dirge of Reason.

 

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The Twelve Books of Christmas: Part Eleven

December 23, 2018 12 comments

My eleventh book of Christmas is The Dirge of Reason, a tie-in novella I wrote for Fantasy Flight’s Arkham Horror boardgame. It was part of a series giving an origin story for each character in the game, and my assigned character was Agent Roland Banks of the Bureau of Investigation (the FBI not being founded until some nine years after the game’s date of 1926). I researched 20s slang and did my best to channel Dashiell Hammett in this tale of a boy-scout agent forced into a situation where the rules – not just of the Bureau, but of physics and sanity – no longer make sense.

The story itself has a longer history. I first came up with the basic idea around 1982, when I had just purchased the first edition of Call of Cthulhu and was running a campaign for my college gaming group. I wrote up the first part as an adventure and sent it to Chaosium; I received a very nice letter back from Sandy Petersen himself, telling me that he liked the adventure and planned to use it in the Second Cthulhu Companion.

When that book was published in 1985, though, my adventure – then titled “Rhapsody in Fear” – was not included, so I approached Games Workshop, who had just started publishing small Call of Cthulhu adventures including the excruciatingly-titled Trail of the Loathsome Slime and the double feature Shadow of the Sorcerer and The Vanishing Conjurer (for which I wrote a sequel, “Ghost Jackal Kill,” which was published in White Dwarf #79). I got another nice letter back, this time from Call of Cthulhu editor (and future Fighting Fantasy honcho) Marc Gascoigne, encouraging me to develop the adventure further. But then I was offered a job at Games Workshop developing Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, and all things Cthulhu went on a back burner.

Fast-forward twenty-five years or so, and I was writing WFRP for Fantasy Flight’s third edition when I heard of the proposed Arkham Horror novella line. I put “Rhapsody in Fear” forward, and this time – with a new title and a few changes – it was published. In addition to the story itself, the handsome hardback package includes a lavish color section with reproductions of various documents from the story, and some exclusive game cards relating to the character of Roland Banks. As a side-project (my eleven-and-a-halfth book of Christmas?), I was hired to write more short fiction featuring Roland and a few other game characters for the imposing tome The Investigators of Arkham Horror.

 

While The Dirge of Reason was written as a game tie-in, I made sure that the story, with its mix of hard-boiled action and cosmic horror, would be accessible to readers who are not familiar with the game. Here is what some reviewers had to say about it:

Pulp fiction of an agreeably lowbrow caliber. That’s not a slam. It’s exactly what I wanted, and exactly what I got.”
– Goodreads

A fun read …I expect I’ll read it again several times over the years.”
– Amazon.com

…and the book’s page on the Fantasy Flight web site is here.

Tomorrow I cover the last of my Twelve Books of Christmas. If you’re not done with your Christmas shopping, or if you are expecting to receive some gift tokens, take a look: you might find something you like. Links to online retailers selling this and many of my other books can be found on the My Books page.

Click here for Part One: Colonial Horrors.

Click here for Part Two: Nazi Moonbase.

Click here for Part Three: Werewolves – A Hunter’s Guide.

Click here for Part Four: Theseus and the Minotaur.

Click here for Part Five: The New Hero, vol. 1.

Click here for Part Six: Knights Templar – A Secret History.

Click here for Part Seven: The Lion and the Aardvark.

Click here for Part Eight: Thor – Viking God of Thunder.

Click here for Part Nine: Tales of the Frozen City.

Click here for Part Ten: Blood and Honor.

Click here for Part Twelve: More Deadly than the Male.

 

The Twelve Books of Christmas, Part Nine

December 21, 2018 8 comments

My ninth book of Christmas is another multi-author compilation. Tales of the Frozen City is a small collection of stories written to support the popular Osprey Games title, Frostgrave. My contribution, “Mind Over Matter,” tells of a magical duel between an enchanter and an illusionist, to prove whose magic was superior.

