Pines by Blake Crouch


Pines Blake Crouch
Pines by Blake Crouch

Pines, Blake Crouch, 2012

(MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS)

My favorite quote: “Nature doesn’t see things through the prism of good or bad. It rewards efficiency. That’s the beautiful simplicity of evolution. It matches design to environment.”

Most interesting characters: Ethan Burke, a secret service agent

Opening scene: A man wakes up in a strange town with no idea of who or where he is 

The gist: Ethan Burke, a secret service agent, is sent to Wayward Pines, Idaho, to locate two agents who went missing there a month ago. But shortly after arriving, he’s met with a violent accident that leaves him in the hospital, where he comes to with no ID and none of his personal effects. Worse, no one in Wayward Pines believes he is who he says he is — and that’s just the beginning of the strange events he’s about to experience  

Greatest strengths: The pacing. Blake Crouch understands the power of language and importance of pace. There are no unnecessary side-trips in Pines — Blake Crouch sticks to the point and makes sure the reader is fully invested at all times

Standout achievements: Few books have ever piqued my interest and intrigued me the way Pines did. I had no idea what I was looking at for a long time, but I absolutely couldn’t stop reading. For this, I credit Pines’ fascinating plot and Blake Crouch’s whip-quick prose in equal measure

Fun Facts: In the afterword of Pines, Blake Crouch cites Twin Peaks as the inspiration for this book. As a young fan of the show, he was “massively unsatisfied” that Twin Peaks was prematurely canceled and tried writing the third season for himself so he could continue to enjoy it. That didn’t work, but the mystery and small town creepiness stuck with him — and Pines was his attempt to create something that made him feel the way Twin Peaks made him feel when he was twelve 

Other media: Pines is the first in Blake Crouch’s Wayward Pines trilogy, and these books are the basis of the 2015 television series, Wayward Pines, produced by M. Night Shyamalan, and starring Matt Dillon, Carla Gugino, and Juliette Lewis   

Additional thoughts: In the afterword of Pines, Blake Crouch says, “They say all art — whether books, music, or visual — is a reaction to other art, and I believe that to be true.” I believe it to be true too, and while I’ve never written anything in quite the same vein as Pines, it did inspire me, in a way. I read Pines while I was writing my novel, Dream Reaper, and I remember being struck by Blake Crouch’s unconventional quirkiness. His unapologetic nonconformity gave me permission, in a way, to go a little “out there” with my own book. I don’t think Dream Reaper would be quite the same story if I hadn’t been so smitten by Blake Crouch’s creative aplomb

Hit or Miss: Hit (and I love everything else Blake Crouch has written, too)

Haunt me: alistaircross.com

Read Pines

Lilith Alistair Cross

The Haunted by Bentley Little


The Haunted Bentley Little
The Haunted by Bentley Little

The Haunted, Bentley Little, 2012

(MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS)

My favorite quote: “I was in the room where things grow old.”

Most interesting characters: Honestly, the only characters here that really captured my interest were the neighbors who snuck into the basement during a party for a frantic, satanic quickie — a tryst that even involved a naked Barbie doll, apropos of nothing

Opening scene: Julian, father of two, is rushing outside, hollering at three skateboarders to get off his driveway, and longing for the “good old days” of peace and quiet

The gist: An annoying and unrealistic couple move into a haunted house 

Greatest strengths: Shock value. Bentley Little is like that guy who sneaks up on you and gooses you when you’re trying to concentrate — but with books. A part of me loves it and a part of me hates it

Standout achievements: The Haunted made me laugh out loud. I’m not sure that was Bentley Little’s desired effect, but it’s true. I laughed a lot 

Fun Facts: The Haunted is one of the only books I’ve ever removed from my library. It wasn’t an act of aggression or anything, I just needed more room and something had to go. This was my first choice 

Other media: N/A 

Additional thoughts: I’ve been putting off this review because I have some issues with this book that may not come across as being very kind. I feel like I’m walking a fine line here between showing respect to the author (Bentley Little is inarguably one of the masters of his field) and pointing out the unfortunate obvious.

So here’s the thing … I’m not going to lie: I was totally distracted by all the people acting like grumpy old men in this book. There. I said it. The majority of the adult characters in The Haunted are about my age, and I’m here to tell you, my generation is not as technologically out of the loop as Bentley Little seems to think. It’s obvious to me that Bentley Little has fallen behind the times himself and unfortunately, it really shows in his writing — or at least it does in The Haunted. This book is riddled with passages that read like a disgruntled old man pontificating on the sad state of the world “nowadays” — and by the way, get off his lawn!

Here are a few (but far from the extent of) examples of what I mean: 

“Claire shook her head as she read the e-mails. She had learned to read and write before the advent of the online age and still felt out of place in the e e cummings world of the Internet, where nothing was capitalized, periods were known as dots, and the normal rules of grammar and punctuation did not apply.”

And my personal favorite: 

“She passed by the edge of the crowd, keeping a wide berth around a red-faced older woman who was shaking her fist in the air and shouting, “I want my country back!” When did people get so angry? Claire wondered.”

