Sunday 2 December 2018

The Portal & The Experiment: Two Novellas of Suspense

This is my last post in 2018. I'll see you again in 2019. Thank you to those who have followed my blog. Happy Holidays to everyone!

If you're looking for a holiday gift for friends who enjoy the whimsical and the supernatural, please consider my fourth book, The Portal & The Experiment: Two Novellas of Suspense, which is available in e-book and paperback format.

This is my first venture into the use of first-person narrative, and I hope you will like the book. As in my previous novels, I've used elements of the supernatural, as well as extra-sensory perceptions. I added the element of a "chase" to the second novella, "The Experiment," something I always enjoy in a suspense novel.

Here's a synopsis of the two stories:

THE PORTAL - As a young girl, Emily Montfort invented a mythology of her own, but as an adult caring for her mother, who is dying of Alzheimer's disease, she knows that flights of fancy are a luxury she can no longer afford. Still grieving after her mother's death, Emily hires Carrie, an exuberant young woman, to help her run the antique shop she's inherited from her mother. Emily prides herself on her practicality, living in an apartment above the shop in a closely circumscribed world. But one day she discovers that the mirror on an antique dresser reflects more than her pale, sad face and that there may be a world beyond the practical and sensible inviting her to enter its portal.

THE EXPERIMENT - Jack Booth is an empath who's been made to feel like an outcast by his own mother. But now he's bonded with five other university students who possess extra-sensory powers in an experiment that's supposed to map the potential of the human brain. Under the direction of the self-professed transhumanist Dr. Derek Avery, the sky seems to be the limit until Jack and his fellow subjects find themselves trapped in an abandoned asylum with no potential for escape, and the purpose of the experiment no longer seems quite so noble.

The book is available online at

Monday 19 November 2018

Christmas Gifts for the Horror Lover

Horror is a billion-dollar industry, so I like to devote a post each year to Christmas gift suggestions that won't cost a (severed) arm and leg. Here are a few suggestions:

Buy a plain Christmas stocking at a dollar store and draw a skull and crossbones on it with a black felt pen or attach one made of black felt or paper. (The one pictured above costs $27 U.S. on a horror gift site so you're much better off designing your own.) Then fill the stocking with bags of gummy worms and leftover chocolate foil-covered "eyeballs" from Halloween. You can also get packages of insects/toy spiders from the toy section of a dollar store. Be inventive! If you're not an artist, follow these simple how-to instructions for drawing a skull and crossbones:

Plan a post-holiday horror-themed party and send your horror-loving friends a personal invitation as a Christmas gift. This is a fun way to beat the winter doldrums and the post-Christmas feeling of let-down. Plan a party for late January or February and invite your friends to dress up as their favorite horror characters. Consider having a treasure hunt for severed limbs (dollar store purchases) followed by watching Night of the Living Dead or the Evil Dead series. If you make this a BYOB event and come up with some creepy snacks (for example, bowls of popcorn with dollar-store fake fingers and crackers with soft cheese garnished with "eyeballs"), you and your friends will have a great evening at a reasonable cost.

There are lots of great horror movies coming out in 2019. Why not send out a home-made coupon good for a movie and popcorn and redeemable in the new year? You can then choose a non-peak time when tickets are lower-priced to go to the movie theatre. 

Any other suggestions you'd like to share? Please leave me a comment. I'd love to hear from you...

Sunday 28 October 2018

Halloween on the Horizon

Here are a few suggestions for a safe and happy Halloween:

1. Plan a route in advance.

Map out a route before leaving home. Stick to paths that you and your child are familiar with to avoid getting lost.

2. Wear comfy shoes.

Make sure you and your children are in comfortable, well-fitting shoes. Girls in dresses should avoid heels, and all shoelaces should be double-tied to avoid tripping in the dark.

3. Stay well-lit.

Apply reflective tape to your child’s costume to ensure they are seen by drivers on the road. Also, carry a flashlight with you to keep your child’s path lit at all times.

4. Make sure all costumes are short.

Long costumes that drag on the ground can be dangerous, especially at night. After purchasing your child’s costume, make sure it’s an appropriate length, and hem anything that’s too long to avoid tripping.

5. Avoid masks.

Masks can make it difficult for your child to see or breathe. If possible, skip the mask altogether and use non-toxic make-up to complete the costume instead.

6. Use flexible props.

Try to avoid costumes that have weapons as accessories. But if your child’s costume won’t be complete without a weapon, make sure it is rubber or plastic. Choose a prop that won’t cause injury to your child or their friends.

7. Check your child’s candy.

When sorting through candy at the end of the night, be sure to throw away any candy that is not in its original wrapper, or looks as though it has been opened.

Have a fun and safe Halloween!

