4-Question Interview: Tony Walker

present-tensionsWhile hunting for ghosts on the Web, I came across a site titled simply: Ghost Stories. It’s “a blog to discuss, present, curate and review classic ghost stories, Gothic fiction and Weird Tales,” and it’s managed by Tony Walker.

Tony is also a writer, and the plot of his novel Unreal City is introduced this way: “Hard-boiled detective Christian Le Cozh is hired by a man who thinks his wife was killed by a vampire.  Le Cozh is sceptical but he needs the money. He accompanies his client to a graveyard at midnight to persuade him to get medical help. Then things go wrong and he has to hunt the beasts, before they hunt him.”

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4-Question Interview: C.A. Verstraete

present-tensionsI met author C.A. (Christine) Verstraete during the October Frights Blog Hop earlier this month. I quickly ordered her new book, Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter, intrigued by the notion of turning the most famous matricidal/patricidal figure in American history into an occult detective. Though I admit I haven’t yet read the novel, it seems like a very promising next step from — and a clever spin on — Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2009) and his Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter (2010).


A mystery runs through Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter, a sinister puzzle that Borden must solve. As I say, she’s presented as an occult detective, and as I do with my Vera Van Slyke chronicles, Verstraete interweaves historical fact with supernatural fiction in this novel. Her other work has been published in various anthologies and magazines, including Mystery Weekly, Siren’s Call and Happy Homicides 3: Summertime Crime. She’s also the author of a young adult novel, GIRL Z: My Life as a Teenage Zombie.

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Review: J.L. Bryan’s Ellie Jordan: Ghost Trapper

present-tensions“Showing fear to a ghost is like feeding a stray cat — once they get a taste, they’ll never leave you alone.” — Ellie Jordan

Reading J.L. Bryan’s Ellie Jordan: Ghost Trapper (JLBryanbooks, 2014) got me thinking about what monsters really want from us. Zombies, generally speaking, want to eat us, often with a (dangling) eye on our brains. Vampires also see us as a meal, but the better class of them at least make the evening feel like a third date. The Frankenstein monster, according to the novel and according to the creature himself (but do you trust him?), is “acting out” his pain at not being loved enough. Similarly, werewolves and Mr. Hyde give into their rageaholic tendencies. All of these creatures embody our base impulses: hunger, lust, venting pain, rage — and stories about mastering the monster remind us to master those urges.

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Review: John Linwood Grant’s A Study in Gray

present-tensions“If your man is more dangerous than the late Professor Moriarty, or than the living Colonel Sebastian Moran, then he is indeed worth meeting. May I ask his name?”

— Sherlock Holmes

Before one reads John Linwood Grant’s A Study in Gray (18thWall, 2016), one might want to read Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Illustrious Client” (1924). It’s among the last of Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes tales, the one from which my epigraph comes. Grant continues Doyle’s story in A Study in Gray, using that earlier, loosely resolved case to pull the great detective out of apiarian retirement and into Grant’s own world of supernatural espionage. This more occult realm of intrigue — along with its lead characters: Captain Redvers Blake, Abigail Jessop, and Henry Dodson — exist in Grant’s The Last Edwardian series.

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4-Question Interview: Brian P. Easton

present-tensionsBrian P. Easton grew up on the south end of Illinois — with its corn and coal. He writes about werewolves. I grew on the north end of that state — with its corn and cows. I write about ghosts. And, of course, Abe Lincoln was a vampire-hunter. We’re pretty much ready for any supernatural contingencies in the Prairie State.

Brian has written a trilogy of novels about a character named Sylvester L. James: Autobiography of a Werewolf Hunter, Heart of Scars, and The Lineage. They’re available individually, and as he explains below, they will be available together by the end of the year. A prequel is in the works. I asked Brian to answer my four usual questions to introduce us to his werewolf hunter. Continue reading “4-Question Interview: Brian P. Easton”

4-Question Interview: John Linwood Grant

present-tensionsAs one gets to know John Linwood Grant, one learns certain canine-related words. Lurcher, for instance. And since looking that up, I now know what a sighthound is. I’m a better man for it.

Really thin dogs — think greyhounds and whippets — appear a lot on John’s website, greydogtales, which is dedicated to “weird fiction, weird art, and even weirder lurchers.” There’s a lot of information about authors working in the occult detective cross-genre and related areas of supernatural fiction. Like myself, John both writes about the stuff while also writing the stuff. His The Last Edwardian series is rooted in the same era as my Vera Van Slyke chronicles, but his stories are based much more on a cast of characters. He’ll introduce you to them.

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4-Question Interview: Robert Valentine and Jack Bowman

present-tensionsAbout the time that I was writing scripts for Marvellous Boxes, my Twilight Zone-ish audio drama anthology, Robert Valentine and Jack Bowman were already winning awards for their work on The Springheel Saga. This audio drama series is told as a trilogy of trilogies: three episodes establish The Strange Case of Springheel’d Jack, three more continue The Legend of Springheel’d Jack, and the final three episodes reveal The Secret of Springheel’d Jack.

It’s a series I’ve been enjoying and recommending for a few years now. Yes, it features a distinctive occult detective character named Jonah Smith. However, I’m more drawn to the high quality of the writing, the cinematic feel of the production, and the performances of the actors — most all of them with lengthy and impressive credentials.

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Review: John M. Whalen’s Vampire Siege at Rio Muerto

present-tensionsImagine it’s the 1950s, and Hammer Films has hired John Ford to direct one of their vampire movies. But they want Ford to set the story in the Wild West as he had with Stagecoach and My Darling Clementine and so many other films. It’s this curious blend of vampires and cowboys that’s at the center of John M. Whalen’s fun and gripping novel Vampire Siege at Rio Muerto (Flying W Press, 2013).

Whalen does a fine job at making vampires and werewolves somehow fit the old West. They comprise the outlaw gangs that terrorize the territories. Werewolves rob trains. Vampires ravage rural towns. And monster hunter Mordecai Slate does his best to stop them.

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Review: Jim Beard’s Sgt. Janus, Spirit-Breaker

present-tensionsNo, Jim Beard’s Sgt. Janus, Spirit-Breaker (Airship 27, 2012) isn’t about a tough military officer at boot camp and the miserable grunts who serve under him.

Instead, Roman Janus is an occult detective whose military background remains a bit foggy, implying he might be part of the war to keep the border between the physical world and the spirit one relatively solid. In a curious way, though, the title character isn’t exactly the main character in this collection of sequential short stories. I say “sequential” because they should be read in order, since toward the end, the stories begin to build on what’s come before. Sure, Janus, his mysterious assistant, and his even mysteriouser house are the tendrils that hold the book together. But the spotlight shines more on the clients who, in one way or another, turn to Janus for help.

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Review: Jacqueline E. Smith’s Cemetery Tours

present-tensionsPersonally, I prefer transparency when it comes to ghostly manifestations. Let everybody see what’s what, not just a privileged few!

However, there’s a long tradition of ghost-seers, individuals with the unique ability to see — even chat with — dead people. In some cases, those with mediumistic powers actually aid spirits in manifesting in the physical world (by lending ectoplasm or energy, etc.). During the heyday of Spiritualism, psychic mediums claimed to have that ability, and many of those without it were willing to pay to communicate with the dearly departed. These days, you see the same general idea played out in movies like The Sixth Sense and TV programs like The Ghost Whisperer.

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