Okay … let’s talk about the first example. Claire is in her thirties, and even if you take into account that The Haunted was written ten years ago, that would put her in her forties now. Either way, she’s my age, and people my age simply aren’t this baffled by emails and modern styles of communication. I, too, was raised before the advent of the internet (which doesn’t need to be capitalized anymore, by the way) and yes, at first, it was a little confusing. But let’s be honest: It hasn’t been “new” since the mid-90s — almost thirty years ago now. Anyone as young as Claire (and her husband, who’s even more grumpy-old-manny than she is) moving through the world, going to work, and being part of modern society is going to naturally adapt. They just are. (I can already hear some of you out there arguing with that, but the point is, I didn’t believe these characters. Their views came across more like Grandpa eulogizing the good old days than the genuine beliefs of a married couple functioning in the modern world, both at the tops of their fields. Not very nice, I suppose, but I stand by it). 

As for the second example … When did people get so angry about the state of the world? I can only assume Bentley Little somehow missed the 60s entirely. And why is it that when people reach a certain age, their recollection of the past becomes so soft? One look at the history of the world at any given time in any given place ought to alleviate one’s illusions of such a tame and tender past. Black Plague, anyone? The Salem Witch Trials of 1692? The French Revolution? The Spanish Inquisition? Vietnam? The 1980s AIDS outbreak of New York? Roe vs. Wade? You see my point 

Hit or Miss: Sadly, it’s a big fat miss for me. I just couldn’t get past the characters

Haunt me: alistaircross.com

Read The Haunted

Alistair Cross Author Lilith Logo

Gone South by Robert McCammon


Gone South Robert McCammon
Gone South by Robert McCammon

Gone South, Robert McCammon, 1992

(MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS)

My favorite quote: “It was hell’s season, and the air smelled of burning children.” 

Most interesting characters: Dan Lambert, a desperate man haunted by the past; Pelvis Eisley, an Elvis impersonator; Flint Murtaugh, a freak-show refugee who carries his half-formed brother, Clint, hidden on his body

Opening scene: In Gone South, Robert McCammon throws the reader headlong into the plot, which begins in Louisiana, during one of the hottest summers to date, with Dan Lambert, who has fallen on very hard times. The remarkable thing about this opening is Robert McCammon’s ability to give readers everything they need to know right up front without compromising the speed of the plot. Within the first page or two of Gone South, everything has been deftly put in place and the story has already commenced

The gist: Dan Lambert, haunted by memories, poisoned by Agent Orange, and now dying of cancer, kills a man in a moment of rage and terror, and goes on the run, heading toward the Louisiana bayous. Hot on his heels is the most bizarre team of bounty hunters you’ll very meet, in or out of any Robert McCammon novel 

Greatest strengths: As it is with every Robert McCammon book I’ve read so far (and I still have quite a few to go — yay!) there’s a lot to admire about Gone South. It’s a little like a symphony where all the smaller working parts come together, each contributing equally to the music. That said, if I had to single out a single instrument, a particular strength that I think really drives this book home, I’d say that Gone South strikes the perfect emotional harmony. Action, sadness, comedy, horror, and drama. It’s all here, in all the right amounts

Standout achievements: Gone South has the rare distinction of being equal parts both beautiful and bizarre. I think I can fairly say I’ve never experienced anything quite like it before  

Fun Facts: In the foreword of Gone South, Robert McCammon includes a kind of “author’s note” titled “Why I Wrote Gone South,” in which he explains his travels through the world of publishing, his much-discussed ten-year retirement from it, and his return to writing — which I think we can agree was a triumphant one, indeed  

Other media: N/A

Additional thoughts: When it comes to Robert McCammon, I’m a self-professed fanboy — I’m convinced he could make a shopping list riveting. I love all of his work, but each of his books seems to have something uniquely special about it. In Gone South, Robert McCammon further cemented my admiration for his work

Hit or Miss: Hit. Still waiting for a Robert McCammon ‘miss’  — but nothing yet

Haunt me: alistaircross.com

Read Gone South

Alistair Cross Author Lilith Logo

The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie


The Pale Horse Agatha Christie
The Pale Horse, Agatha Christie

The Pale Horse, Agatha Christie, 1961

(MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS)

My favorite quote: “The science of tomorrow is the supernatural of today.”

Most interesting characters: Mark Easterbrook, a pretty typical dude who finds himself embroiled in a mystery with supernatural undercurrents. Thyrza, Sybil, and Bella, three creepy spinsters with creepy names that (unfortunately) no one takes very seriously

Opening scene: Mark is hanging out at a coffee shop when two young ladies get into a nasty fight in which one pulls the other’s hair out by the roots — an achievement that ultimately becomes a major clue in Mark’s upcoming (and very disturbing) adventures

The gist: Three mysterious spinsters living in a small village claim to have supernatural powers. For a price, they’ll eliminate anyone you want — and there’s no way you (or anyone else) will ever be tied to the crime

Greatest strengths: Agatha Christie is especially talented at foreshadowing (not to be confused with telegraphing), and in The Pale Horse, it comes in the way of Macbeth. Mark Easterbrook and his girlfriend, Hermia, go see the play just before Mark meets the three creepy witches, Thyrza, Sybil, and Bella