Monday 22 October 2018

The New Halloween Movie

As reported in USA Today, the 2018 version of Halloween grossed $77.5 million on its opening weekend: the highest for any of the movies in the franchise. It has also garnered an 80 per cent critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes with the following consensus: "Halloween largely wipes the slate clean after decades of disappointing sequels, ignoring increasingly elaborate mythology in favor of basic--yet still effective--ingredients."

John Carpenter deserves much credit for making a low-budget film in 1978 that has inspired so many other horror movies, although not of equal quality and audience appeal. (The 1978 Halloween has a Rotten Tomatoes critical score of 93 per cent.) Wikipedia reports that the budget was so tight for the movie, that the crew had to make use of what was available locally: the iconic Michael Myers mask was created from a William Shatner mask that sold for  $1.98. The excellent acting of Jamie Lee Curtis--in her debut role--and Donald Pleasence also contributed to the original movie's appeal.

I was happy to see that Curtis plays a central role in the 2018 film. To listen to an interview with her on the new film, please click here.

To read a CNN Business article on the box office appeal of horror films, please click here.

And here are some movie trailers to whet your appetite.

Tuesday 9 October 2018

Soul to Keep

Here's a press release on an independent horror film that recently aired at Shriekfest on October 6. The film sounds intriguing.

Occult Feature

Soul To Keep Announces

World Premiere at Shriekfest

*** First ever open-captioned film presented at the festival ***

(Hollywood, CA) – October 5th, 2018.The anticipated supernatural horror film Soul To Keep, co-directed by David Allensworth and Monière, [had] its world premiere at Shriekfest on Saturday October 6th in Hollywood. . . .

Soul To Keep tells the story of Beelzebub, a demon hell-bent on consuming and taking control of souls, who hunts down siblings and their lifelong friends at a rundown country house.


"Soul to Keep is a great possession horror film that uses a deaf character to uniquely tell the story,” says Shriekfest’s festival director Denise Gossett. “This is a film that horror fans are going to love and we are thrilled to be showing our first ever open captioned film!” she adds.

The introduction of a deaf lead character, Tara, played by deaf actress Sandra Mae Frank, allows the exploration of unique modalities in the narrative style, notably the use of sign language throughout the film. All the actors flawlessly learnt and incorporated the sign language into their performances to serve the purpose of the story. This inclusive aspect of the unrepresented Deaf Community makes the production accessible to hard-of-hearing audiences as well as creating a dialogue between the Deaf and Hearing populations.

“The Deaf element in this film came to me originally as something of a scare tactic, and it blossomed into an important statement about bringing communities together,” says director David Allensworth. “Our co-writer Eric Bram’s wife is partially deaf, as well as one of our producers, Matt Meyer, who has partial hearing loss.”

“I wanted to bring out the elements of a minority group - the deaf and hard of hearing - and showcase them as heroes. In addition, I wanted to tell a horror story with real proven metaphysical elements, not another horror-slasher film,” adds co-director Monière.

About Soul To Keep:

Soul To Keep showcases an ensemble cast composed of eight up-and-coming actors: Sandra Mae Frank (Tara), Aurora Heimbach (Erin), Kate Rose Reynolds (Grace), Tony Spitz (Josh), Craig Fogel (Freddy), Jordan Theodore (Brandon), Derek Long (Toby) and Jessie Jordan (Kimberly).

Soul To Keep is a Shady Tree Films and Cineque Pictures production. Directed by David Allensworth and Monière. Written by Eric Bram and David Allensworth. Produced by Patrick Kendall, p.g.a., Monière, David Allensworth, p.g.a., and Matt Meyer. Co-Produced by Bears Rebecca Fonté and Rachel Morgan. Cinematography by Eric Giovon. Sound Design by Angelo Panetta. Music Composed by Irv Johnson. Editing by Ray Chung. Production Design by Lisa Ramsey. Visual Effects by Carlos Aldana. The film is repped by sales agent Taylor & Dodge.

About the filmmakers:

David Allensworth, director, co-writer, producer

David Allensworth’s storytelling circles around how we connect to characters and stories resulting in positive changes, enlightenment and an opportunity to escape. From surprise plot twists, to secret character motives, to authentic situations turned upside down, he infuses his visionary “gotcha” style with every film, series, screenplay, and pitch he’s been involved in. Soul To Keep marks his first feature film, and it is a perfect reflection of that style. Though he maintains an office in Los Angeles for his production company Shady Tree Films, he makes New York City his home with his wife and three children. He finds New York to be a hotbed of culture and characters, all of which inspire his storytelling. He is a member of the Producers Guild of America.

Monière, director, producer

Monière’s storytelling is significantly influenced by his upbringing; born in Kandahar, Afghanistan and raised in Flatbush & Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. He comes from a lineage of Sufis and healers, strong believers in metaphysics and the unknown. “If angels are real, why can’t demons be real,” Grace, Soul To Keep. Every project he attaches himself to must raise the collective consciousness of humanity as a whole, creating a morphic resonance. Monière formed his company in 1999 during grad film school. He merged the words Cinematically & Unique, to form his company name Cineque Pictures. He lives in Midtown Manhattan with his wife and baby son.