The collection includes eleven tales, an introduction to the world of the game, and an introduction by the game’s designer, Joseph A. McCullough. Frostgrave is Opsrey Games’ most popular title, and if you like skirmish games with themed warbands, like the old Games Workshop title Mordheim, it is worth looking at.

Here is what a couple of reviewers said:

“Great short stories for a great game.”
– Goodreads

A very pleasant surprise. The stories are short, accessible, and grounded in the concepts of the game. Enjoyable plot twists, believable characters, and a frozen city alive with suspense.
– Amazon

…and here’s a link to the book’s page on Osprey’s web site. It is available in paperback, ePub, and PDF formats.

Tomorrow, and every day until Christmas, I will be covering another title. If you’re not done with your Christmas shopping, or if you are expecting to receive some gift tokens, take a look: you might find something you like. Links to online retailers selling this and many of my other books can be found on the My Books page.

Click here for Part One: Colonial Horrors.

Click here for Part Two: Nazi Moonbase.

Click here for Part Three: Werewolves – A Hunter’s Guide.

Click here for Part Four: Theseus and the Minotaur.

Click here for Part Five: The New Hero, vol. 1.

Click here for Part Six: Knights Templar – A Secret History.

Click here for Part Seven: The Lion and the Aardvark.

Click here for Part Eight: Thor – Viking God of Thunder.

Click here for Part Ten: Blood and Honor.

Click here for Part Eleven: The Dirge of Reason.

Click here for Part Twelve: More Deadly than the Male.

 

The Twelve Books of Christmas: Part Eight

December 20, 2018 12 comments

My eighth book of Christmas is another mythology title: Thor: Viking God of Thunder, which was my first title for Osprey’s Myths and Legends series.

Thor

The original sources for Norse mythology are surprisingly limited, so I had the space in this book to retell all of the major stories in which Thor takes part, and to mention those in which he is a secondary character. It was interesting to see how, in the Christian era, the myths were shorn of religious content and became, effectively, early superhero stories: Thor’s battles with the giants of Jotunheim read very similarly to the ’60s slugfests of Marvel and DC comics.

This comes as no surprise, of course, considering Thor’s success as a superhero in recent decades. Marvel was not the first publisher to use him in comics, but the Marvel Thor is the most enduring version. In addition, he has given his name to a radioactive element (Thorium), several Norwegian and German warships, and two American rocket systems.

Most notoriously, of course, Thor’s hammer has been adopted as a symbol by some neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups, following the swastika – a universal design which in Scandinavia represented one of Thor’s thunderbolts – which was co-opted by the Nazi Party in 1920. We would all do well to remember that these are stolen emblems, and those who use them have no right to them – and equally, that not all those who use them are racists or fascists.

Here is what some reviewers had to say about the book:

“If this book is any indication of the quality of this new series, readers are in for a treat.”
– Kirkus (starred review)

This book is a nice, concise, beginning look at the legends of Thor. All tales that include him are at least briefly mentioned here, though most are told in full with extra bits of information to add depth to the reader’s understanding.
– Goodreads

Like all Osprey titles, the book is gorgeously illustrated, and the plates by Miguel Coimbra are outstanding.

The book’s page on the Osprey web site is here. Links to various online retailers can be found on the My Books page.

Tomorrow, and every day until Christmas, I will be covering another title. If you’re not done with your Christmas shopping, or if you are expecting to receive some gift tokens, take a look: you might find something you like.

Click here for Part One: Colonial Horrors.

Click here for Part Two: Nazi Moonbase.

Click here for Part Three: Werewolves – A Hunter’s Guide.

Click here for Part Four: Theseus and the Minotaur.

Click here for Part Five: The New Hero.

Click here for Part Six: Knights Templar – A Secret History.

Click here for Part Seven: The Lion and the Aardvark.

Click here for Part Nine: Tales of the Frozen City.

Click here for Part Ten: Blood and Honor.

Click here for Part Eleven: The Dirge of Reason.

Click here for Part Twelve: More Deadly than the Male.