Standout achievements: Owing to its atmosphere (and all the witchy tropes) The Pale Horse remains one of my all-time favorite Agatha Christie books

Fun Facts: Agatha Christie is outsold only by Shakespeare and the Bible — and let’s be honest, she’s a lot more fun to read than either of those. Shakespeare gets a little loquacious for my tastes, and as for the Bible, well, it’s a bit predictable. I always know whodunit. Spoiler alert: It’s the Lord, everytime, with the thunderbolt in the library. Anyway, rock on, Agatha Christie

Other media: Most recently, The Pale Horse was adapted into a 2020 miniseries starring Rufus Sewell, Sheila Atim, and Georgina Campbell. I haven’t seen it, but if the reviews are to be believed (ha ha), this version varies pretty dramatically from Agatha Christie’s book

Additional thoughts: While most famous for her mystery skills (and rightly so), I don’t think Agatha Christie gets enough credit for her overall writing chops. If you read The Pale Horse and compare it to, say, And Then There Were None, you can get a real feel for the diversity and range of her style and ability. She handles first-person narrative as smoothly as third, and can effectively set her scenes anywhere, be it a train, an island, or, as it is in The Pale Horse, a small English village. She also wrote several romance novels under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott. The woman was a genius, you guys, and I think we should all take a moment of silence to reflect on her brilliance. I’ll wait …  

Hit or Miss: Hit

Haunt me: alistaircross.com

Read The Pale Horse

Alistair Cross Author

The Many Ghosts of the Tower of London


Here it is! Our latest episode from Thorne & Cross: Carnival Macabre (and it’s a creepy one!)

From the shadowy phantoms of two dead princes to the headless apparition of Anne Boleyn, Thorne & Cross break down the most famous (and infamous) ghosts that haunt the Tower of London, the historic castle that has inspired awe and terror for more than a thousand years.

Check out The Many Ghosts of the Tower of London at Thorne & Cross: Carnival Macabre.

 Keep tuning in for more explorations of modern terrors and ancient myths. For more about who we are and what we do, you can visit our websites at tamarathorne.com and alistaircross.com.

Be the first to get your updates by signing up for our free monthly newsletter, The Purple Probe, an outrageous newspaper-style periodical that includes upcoming podcasts, book sales and deals, interviews, articles, and all the latest gossip in the Thorne & Cross universe.

Thorne & Cross: Carnival Macabre is a Thorne & Cross production, all rights reserved.

Floating Staircase by Ronald Malfi


Floating Staircase, Ronald Malfi, 2011

(MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS)

My favorite quote: “It’s been said that nature does not know extinction — that once you’ve existed, all parts of you, whether they’re dispersed or remain together, will always be.” Thank you, Ronald Malfi, for sending me down that mental rabbit hole … 

Notable characters: Travis Glasgow, a writer who blames himself for his younger brother’s death many years ago; Jodie, his wife; Adam, his older brother and a police officer

Most memorable scene: That would probably be when Travis discovers the hidden bedroom of Elijah — the young son of the family who lived in the house before Travis and Jodie — who died in the lake beyond the property some years ago

Greatest strengths: Character development. Everyone in Floating Staircase is clearly defined with a unique set of characteristics that sets them apart. This made me want to check out more Ronald Malfi books because I’m a sucker for great characters (I did check out more Ronald Malfi books and all the characters are that good — just so no one thinks Floating Staircase was a fluke or anything)

Standout achievements: Floating Staircase is a ghost story to be sure, but it digs deeper than most, revealing a story within a story — and a surprisingly touching one at that. I wasn’t expecting to be so emotionally moved by Floating Staircase, but here we are

Fun Facts: Ronald Malfi’s Floating Staircase was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award by the Horror Writers Association and won a Gold IPPY (Independent Publishers Book Awards) for best horror novel of 2011

Other media: N/A — but it would make a great movie

What it taught me: The fluidity of Ronald Malfi’s prose is remarkable. He has a way of simplifying the language without compromising any of its beauty. Reading him is pretty much always a lesson in good writing — and what better place to start than Floating Staircase?

How it inspired me: After reading Floating Staircase, I immediately went out and found more Ronald Malfi novels. I’m still waiting for one to suck, but nothing yet … I guess I’ll just have to keep trying and trying and trying and …  

Additional thoughts: While some reviewers have said there’s nothing here we haven’t seen before, I’d argue that Floating Staircase has deeper layers worth looking at more closely. For me, Ronald Malfi’s characters alone set this one a cut above its contemporaries, but what really sets it apart is its heart. Floating Staircase has got a lot of heart — and for that, I love it

Haunt me: alistaircross.com

Read Floating Staircase

Brimstone by Tamara Thorne


Family Secrets

The Brimstone Grand Hotel, owned by reclusive former movie star, Delilah Devine, looms high on Hospital Hill, harboring long-buried family secrets that whisper of unimaginable horrors. Horrors that will echo down through generations.

Twisted History

When Delilah’s granddaughter, Holly Tremayne, who has seen ghosts for most of her eleven years, first comes to live in the Brimstone Grand in the summer of 1968, she’s delighted by its majestic western beauty – and its chilling history. But as she settles in, making friends and enemies alike, the nightmares begin.