For more information and updates about Soul To Keep, please follow them on Instagram at @SoulToKeepMovie.

Other Links:

Official Website:

Facebook (Film):

Twitter (Directors): @DjAllensworth & @Monierism

Hashtag: #SoulToKeepMovie

Sunday 30 September 2018

Faster Production's Upcoming Short Film, Goodnight Halloween

Luther Bhogal-Jones and Faster Productions have sent us news of their upcoming short film Goodnight, Halloween.

The storyline is summarized as follows:

Alternate Detroit 1986, a world where Halloween creatures have co-existed with mankind, following the Kreatures Act pushed through the senate by KRONA, a right wing religious group with their own agenda, all creatures can be exterminated on sight. Forced into hiding, these creatures have formed uneasy alliances with each [other] in an effort to evade the efforts of the KRONA death squads. Now a group of creatures has uncovered evidence which could discredit KRONA, if only they can survive long enough for it to be uploaded to the Netwerk. Forced into hiding after retrieving the evidence, they must now endure and survive the wait until the world can see KRONA for what it is really doing. Goodnight, Halloween will be released online in Autumn 2018. . . .  [The letter "c" has disappeared from the alphabet in this alternate world: hence the use of the letter "k"]

I'm interested in the political overtones of the film given the present anti-immigrant stance of Trump and the religious Right.

The scene setter for the short film can be found here.

If you'd like to read an earlier post on Luther Bhogal-Jones' Black Spot, please click here.

Watch Faster Productions online here:
Follow Faster Productions on Twitter
Read the Faster Productions blog here:

Sunday 23 September 2018

Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse

Canadians can now rest easy in the event of a zombie apocalypse, according to a recent article in Narcity.

The Zombie Research Society (!) recently ranked countries with over 5 million in population to determine which ones would be most able to handle a zombie pandemic. According to the article: "They took into consideration several factors, including population density, climate, topography, gun-ownership rate, military capability, natural resources, and public infrastructure." Canada came in second with first place going to Australia.

For the full text of the article, please click here

Sunday 9 September 2018

I Am Not a Witch

Judging from the 100 per cent score on Rotten Tomatoes and the trailers I have seen, I Am Not a Witch looks like an amazing film. It is set in Zambia and is a fictional story based on an African reality: witch camps in which accused women are imprisoned, marked with white scars, and tethered to white ribbons so they will not fly. It is filmmaker Rungano Nyoni’s debut film and the UK entry in next year's Oscars for  best foreign language film.

The following is an excerpt from The Daily Beast which describes the film:

From th[e] opening salvo alone, it’s apparent that something is terribly amiss here, and that only becomes clearer when an unknown young girl (Maggie Mulubwa), wearing an out-of-place T-shirt emblazoned with the message “#bootycall,” is spotted by a woman carrying water, and promptly brought to authorities and accused of being a witch. The reason for this charge? As one adult tells the less-than-convinced female cop on duty, things haven’t been right in the area since she arrived. Then another man steps up and says that the girl chopped off his arm, only to confess that he just dreamed this took place (which is still proof, apparently!). No matter the silliness of such allegations, the girl’s refusal to admit or deny that she’s a black-magic woman—instead, she faces this madness with staunch silence—convinces regional government official Mr. Banda (Henry B.J. Phiri) that the 9-year-old is, in fact, a witch.

Thus the kid is sent to live at a camp, where one elder gives her the name “Shula,” which in Zambian means “uprooted.” No sooner has Shula been welcomed into the community and given customary tribal scars on her face—as well as informed that cutting her ribbon will turn her into a goat—then she’s whisked away by Banda to a municipal trial held at a dusty outdoor 'court.' There . . . Shula is asked to use her otherworldly powers to determine which of the suspects has committed theft. Given that ... she’s not actually a witch, she defers to her elders, who via cell phone give her loads of nonsensical advice. (Choose the nervous looking one! Or the one looking up! Or the one looking down! Or the one who’s darkest!) Yet when she randomly fingers one man, and he shortly thereafter turns out to be the culprit, her credentials are firmly established.

All is not well with Shula, however, as I Am Not a Witch movingly elucidates. A prisoner of a system that demonizes women, segregates them from the rest of the population, and then has them toil on gigantic farms—all when they’re not presiding over criminal trials or trying to bring much-needed rain to the arid countryside—Shula is an innocent victim. And an isolated one too, given that she’s decades younger than her compatriots. . . .


For the trailer, please click here.

Sunday 2 September 2018


In the lead-up to Halloween, there are a number of new horror releases scheduled for September and October. There are horror comedies, vampires and alligators, re-makes and sequels, and even a horror musical. One of the films that seems to stand above the rest is Mandy, which earned excellent reviews at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and has very high ratings in both Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic.