 

The Twelve Books of Christmas: Part Four

December 16, 2018 11 comments

It’s another Osprey book today, this time from the Myths and Legends line. This series of books set out to do for mythology what Osprey’s main lines have always done for military history: provide compact, authoritative, and well-illustrated reference works. I wrote two titles for that series, and Theseus and the Minotaur was the second.

index

Everyone knows the story: maze, monster, fight, and home in time for tea. But there’s a lot more to the myth of Theseus than that.

For a start, the Minotaur was not the first enemy that Theseus faced. On his way to Athens, he dealt with six foes who terrorized the road, ranging from a rampaging pig of immense size to a deranged smith who insisted that passers-by try his bed – and then racked them or lopped bits off until they fit perfectly!

After reaching Athens and being recognized by his mortal father, King Aegeus (who would give his name to the Aegean Sea), he defeated a rampaging bull; avoided being poisoned by the evil sorceress Medea (who had set her sights on Aegeus after leaving Jason of the Argonauts); and routed a powerful faction of nobles who had designs on the throne of Athens. And remember how I called Aegeus his mortal father? Theseus had a divine father, too: the sea-god Poseidon, who had slept with his mother on the same night. Those Greek gods!

Theseus went on to become King of Athens, but that didn’t slow him down. When he wasn’t consolidating Athenian power across Greece and laying the foundations for the city’s domination of the Classical Age, he was kidnapping princess Helen from Sparta (long before anyone from Troy set eyes on her), going to the Underworld to kidnap Persephone, the wife of Hades, and having all sorts of adventures elsewhere. In fact, as the Official Hero of Athens (TM), he was retconned into a wide range of myths, until the Athenian boast “nothing [happens] without Theseus” became true.

The book is stunningly illustrated, including some magnificent plates by José Daniel Cabrera Peña. Here is what some reviewers had to say:

“Stories like Theseus and the minotaur laid the ground for the fantasy adventures we all enjoy, and understanding them a little better can only help you to appreciate their modern legacy that much more. Lavishly illustrated in full color original paintings accompanied by images taken from the span of recorded history, Davis’s book is truly an outstanding work.”

– Suvudu.com

“A very good addition to an interesting and informative series

– Goodreads

…and here’s a link to the book’s page on Osprey’s web site. It is available in paperback, ePub, and PDF formats.

Tomorrow, and every day until Christmas, I will be covering another title. If you’re not done with your Christmas shopping, or if you are expecting to receive some gift tokens, take a look: you might find something you like. Links to online retailers selling this and many of my other books can be found on the My Books page.

Click here for Part One: Colonial Horrors.

Click here for Part Two: Nazi Moonbase.

Click here for Part Three: Werewolves – A Hunter’s Guide.

Click here for Part Five: The New Hero, vol. 1.

Click here for Part Six: Knights Templar – A Secret History.

Click here for Part Seven: The Lion and the Aardvark.

Click here for Part Eight: Thor – Viking God of Thunder.

Click here for Part Nine: Tales of the Frozen City.

Click here for Part Ten: Blood and Honor.

Click here for Part Eleven: The Dirge of Reason.

Click here for Part Twelve: More Deadly than the Male.

The Twelve Books of Christmas: Part Three

December 15, 2018 12 comments

Today, I am showcasing another book I wrote for the Dark Osprey line: Werewolves: A Hunter’s Guide. As always, you can find links to various online retailers on the My Books page.

This was a companion volume to two previous titles, covering zombies and vampires. In the first, author Joe McCullough had established the fiction of the Nightmen, a fictional U.S. Army unit specializing in supernatural warfare. Using this as a basis, I examined werewolves in film, folklore (including historical trials), and elsewhere.

The first thing I discovered was that there are many different kinds of werewolf. As well as the classic movie version – the “viral” werewolf – I identified shamanic werewolves created by spirit travel, sorcerous werewolves created by witchcraft – by far the most common kind in records of medieval trials – werewolves created by divine and saintly curses, and those arising from delusion and other mental illness. I also looked into other animal shapechangers, such as Native American skinwalkers and Japanese hengeyokai.