Terror in the Night

Within the walls of the Brimstone Grand, the past has come back to life, and Holly and Delilah are faced with an ancient familial evil that rages just below the old hotel’s serene facade. An evil that won’t rest until it possesses Holly – body, mind, and soul.

“Tamara Thorne’s BRIMSTONE is deliciously scary.  Thorne’s finely-etched 11-year-old heroine, Holly Tremayne, sees ghosts, but it never really bothered her until she moves to Brimstone, Arizona. She meets a fascinating, colorful cast of characters, each one harboring a dark secret from their past.  Earthquakes, nightmares, aberrations and ghosts keep the reader constantly on-edge. BRIMSTONE is like a hair-raising, fun trip through a house of horrors. But it’s not just one house, it’s a whole city.”

 – Kevin O’Brien, the New York Times bestselling author of THEY WON’T BE HURT and THE BETRAYED WIFE

Brimstone

Ebook: https://amzn.to/3us3bEm

Paperback: https://amzn.to/3CX6uGT

Audiobook: https://adbl.co/3kU2Veb

Also available on Kindle Unlimited

The Cliffhouse Haunting on Sale for $0.99


The very first Thorne & Cross collaboration, THE CLIFFHOUSE HAUNTING, will be on sale in ebook for just $0.99 June 1st through the 8th. And if you sign up for our free monthly gossip column-style newsletter, The Purple Probe, you’ll get a “Behind the Book” glimpse with Constance Welling, one of the supporting characters in THE CLIFFHOUSE HAUNTING. Constance clears up rumors about affairs and drug abuse on the set, how being in CLIFFHOUSE has affected her career as a fictional character, and divulges what it was like working for us. (Spoiler alert: She’s not happy with us.)

Get The Cliffhouse Haunting: https://amzn.to/3tnQyrY

Sign up for the The Purple Probe: http://eepurl.com/ckaBrr

Haunt us: http://tamarathorne.com and http://alistaircross.com

Books on Sale — The Cliffhouse Haunting


The Cliffhouse Haunting is on Sale in June!

The very first Thorne & Cross collaboration, THE CLIFFHOUSE HAUNTING, will be on sale in ebook for just $0.99 June 1st through the 8th. And if you sign up for our free monthly gossip column-style newsletter, The Purple Probe, you’ll get a “Behind the Book” glimpse with Constance Welling, one of the supporting characters in THE CLIFFHOUSE HAUNTING. Constance clears up rumors about affairs and drug abuse on the set, how being in CLIFFHOUSE has affected her career as a fictional character, and divulges what it was like working for us. (Spoiler alert: She’s not happy with us.)

Get The Cliffhouse Haunting: https://amzn.to/3tnQyrY

Sign up for the The Purple Probe: http://eepurl.com/ckaBrr

Haunt us: http://tamarathorne.com and http://alistaircross.com

Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin


Fevre Dream, George R. R. Martin, 1982

(MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS)

My favorite quote: “Sometimes I think … the humanity of him is all hollow, a mask … he is only an old animal, so ancient it has lost even the taste for food, but it hunts on nonetheless, because that is all it remembers, that is all it is, the beast.”

Most interesting characters: Abner Marsh, a riverboat captain with money troubles; Joshua York, a pale and mysterious stranger who seems to be the answer to Abner’s prayers … at a price

Opening scene: Fevre Dream opens in 1857, at a hotel in St. Louis at ten past midnight, where Abner Marsh has agreed to meet Joshua York for the first time 

The gist: A steamboat captain and a vampire take an intriguing (and deadly) journey down the Mighty Mississippi — but it’s written by George R. R. Martin so it’s a lot more interesting than I just made it sound 

Greatest strengths: George R. R. Martin knows how to sprinkle in his research — something that (especially in a book like Fevre Dream) I really appreciate. We’ve all read those books where you’re right in the middle of the action and the author is like, “WAIT! Let me show you how to properly brush a horse! It’s really interesting, I promise!” and then makes you watch the character brush a horse for the next ten or so pages while the author regales you with his or her vast knowledge of horse anatomy and horse-grooming tools and techniques. While these authors are obviously very proud of what they’ve learned, the fact is, the average reader doesn’t care — something that George R. R. Martin gratefully (and gracefully) takes into consideration. In Fevre Dream, I learned more about the history of steamboats than I’ll probably ever need to know — but not once did I feel like I was being given a lesson about the history of steamboats. For that, I have to credit George R. R. Martin for his deft hand and his respect for the audience

Standout achievements: In a world of the cutesy undead, George R. R. Martin’s vampires are not only true monsters but they’re actually pretty scary. Fevre Dream’s Joshua York was one of the creepiest vampires I’ve met in a long, long time. If he weren’t so creepy, I’d like to shake his hand for being so creepy

Fun Facts: In 1983 Fevre Dream was nominated for the World Fantasy and Locus Awards

Other media: A ten-issue graphic novel adaptation in 2010

Additional thoughts: So far, Fevre Dream is the only George R. R. Martin book I’ve read. I’ve never even watched Game of Thrones, let alone read the books — but I knew going into it that George R. R. Martin likes to kill off a shocking amount of characters in his work (that’s the main complaint I’ve heard about Game of Thrones, though I’ve never understood why anyone would complain — dead people are fun — they ramp up the drama!) Anyway, in Fevre Dream, I found out that they’re right: George R. R. Martin really does kill off a lot of people — and apparently, he was doing it way back in 1982 when Fevre Dream was published. — *virtually high-fives George R. R. Martin*

Hit or Miss: Hit

Haunt me: alistaircross.com

Read Fevre Dream

Dream Reaper


Dream Reaper

The sale was complete. Stardene looked up at the man. He looked different somehow — suddenly not nearly as handsome as he’d been moments ago. 