The film is directed by Panos Cosmatos, an Italian-Canadian director and screenwriter. It stars Nicolas Cage, whom I haven't seen in a movie for quite a long time. Cage is a good actor-- although in my view he tends toward histrionics in many of his roles--but he's had the misfortune of being cast in a lot of unmemorable films. Apparently, however, his acting in this movie is getting rave reviews, one critic even calling it "the performance of a lifetime".

The film is set in the Pacific Northwest in 1983 where two loners, Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) and Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough) have fallen deeply in love and now enjoy a quiet, peaceful existence together. Miller's life is destroyed when a band of "ravaging cultists and supernatural creatures" invades his home and kills Mandy. He now lives for one thing only: to hunt down this band and exact revenge.

I must admit that I'm not fond of revenge films, and this is a particularly bloody one. But if you're not squeamish, you might want to catch this movie, which may well become a cult classic.

To view the trailer, please click here.

The film is in theatres on September 14.

Sunday 12 August 2018

Remembering Heather Heyer

Heather Heyer died after being plowed down by a car driven by a neo-Nazi in the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally last year.

I watched an interview with Heather Heyer's mother recently and marvelled at her calm demeanour and her stated purpose of continuing her daughter's message of tolerance. This, despite the fact that her daughter's grave has been desecrated by urine and messages such as "now it's okay to be white". As if there was any question that whites still control the majority of wealth and power in the United States.

Donald Trump's race-baiting has had the effect of openly legitimizing hatred and xenophobia. As Spike Lee recently said, "It's no longer a dog whistle. It's a bullhorn."

Let's remember Heather Heyer by her last post:
If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention.
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Published on August 12, 2018 14:16 • 4 views • Tags: charlottesvilleheather-heyerracial-intoleranceunite-the-right

Sunday 5 August 2018

August 2018 Horror Movie Releases

There's a litany of teen slasher/zombie apocalypse/bloodfest movies being released in August. However, there are a few movies that sound as though they might be a cut above. I haven't checked out their ratings in Rotten Tomatoes: I'll leave it to you to decide if they sound interesting.

The Little Stranger tells the story of Dr. Faraday, the son of a housemaid, who has built a life of quiet respectability as a country doctor. During the long hot summer of 1948, he is called to a patient at Hundreds Hall, where his mother once worked. The Hall has been home to the Ayres family for more than two centuries. But it is now in decline and its inhabitants – mother, son, and daughter – are haunted by something more ominous than a dying way of life. When he takes on his new patient, Faraday has no idea how closely, and how disturbingly, the family’s story is about to become entwined with his own.

See the trailer.

Down a Dark Hall

Kit (AnnaSophia Robb), a difficult young girl, is sent to the mysterious Blackwood Boarding School when her heated temper becomes too much for her mother to handle. Once she arrives at Blackwood, Kit encounters eccentric headmistress Madame Duret (Uma Thurman) and meets the school’s only other students, four young women also headed down a troubled path. While exploring the labyrinthine corridors of the school, Kit and her classmates discover that Blackwood Manor hides an age-old secret rooted in the paranormal.

Four siblings seek refuge in an old home after the death of their mother, only to discover that the house has another, more sinister, inhabitant in this haunting directorial debut from Sergio G. Sánchez, screenwriter of The Orphanage and The Impossible.

Sunday 29 July 2018

Part 5 of the Golden State Killer

This is the fifth and final post on the Golden State Killer. This series of posts is dedicated to the memory of Michelle McNamara and to all of the victims of the Golden State Killer.

As you are no doubt aware, a suspect has been apprehended in the case. The arrest came too late for Michelle McNamara, who suffered an untimely death before she could learn of the news. Her book I'll be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer was published posthumously. Before her death, however, through her tireless search for the killer, she kept the case in the public eye, and I believe she deserves much credit for this. It's also noteworthy that she speculated in her book that the Golden State Killer may have been a former police officer because of his seeming familiarity with law enforcement methods and his ability to elude capture for so many decades. The individual who was finally arrested this year was in fact a former police officer.

Michelle McNamara also speculated in her book that genealogical database searches would eventually lead to the arrest of the Golden State Killer. Although advances in DNA testing in the early 21st century enabled criminologists to determine that the East Area Rapist and the Original Night Stalker were one and the same, there was no existing match in the massive FBI national DNA database, and therefore no arrest until 2018. It was through the use of an online genealogical website that law enforcement officials were able to identify a relative of the man who would subsequently be arrested as the Golden State Killer. For the steps taken to identify the suspected killer, please see the related Washington Post article.

The question now turns to the legal, ethical, and privacy-related concerns of such forensic use of genealogical databases. The debate on this subject is only just beginning. For a related article, please click here.