I had almost as much fun with the various werewolf-hunting organizations worldwide. In addition to the Nightmen of the U.S. Army, you will find the Tyana Society founded by Benjamin Franklin, which did much to combat British Freemasons in the Revolutionary War; Britain’s Talbot Group, founded during World War II for commando and anti-supernatural operations; the Japanese yokai jingcha, the aristocratic Zaroff Society, among others. The obligatory Nazi werewolves are covered, as are the ulfhednar berserkers of Norse traditions.

Here is what some reviewers had to say:

“I can’t imagine anyone with even a passing interest in horror and werewolves passing on this particular book, but if you’re considering doing so, then well…. just think very, very carefully before the next full moon.”

– Unbounded Worlds

I don’t usually take notes when I read a book for entertainment, but in this case I did. … [A] well-researched, lavishly illustrated and clearly organized book.”

– Goodreads

…and here’s a link to the book’s page on Osprey’s web site. It is available in paperback, ePub, and PDF formats.

Tomorrow, and every day until Christmas, I will be covering another title. If you’re not done with your Christmas shopping, or if you are expecting to receive some gift tokens, take a look: you might find something you like.

Click here for Part One: Colonial Horrors.

Click here for Part Two: Nazi Moonbase.

Click here for Part Four: Theseus and the Minotaur.

Click here for Part Five: The New Hero, vol. 1.

Click here for Part Six: Knights Templar – A Secret History.

Click here for Part Seven: The Lion and the Aardvark.

Click here for Part Eight: Thor – Viking God of Thunder.

Click here for Part Nine: Tales of the Frozen City.

Click here for Part Ten: Blood and Honor.

Click here for Part Eleven: The Dirge of Reason.

Click here for Part Twelve: More Deadly than the Male.

Colonial Horrors: Goodreads Giveaway!

August 16, 2017 1 comment

Colonial Horrors

I’m looking forward to the release of my anthology Colonial Horrors in October. Between now and Halloween, I’ll be posting details of promotional events, including some readings and appearances that I will be doing in the Denver area. The first, though, is global: a Goodreads giveaway where you can win one of three copies that are up for grabs.

 

Here’s the publisher’s blurb for the book:

The most spine-tingling suspense stories from the colonial era—including Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne, James Fenimore Cooper, Edgar Allan Poe, Henry James, and H. P. Lovecraft—are presented anew to the contemporary reader.

This stunning anthology of classic colonial suspense fiction plunges deep into the native soil from which American horror literature first sprang. While European writers of the Gothic and bizarre evoked ruined castles and crumbling abbeys, their American counterparts looked back to the Colonial era’s stifling religion and its dark and threatening woods.

Today the best-known tale of Colonial horror is Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” although Irving’s story is probably best-known today from various movie versions it has inspired. Colonial horror tales of other prominent American authors—Nathaniel Hawthorne and James Fenimore Cooper among them—are overshadowed by their bestsellers and are difficult to find in modern libraries. Many other pioneers of American horror fiction are presented afresh in this breathtaking volume for today’s reading public.

Some will have heard the names of Increase and Cotton Mather in association with the Salem witch trials, but will not have sought out their contemporary accounts of what were viewed as supernatural events. By bringing these writers to the attention of the contemporary reader, the book will help bring their names—and their work—back from the dead. Featuring stories by Cotton Mather, Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne, James Fenimore Cooper, Edgar Allan Poe, Henry James, H. P. Lovecraft, and many more.

The book was inspired by the success of the TV show Sleepy Hollow – now canceled, alas – and my involvement with Colonial Gothic, Rogue games’ tabletop roleplaying game of adventure, horror, and conspiracy at the dawn of American history. As I read more about the period, I found a whole body of literature – some famous, some long forgotten – and discovered the native soil of American horror fiction.

Publisher Pegasus Books has done a bang-up job of design and production, creating a book that I’m very proud of. Here are a few more links:

Colonial Horrors at Pegasus Books
Amazon
Amazon.co.uk
Barnes & Noble
Waterstone’s
Books-A-Million
Goodreads