“Because you’ve been such a pleasure,” he said in a voice that now sounded cracked and dry with age, “I’ll gift you with a glimpse into things as they really are.”

She watched in horror as his broad shoulders shrank and narrowed. The bones of his face began to protrude, the skin going thin and turning gray until it looked like a mask stretched over sharp bones. His lips peeled back in a skeletal grin, his nose became thin, blade-sharp. The skin of his throat went rotten and receded to expose dried meat, tough tendon, and old bones.The sour reek of spoiled fruit pervaded the cafe.

The salesman bowed and Stardene bit back a scream when she saw yellowed skull through sparse wisps of silver-white hair. “It was a pleasure doing business.” His breath was deep and wheezing, and reeked of dead things. He replaced his top hat, gathered his walking stick, and strolled away on limbs that were too long, his head bobbling disjointedly as if his neck were barely holding it up. He now wore a long trench coat and his black shoes had turned emerald-green and pointed, with bells that tinkled as he walked.

At the door, he turned and gave her a smile and a wave – a flutter of fleshless fingers and a rictus sneer. His trench coat was open, revealing exposed rib bones. Then he tipped his hat and giggled, high and haunting.

Stardene Cassel screamed.

Angel or Demon?

Naive and heart-stoppingly handsome, he calls himself Alejandro, and Madison O’Riley has no clue what to do with him. As they set out to recover his lost identity, Madison realizes the mysterious man who saved her life harbors deep, otherworldly secrets that will put her in grave danger.

The Devil is in the Details

Gremory Jones has something for everyone, and for a price, he’s willing to make a deal. Walking the streets in top hat and trench coat, he tempts the citizens with mysterious wares from his shiny black briefcase. But buyer beware: All sales are final – and fatal.

A Scorching New Terror Has Come to Town

The townspeople are changing in appalling ways and it’s up to Madison – with the help of a psychic, a local priest, and the new chief of police – to help Alejandro unlock his forgotten powers before an unspeakable evil tears apart the fabric of existence … and costs them their very souls …

Dream Reaper

eBook: https://amzn.to/2Sr094m

Paperback: https://amzn.to/3baPJfK

Audiobook: https://adbl.co/2Rxozce

Also available on Kindle Unlimited

“Dream Reaper is as lush and ethereal as it is visceral and unholy. A demonic horde seeks to swallow up the citizens of Prominence made vulnerable by their weaknesses. Those who take a stand against the evil are emotionally damaged as well; particularly a sheriff who battles his personal demons in a bottle. The author had me rooting for each of them in spite of, or maybe because of their flaws. With masterful pacing, Cross brings a small mystery to a raging boil that threatens every soul in Prominence. His exquisite prose drew me into the story as if I were living it. Highly recommended.” 

– QL Pearce, author of the Scary Stories for Sleep-Overs series, and Spine Chillers: Hair-Raising Tales

Haunt me: alistaircross.com

The Midnight Ripper


Coming soon …

The Monsters are Real …

Michael Ward, a vampire once dedicated to peace and harmony, lost his humanity when he gave into love — and other primal desires. Now he rages and murders indiscriminately … and he’s on the run.

Cade Colter, along with renowned monster hunter, Father Vincent Scarlotti, is hot on his bloody trail, and as Michael litters the Santa Cruz Boardwalk with the ravaged bodies of his victims, Cade must keep his own demons at bay if he has any hope of stopping him … and living to tell about it.

Get books 1 – 3 in eBook, paperback, and audio at Amazon.com: https://amzn.to/3a6yvzk

Read Darling Girls, a companion novel to the Vampires of Crimson Cove series (with Tamara Thorne): https://amzn.to/3fxpEu9

Haunt me: alistaircross.com

The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by Anne Rice


The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, Anne Rice, 1983

(MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS)

My favorite quote: “That is your life now, and you are to think of nothing else, and regret nothing else. I want that dignity peeled away from you as if it were so many skins of the onion. I don’t mean that you should ever be graceless. I mean that you should surrender to me.” 