Sunday 22 July 2018

Part 4 of the Golden State Killer: The Original Nightstalker

The Golden State Killer's crimes escalated from burglary to rape and finally to murder when he moved to southern California in 1979 and became known as the Original Nightstalker. (Prior to his move, he is also suspected of murdering Brian and Katie Maggiore when they came across him, as they were walking their dog, near the site of five East Area Rapist attacks. Presumably he thought they would identify him to the police.)

The Original Nightstalker's attacks began in October 1979 and lasted until 1981 with a single attack in 1986. Only the victims of his first attack survived, were able to alert neighbours through screams, and forced him to flee. The Golden State Killer fled the scene on a bicycle and was pursued by a neighbour, who was an FBI agent, but managed to escape by ditching the bike and fleeing on foot. This was the closest anyone had come to apprehending him.

On December 30, 1979, Robert Offerman and Debra Manning were murdered in their home. Neighbours failed to report the gunshots to the police, not recognizing them as such. This would also be the case in later shooting deaths.

On March 13, 1980, Charlene and Lyman Smith were bludgeoned to death in their home after Charlene was raped.

On August 19, 1980, Keith and Patrice Harrington were murdered in their home in a gated community after Patrice had been raped. They had been married for only three months. Patrice was a nurse and Keith was a medical student.

On February 6, 1981, Manuela Witthuhn was raped and murdered in her home while her husband was in the hospital.

On July 27, 1981, Cheri Domingo and Gregory Sanchez were murdered in her home. Sanchez was shot and then bludgeoned to death, and there is speculation that he tried to tackle the Original Night Stalker because he had not been tied up as had the other victims. Cheri was raped and then bludgeoned to death.

On May 4, 1986, Janelle Cruz was raped and murdered in her home while her family was on vacation in Mexico. She was only eighteen years old.

It would be decades before the three identities that comprised the Golden Sate Killer were definitively linked through DNA analysis, which will be the subject of Part 5 of this series.

Sunday 15 July 2018

Part 3 of the Golden State Killer: The East Area Rapist

Following his crime spree in Visalia, California, the Golden State Killer is believed to have moved to the Sacramento area in mid-1976, where he became known as the East Area Rapist. At the beginning he stalked middle-class neighborhoods in search of women who were alone or with small children.

He eventually began attacking couples. He would wait until the occupants of a house were asleep and then enter through a sliding glass door or window, blinding them with a flashlight, and threatening them with a handgun. He would separate the couple, and he often piled plates on the backs of the males, advising them he would hear any movement and would kill them and their spouse if they tried to intervene in the rape. He often raided the kitchens of the victims. In many cases, he would wait in the darkness and when his victims thought he had left their home, he would jump out at them. These sadistic details were highlighted in Michelle McNamara's book, I'll Be Gone Before Dark, and further fuelled her desire to unmask the Golden State Killer.

Michelle McNamara's concern was with the victims of the Golden State Killer. For further background on the East Area Rapist and the legacy of his crimes, please click here.

(Source for this post: Wikipedia)

Part 4 of this series of posts will deal with the Original Night Stalker.

Sunday 8 July 2018

Part 2 of the Golden State Killer: The Visalia Ransacker

This is the second in a series of posts on the Golden State Killer. As I noted in my initial post, which dealt with Michelle McNamara's book entitled I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer, this serial killer is believed to have begun his crime spree as the Visalia Ransacker.

Visalia is in the agricultural area of San Joaquin Valley and is located approximately 230 miles southeast of San Francisco.

The Visalia Ransacker operated in Visalia, California, in the mid-1970s and is believed to have committed 120 crimes. This criminal would, in most cases, break into a single-family home and steal small items, including coins, Blue Chip stamps, and personal items such as single earrings, cufflinks, rings, or medallions. He often left higher-value items such as bank notes behind.

His crime spree ended with the murder of Claude Snelling, who died protecting his daughter from a kidnap attempt.

Although a suspect has been taken into custody as the Golden State Killer, the statute of limitations has passed on the burglaries, and there is no direct link to connect the suspect with the  killing of Snelling.

Part 3 of this series of posts will deal with the East Area Rapist.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Sunday 17 June 2018

I'll Be Gone in the Dark

This is the first in a series of posts on the Golden State Killer, beginning with a review of Michelle McNamara's non-fiction book, I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer. The book was published posthumously in February 2018, almost two years after her death. It was updated and finalized by true crime writer Paul Haynes and her widower, the actor Patton Oswalt.

As a teenager, Michelle was deeply affected by the unsolved murder of Kathleen Lombardo two blocks from her own home. This murder shaped not only her passionate interest in crime-solving, but also her compassion for the victims of crime. This compassion is apparent throughout her book and, I think, is responsible for making I'll Be Gone in the Dark such a compelling read.

Michelle McNamara started her website True Crime Diary in 2006, establishing a network of crime researchers, as well as writing numerous articles relating to unsolved crimes. She used 21st century technology to bring to light possible clues to a killer's identity. It was Michelle herself who coined the phrase Golden State Killer after authorities connected the crimes of the Original Night Stalker and the East Area Rapist through DNA analysis. As a serial killer, rapist, and burglar, he committed at least 12 murders, 50 rapes, and over 100 burglaries in California between 1974 and 1986. He is thought to have begun as a burglar known as the Visalia Ransacker before his crimes escalated to rape and murder.

The author's observations about her childhood and how she became passionate about unsolved crimes are fascinating in themselves:

...When I meet people and hear where they're from I orientate them in my mind by the nearest unsolved crime.... Mention that you're from Yorktown, Virginia, and I'll forever connect you with the Colonial Parkway, the ribbon of road snaking along the York River where four couples either disappeared or were murdered between 1986 and 1989.

What is remarkable about this book is not only the excellent narrative, but also the author's ability to avoid sensationalizing the crimes and the killer, choosing instead to make us aware of the actual victims, often forgotten in true crime accounts. Michelle McNamara re-creates the crime scenes of the Golden State Killer, always mindful of the small details of the victims' lives, in a manner that creates an intimacy between the author and the reader.

Saturday 2 June 2018

Hereditary: As Scary As The Exorcist?

BBC News is reporting that Hereditary, due to be released in June, is downright scary. Here's an excerpt from their Arts & Entertainment report:

Horror movie Hereditary has become one of 2018's most eagerly anticipated releases after scaring and impressing critics in equal measure.
Actress Toni Collette is coming in for particular praise as a woman whose family has demons in its DNA.
Bustle said it's 'truly unlike anything you've seen before,' while The AV Club called it 'pure emotional terrorism'.
The film is released in the US on 8 June and in the UK a week later.
In his five-star review for The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw wrote: 'Hereditary tripled my heart rate, prickle-massaged my scalp, cured my hiccups - and pretty much terrified me.'
Collette's 'operatic, hypnotic performance seals the deal every second she's on the screen,' he said.
Referring to next year's film awards season, he added: 'Surely this magnificent actor will get some silverware next February.'
The film's New York-based first-time writer-director Ari Aster has also received acclaim.
Writing in Vox, Alissa Wilkinson said: 'The first time I saw Hereditary I yelped a lot, and very nearly crawled under my seat once or twice.
'What you feel from the start is a sense of real horror, some kind of cross between dismay and disgust, which starts out almost undefinable and builds to a (literal) crescendo by the end.'
The Independent's Clarisse Loughrey wrote: 'The fact Hereditary is being (rightly) talked of as one of the most singularly terrifying, singularly disturbing horror films in years speaks to its unique sense of mood.
'Secrecy, guilt, anguish: Hereditary breeds its own phantoms. Ones which like hang around, to boot. Weeks later, you may step into a dark room, and that chilled feeling will come rushing back: am I truly alone right now?'

For the movie trailer, please click here.

Sunday 27 May 2018

Solo: A Box Office Bomb?

The Business Insider reports that Solo: A Star Wars Story has had a less than stellar opening weekend:

It turns out Star Wars is not bulletproof.
The beloved franchise released its latest A Star Wars Story movie over Memorial Day weekend by telling the origin story of space scoundrel Han Solo, and it greatly underperformed.
Solo: A Star Wars Story earned an estimated $83 million domestically over the weekend and is projected to take in $101 million by Memorial Day, according to Exhibitor Relations. That's $29 million off what the industry had for the movie's low-end projection.
In the middle of last week, Solo was projected to earn between $130 million and $150 million on 4,381 screens. If that held, Solo would be set up to be the latest Star Wars movie having a record-breaking box office opening — taking the crown from current Memorial Day record holder, 2007's Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End with $139.8 million.
But by the end of day Friday, Disney hinted that the weekend wouldn't go according to plan as it drastically adjusted that projection to between $105 million and $115 million over the four-day weekend.
The $101 million performance by Memorial Day for Solo would be strong for any other movie at any other studio — especially over a holiday weekend where audiences would rather be outside than in a theater — but for a Star Wars movie, this just doesn't cut it.

[Excerpt edited for punctuation]

The Business Insider speculates that the weak performance by Solo at the box office is due largely to three factors: "opening over Memorial Day weekend, Star Wars fatigue, and the movie's lackluster reviews."

Monday 21 May 2018

The Beginning of Stephen King's Success

This is a scan of an old newspaper article outlining Stephen King's success in selling his novel Carrie to Doubleday. Given that this was the '70s, the money was huge for King and gave him an opportunity to write full-time.

Stephen King has had a long and prolific career as a writer, and he doesn't show signs of stopping any time soon.

His career is a lesson in perseverance for those who want to write.

For a previous post on Carrie, please click here.