Most interesting characters: The horny prince, who falls in love with Sleeping Beauty; Sleeping Beauty, the horny princess who loves him right back — over and over and over. P.S. — When I say “love,” I’m not talking about typical fairytale affections. These guys like it rough. And by rough, I mean rough beyond your most outrageous imaginings. Unless, of course, you imagine the same kinds of things Anne Rice did. In that case, it might not be so shocking

Opening scene: The prince, still grieving the death of his father, goes to the castle to check out Sleeping Beauty. He wants to find out for sure if the legend is true. She’s there, all right, but unlike that willowy, blandly pretty old Princess Aurora in the Disney version, this one’s all hot and voluptuous and stuff. We know this because she’s naked, of course. Also, she’s surrounded by the dozing bodies of other princes, all trapped in thorns and vines, who’d come to see her and not quite succeeded. Oh, and instead of kissing her awake, the prince — well, let’s just say he gives her something a little more intimate than a peck on the cheek to break the spell. You heard me 

The gist: The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty is Anne Rice’s very x-rated spin on a beloved childhood fairytale. And I’m not being hyperbolic when I say x-rated. This is not erotica. Erotica is using a chicken feather. In The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, Anne Rice brings the whole chicken — as well as the bald eagle, the pheasants and peacocks, a couple of ostriches, the gorilla, and more ass-paddles than you can flail your cat o’nine tails at  

Greatest strengths: The prose, as it is in all of Anne Rice’s work, is absolutely gorgeous in The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty — and against a backdrop that’s so graphic and smutty, it only shines all the more

Standout achievements: Let’s be honest: The whole thing is pretty remarkable. I mean, who but Anne Rice can take the story of Sleepy Beauty and so beautifully pervert it? I’ve never come across such a beautiful mind this deep in the gutter and I’m not gonna lie: I love it 

Fun Facts: The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty is the first and (staggeringly) the tamest in a four-book series written by Anne Rice under the pseudonym A.N. Roquelaure

Other media: Umm, there’s really no way they could make this into a movie. I mean, I’d watch it, but in general, I don’t think it would go over well in the mainstream (it would be hilarious if Netflix picked it up, though)

Additional thoughts: As someone who considers himself a perv of the highest (lowest?) order, I have to say, The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty seriously rattled my cage. There are scenes in this book depicting acts that have never even occurred to me, and when I had the honor of meeting Anne Rice a couple of years ago, all I could think was: That came from HER? I was trying really, really hard to focus on the subjects at hand, but my mind kept going back to … well, things they won’t let me repeat lest I be banned from the interwebs forever

Hit or Miss: Hit — as long as you know what you’re getting into

Haunt me: alistaircross.com

Read The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty

Sleep Savannah Sleep


SEARCH FOR LOCAL WOMAN ENTERS FOURTH DAY.

Below the headline was a picture of Savannah Sturgess, chin resting in her palm, a half-smile on her face. In the backyard, beneath the morning sun, Jason stared at the photograph on his laptop then scanned the article. There were no new developments. The police were still investigating. The family implored anyone with information to come forward.

On the surface, things had been quiet in Shadow Springs since Savannah had gone missing – but behind closed doors and over the phone, everyone was speculating. He knew this because Dottie Blanchard kept him informed. 

For the first couple of days, the grapevine suggested that perhaps she’d struck something up with one of the carnies and joined their traveling circus. That theory quickly died – it wasn’t tragic enough – and the latest gossip suggested that Savannah had been murdered, probably by some smooth-talking city-slicker she’d met at the carnival. And he must have been a smooth-talker because since her disappearance, Savannah Sturgess was no longer the lewd seductress she’d been a week ago, but a sweet misguided victim of youth and naiveté. 

It was funny, Jason thought, how quickly people sainted the missing and the dead. Yet he was sure that if Savannah did return after trying her hand as a carnie, she’d be cast back into her previous role as the town tramp within a week. There was a dark side to the human heart, and never was it more alive and well than when people found something good to gossip about. 

“Sometime in October, when I list my absolute favorite Halloween night reads, this book will be way up on my list! Probably #1.” – The Novel Lady

Sleep Savannah Sleep

eBook: https://amzn.to/3ikGv51

Paperback: https://amzn.to/3vRyicq

Audiobook: https://adbl.co/2RovDYW

Also available on Kindle Unlimited

Haunt me: alistaircross.com

In the Cut by Susanna Moore


In the Cut, Susanna Moore, 1995

(MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS)

My favorite quote: I think the following quote nicely sums up the tone of Susanna Moore’s not-so-thrilling erotic novel, In the Cut: “I think it may have something to do with something I heard when I was a kid. Something I think I heard. Actually, I know, know for a fact, that I heard something.” Yeah. Chew on that for a while, then you can move onto In the Cut’s next suspenseful sentence

Most interesting characters: Some idiot whose name I can’t remember. She’s super interesting. And super smart. Just wait till you see how smart she is. No one is smarter 

Opening scene: Some idiot whose name I can’t remember goes to a bar with one of her students … because she’s smart like that

The gist: Some idiot whose name I can’t remember goes to a bar one night and sees a guy, his face hidden in shadow, receiving oral pleasure from a pretty redhead in a darkened corner. He has a tattoo on his wrist. Anyway, days later, the redhead is found dead and a cop comes to question the idiot whose name I can’t remember — and guess what? He has that same tattoo on his wrist! (DUN DUN DUN!) Naturally, the idiot whose name I can’t remember begins an immediate sexual relationship with him because, why not? I mean, what could go wrong?