Monday 14 May 2018

Winchester the Movie

The Winchester House has an incredibly fascinating history so I was disappointed to see that the movie, now available on DVD and blu-ray, has received such poor ratings from both critics and movie-goers.

The movie description is as follows:

Inspired by true events. On an isolated stretch of land 50 miles outside of San Francisco sits the most haunted house in the world. Built by Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren), the heiress to the Winchester fortune, it is a house that knows no end. Constructed in an incessant twenty-four hour a day, seven day a week mania for decades, it stands seven stories tall and contains hundreds of rooms. To the outsider it looks like a monstrous monument to a disturbed woman's madness. But Sarah is not building for herself, for her niece (Sarah Snook) or for the troubled Doctor Eric Price (Jason Clarke) whom she has summoned to the house. She is building a prison, an asylum for hundreds of vengeful ghosts, and the most terrifying among them have a score to settle with the Winchesters...

If you'd like to learn more about the history of the Winchester House, please see my previous blog post on this subject:

Monday 30 April 2018

A Canadian Anthology: Journey Prize Stories

Like the O. Henry Prize Stories, the Pushcart Prize, and the Best American Short Stories series, the Journey Prize Stories is one of the most celebrated annual literary anthologies in North America. For almost 30 years, the anthology has consistently introduced readers to the next generation of great Canadian authors, a tradition that proudly continues with the latest edition published in October 2017. With settings ranging from wartime China to an island off the coast of British Columbia, the ten stories in this collection represent the year's best short fiction by some of our most exciting emerging voices. 
A young boy who believes he is being stalked by an unstoppable, malevolent entity discovers that he may not be the only one. In a sweeping story set against the fall of Shanghai during the Second Sino-Japanese War, a pregnant woman waits anxiously for her doctor husband to leave the city before it's too late. A river that runs through a First Nations community is the source of sustenance, escape, and tragedy for a girl and her family. The haunting footage of the politically motivated self-immolation has unexpected reverberations for a Tibetan-Canadian woman dealing with multiple conflicts in her own life. A man who works a back-breaking job at an industrial mat cleaning service is pushed to his limit. When her mother has to return to Kinshasa to bury a family member, a girl gradually learns of the intricacy and depth of grief, in an evocative piece that illuminates the cultural gaps common within immigrant families, and the power of food and stories to bridge them. 
If you missed this anthology last fall, you might like to check it out now.


Monday 23 April 2018

May and June 2018 Horror/Crime Fiction Novel Releases

Here's three you might want to look for:

An unspeakable crime. A confounding investigation. At a time when the King brand has never been stronger, he has delivered one of his most unsettling and compulsively readable stories.

An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is found in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens. He is Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon add DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad.

As the investigation expands and horrifying answers begin to emerge, King’s propulsive story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can.

(May 22nd release day)

Award-winning author Laird Barron makes his crime fiction debut with a novel set in the underbelly of upstate New York that's as hardboiled and punchy as a swift right hook to the jaw--a classic noir for fans of James Ellroy and John D. Macdonald.

Isaiah Coleridge is a mob enforcer in Alaska--he's tough, seen a lot, and dished out more. But when he forcibly ends the moneymaking scheme of a made man, he gets in the kind of trouble that can lead to a bullet behind the ear. Saved by the grace of his boss and exiled to upstate New York, Isaiah begins a new life, a quiet life without gunshots or explosions. Except a teenage girl disappears, and Isaiah isn't one to let that slip by. And delving into the underworld to track this missing girl will get him exactly the kind of notice he was warned to avoid. (May 29th release date)

The Bram Stoker Award-winning author of A Head Full of Ghosts adds an inventive twist to the home invasion horror story in a heart-palpitating novel of psychological suspense that recalls Stephen King’s Misery, Ruth Ware’s In a Dark, Dark Wood, and Jack Ketchum’s cult hit The Girl Next Door.

Seven-year-old Wen and her parents, Eric and Andrew, are vacationing at a remote cabin on a quiet New Hampshire lake. Their closest neighbors are more than two miles in either direction along a rutted dirt road.

One afternoon, as Wen catches grasshoppers in the front yard, a stranger unexpectedly appears in the driveway. Leonard is the largest man Wen has ever seen but he is young, friendly, and he wins her over almost instantly. Leonard and Wen talk and play until Leonard abruptly apologizes and tells Wen, "None of what’s going to happen is your fault". Three more strangers then arrive at the cabin carrying unidentifiable, menacing objects. As Wen sprints inside to warn her parents, Leonard calls out: "Your dads won’t want to let us in, Wen. But they have to. We need your help to save the world."