Greatest strengths: I’ve never seen a book try so hard to prove that its protagonist isn’t a complete idiot despite that protagonist’s complete idiot decisions. Case in point: the idiot whose name I can’t remember from In the Cut. She’s one of the dumbest people I’ve ever met in the pages of a book and yet, because she knows a lot of words, because she’s a teacher trying to help a poor uneducated black kid, we’re supposed to not realize that she’s actually just really, really dumb. She knows lots of words and history and stuff, so it’s okay, you’ll like her. Oh, and she knows a lot about human anatomy, too. Just get a load of this: 

“He rubbed his forearm across my breasts.

“ ‘You’re not wearing a bra,’ he said. He slid the razor down my neck, across the hyoid, across the glottis, trailing over the cricothyroid intrinsic muscle , the superior laryngeal nerve, over the little hollow at the center of the clavicle, and I thought of Pauline …”

Pretty sexy, right? And smart! I mean, who’s smarter than the idiot whose name I can’t remember from In the Cut?! I mean, if some manly killer were sexily threatening my life with a blade to my throat, I’d definitely respond exactly like that. Kee-rist …   

Standout achievements: Hailed as an “erotic” thriller, In the Cut is the first of its kind to not only NOT turn me ON, but to actually turn me OFF. In fact, I found it to be about as sexy as a paper cut. Not just any paper cut either, but one of those you get under the nail bed. I guess I’m just not turned on by hairy-shouldered racists with bad grammar or the witless women who enjoy being mistreated by them. And things just keep “steaming up” from there! When Susanna Moore starts comparing female genitalia to gashes and cuts (hence the book’s title) I could actually feel my gonads crawling into their Fortress of Nope — a sure sign I was definitely aroused 

Fun Facts: In the Cut is Susanna Moore’s fourth novel. Before writing, she worked as a teacher, a model, a costume designer, an actress, a script reader, and a production designer. Like the idiot whose name I can’t remember from In the Cut, she knows a lot

Other media: Unfortunately, some idiot saw fit to make In the Cut into a movie of the same name. It stars Meg Ryan; Mark Ruffalo; Jennifer Jason Leigh, and is produced by Nicole Kidman. It currently holds a well-deserved two stars on Rotten Tomatoes (34%)

Additional thoughts: I think Susanna Moore had her mind on a few too many things when she wrote In the Cut. If the blurbs and rave reviews and back cover synopsis are to be believed, she was trying to be “Erotic!” and “Thrilling!” In the Cut is neither of those things, largely because it was also trying to be a little of everything else, too. Worst of all, I get the feeling that In the Cut wants to be literary … which rarely works out well for anyone involved … 

Hit or Miss: I’ll take poison for 500 hundred, Alex … 

Haunt me: alistaircross.com

Read In The Cut

Slender Man: The Phantom of the Internet


Thorne & Cross explore the myth, history, and roots of the first internet-age boogeyman, a tall faceless specter known as Slender Man. Listen in at Thorne & Cross: Carnival Macabre.

Come one, come all!

Legends and lore, monsters and myths, hauntings and horror … bestselling authors Tamara Thorne and Alistair Cross are digging deep in their research files to bring you face-to-face with the unknown, the unusual, the bizarre … Come one, come all! 

Listen to previous shows:

The Blue Lady of the Moss Beach Distillery: On the windswept cliffs below San Francisco, walks northern California’s most famous ghost, the Blue Lady of the Moss Beach Distillery. Hosts Thorne & Cross take you back to 1927, to a speakeasy known as Frank’s Place, which was frequented by rum runners, politicians, and criminals. How did the Blue Lady die … and why does she still haunt the distillery?

Psychic Machinery: Thorne & Cross explore the world of psychic machinery — the paranormal phenomena invoked by the expectations of the living. Is it a ghost, a residual haunting, wishful thinking … or something more?

Walking Sam: Guest Alex Dolan discusses the South Dakota Sioux legend of Walking Sam, the mind-controlling spirit that made local news and the New York Times in 2015 when suicides peaked on the Pine Ridge reservation.

Thorne & Cross

International bestseller, Tamara Thorne

Tamara Thorne’s first novel was published in 1991, and since then she has written many more, including international bestsellers Haunted, Bad Things, Moonfall, Eternity and The Sorority. A lifelong lover of ghost stories, she is currently working on several collaborations with Alistair Cross as well as an upcoming solo novel. Learn more about her at: http://tamarathorne.com

bestselling author, Alistair Cross

Alistair Cross grew up on horror novels and scary movies, and by the age of eight, began writing his own stories. First published in 2012, he has since co-authored The Cliffhouse Haunting and Mother with Tamara Thorne and is working on several other projects. His debut solo novel, The Crimson Corset, was an Amazon bestseller. The Midnight Ripper, book 4 in The Vampires of Crimson Cove series is coming this year. Find out more about him at: http://alistaircross.com

Thorne & Cross

In collaboration, Thorne and Cross are currently writing several novels, including the next volume in the continuing gothic series, The Ravencrest Saga. Their first novel, The Cliffhouse Haunting, was an immediate bestseller. Together, they hosted the horror-themed radio show Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE! which featured such guests as Anne Rice of The Vampire Chronicles, Charlaine Harris of the Southern Vampire Mysteries and basis of the HBO series True Blood, Jeff Lindsay, author of the Dexter novels, Jay Bonansinga of The Walking Dead series, Laurell K. Hamilton of the Anita Blake novels, Peter Atkins, screenwriter of Hellraiser 2, 3, and 4, worldwide bestseller V.C. Andrews, Kim Harrison of the Hollows series, and New York Times best sellers Preston & Child, Christopher Rice, and Christopher Moore.