Thus begins an unbearably tense, gripping tale of paranoia, sacrifice, apocalypse, and survival that escalates to a shattering conclusion, one in which the fate of a loving family and quite possibly all of humanity are entwined. The Cabin at the End of the World is a masterpiece of terror and suspense from the fantastically fertile imagination of Paul Tremblay. (June 26th release date)


Sunday 15 April 2018

The Sinking of the RMS Titanic

The sinking of the Titanic: Credit Bridgeman Art Library
Among the finds at a book sale last fall, my husband discovered a 1955 paperback on the sinking of the RMS Titanic by Walter Lord entitled A Night to Remember. It remains one of the most authoritative accounts of the tragedy and inspired a movie in 1958 by the same name, which you can view online.  It's worth the watch.

Today marks the 106th anniversary of the ship's sinking, but its story never seems to grow old. If you've never read Thomas Hardy's "The Convergence of the Twain," you might want to check it out. The poem's imagery of the iceberg forming in the ocean while shipbuilders are constructing what they believe to be an unsinkable ship is striking. The sinking of the Titanic was the perfect subject for the fatalistic Hardy.

What struck me the most about Walter Lord's account of the sinking is how the ship was a perfect microcosm of the class system that existed at that time. More than 1500 passengers died while there were only 710 survivors. The class of the passenger in fact determined their survival: the death rate of steerage passengers was much higher than those in first class quarters. It  was women and children first in the lifeboats, but many of those in third class--locked below in the ship--never had the option of boarding one. Seventeen per cent of first class children were lost as opposed to 66 per cent of third class children. Three per cent of first class passenger women were lost as opposed to 54 per cent in third class quarters. Many of the lifeboats departed the vessel only half full.

 The class distinction persisted even in death. When Canadian rescue ships started on their mission to recover bodies, they discovered they didn't have sufficient embalming supplies. (Under regulation, bodies were required to be embalmed before being returned to port.) They preserved the bodies of the obviously well-to-do passengers for burial in Halifax, while abandoning the others to their watery grave.

The scope of the tragedy was compounded by many factors: there were not enough lifeboats for the passengers onboard; the myth of the unsinkability of the ship led many to believe that they were in no real danger;  numerous ice warnings were not given enough credence by the radio operator, who was busy sending out  messages from the millionaires aboard to families and friends, crowing about their presence on the Titanic's maiden voyage; and the practice of the time to have radio operators available only on a part-time basis meant that the SS Californian, only a few miles away, did not receive the Titanic's distress messages. (The ship's crew also watched, but ignored rockets from the Titanic because they weren't the usual colour of flares denoting distress.)

In retrospect, there seemed to be an inevitability about the ship's tragic end. In fact, there was a novella published by Morgan Robertson in 1898 in which many of the details of the later sinking of the Titanic were foreshadowed.

Is there truly such a thing as fate?

Monday 9 April 2018

A Quiet Place

Released on April 6, 2018, in the United States and Canada, this film has already garnered an almost perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes with excellent reviews from critics and movie-goers alike.

The film is directed by John Krasinski, who also stars in the movie along with his real-life wife, Emily Blunt. It has an intriguing premise: in a dystopian world, a family must flee to the woods, where creatures hunt their targets by sound. If they hear you, they hurt you.

In addition to considering his film a metaphor for parenthood, Krasinski compared the premise to US politics in 2018, "I think in our political situation, that's what's going on now: You can close your eyes and stick your head in the sand, or you can try to participate in whatever's going on." (Source: Wikipedia)

To view the trailer, please click here.

Monday 2 April 2018

The Portal & The Experiment

My apologies for the length between posts. I hope to start blogging regularly again.

I'm pleased to announce that my fourth book, The Portal & The Experiment: Two Novellas of Suspense, is now available in e-book format and will shortly be published in paperback.

This is my first venture into the use of first-person narrative, and I hope you will like the book. As in my previous novels, I've used elements of the supernatural, as well as extra-sensory perceptions. I added the element of a "chase" to the second novella, "The Experiment," something I always enjoy in a suspense novel.

Here's a synopsis of the two stories:

THE PORTAL - As a young girl, Emily Montfort invented a mythology of her own, but as an adult caring for her mother, who is dying of Alzheimer's disease, she knows that flights of fancy are a luxury she can no longer afford. Still grieving after her mother's death, Emily hires Carrie, an exuberant young woman, to help her run the antique shop she's inherited from her mother. Emily prides herself on her practicality, living in an apartment above the shop in a closely circumscribed world. But one day she discovers that the mirror on an antique dresser reflects more than her pale, sad face and that there may be a world beyond the practical and sensible inviting her to enter its portal.

THE EXPERIMENT - Jack Booth is an empath who's been made to feel like an outcast by his own mother. But now he's bonded with five other university students who possess extra-sensory powers in an experiment that's supposed to map the potential of the human brain. Under the direction of the self-professed transhumanist Dr. Derek Avery, the sky seems to be the limit until Jack and his fellow subjects find themselves trapped in an abandoned asylum with no potential for escape, and the purpose of the experiment no longer seems quite so noble.

The book is available online at