Currently, Thorne & Cross are hosts of Thorne & Cross: Carnival Macabre, where listeners can discover all manner of demented delights, unearth terrifying treasures, and explore the unknown. 


For book deals, updates, specials, exclusives, and upcoming shows on Thorne & Cross: Carnival Macabre, sign up for our monthly, free newspaper-style periodical, The Purple Probe!

Give us a like on Facebook

S is for Silence by Sue Grafton


S is for Silence, Sue Grafton, 2005

(MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS)

My favorite quote: “God save us from the people who want to do what’s best for us.”

Most interesting characters: My girl, Kinsey Millhone, PI; Daisy Sullivan, the woman who hires her to find her missing mother

Opening scene: S is for Silence begins with a third-person flashback to 1953, with Liza Mellincamp recalling the last time she saw Violet Sullivan — who’s been missing ever since. This is the first time Sue Grafton uses a third-person narrative in this series. It may also be the last. I’m not sure. So far, S is for Silence is as far as I’ve made it in this series 

The gist: Private investigator Kinsey Millhone is working a case concerning a woman who went missing from a small town — Violet Sullivan, who mysteriously disappeared with her new car and yappy little dog thirty years ago 

Greatest strengths: The intrigue here is strong. In S is for Silence, the characters operate in shades of gray, making it hard to tell the goodies from the baddies — something Sue Grafton excels at 

Standout achievements: S is for Silence is the nineteenth book in the Kinsey Millhone series (and yes, I just did the alphabet on my fingers to come up with that number) and it’s also one of the strongest — easily a personal favorite. The point is, you frequently see authors losing steam (along with a big chunk of their audience) after five or six installments (nine or ten if they’re really into it) and to find Sue Grafton in such fine form at number nineteen is pretty remarkable

Fun Facts: Years ago, I read the Kinsey Millhone series through R is for Ricochet, so this is the first time I’ve read S is for Silence, and the first time I’ll get to read anything after it. I don’t think there’s another author out there who makes me happier, and I can’t wait to explore the uncharted territory of the remaining books. Because I’m a total geek, I read from an unmanageably extensive (and always ongoing) list of books I keep in a file in my phone, and every time Sue Grafton is up next, I get all giddy and scare the cats. Kinsey Millhone is my BFF and the fact that she isn’t real only adds to the fun. People who aren’t real are much easier to get along with

Other media: N/A, because apparently Sue Grafton wasn’t having it (she wasn’t a fan of Hollywood, and I don’t really blame her). That said, I’ve heard rumors that since Sue Grafton has died, her estate (or whoever is calling the shots now) is allowing production, which — assuming that’s true — I find kinda disrespectful. I mean, don’t come crying to me if Sue Grafton rises from the grave to haunt your asses, guys (again, assuming it’s true). She was very clear about her thoughts on movies being made from her books and whatnot, and like I’ve always said, don’t mess with dead people — they have nothing to lose

Additional thoughts: Although this book was written in 2005, by the time we get to S is for Silence, Kinsey Millhone exists somewhere around 1987. She was born in 1950, so she would be in her seventies now — and about 55 in S is for Silence — which, according to Sue Grafton, is decidedly too old to be sleeping around and chasing bad guys (personally, I don’t think you’re ever to old to sleep around, but I’m morally bankrupt, so don’t listen to me). Anyway, because we’re still in the 1980s, there are no cell phones or internet service in this series, forcing Kinsey Millhone to rely on good old-fashioned legwork — which I quite like. I frequently find myself rolling my eyes and thinking, ‘Oh, just Google it, for Christ’s sake!’ or, ‘Why don’t you just send a text?’ — then I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah … it’s 1987’

Hit or Miss: Hit, for sure

Haunt me: alistaircross.com

Read S is for Silence

Start at the beginning with A is for Alibi

The Midnight Ripper — Cover Reveal


The Midnight Ripper, book 4 in the Vampires of Crimson Cove series, is coming in 2022

The Monsters are Real …

Michael Ward, a vampire once dedicated to peace and harmony, lost his humanity when he gave into love — and other primal desires. 

Now he rages and murders indiscriminately … and he’s on the run.

And Sometimes, They’re Inside You … 

Cade Colter, along with renowned monster hunter, Father Vincent Scarlotti, is hot on his bloody trail, and as Michael litters the Santa Cruz Boardwalk with the ravaged bodies of his victims, Cade must keep his own demons at bay if he has any hope of stopping him … and living to tell about it 

Get books 1 – 3 in eBook, paperback, and audio at Amazon.com

The Crimson Corset, book 1
The Silver Dagger, book 2
The Black Wasp, book 3

Read Darling Girls, a companion novel to the Vampires of Crimson Cove series

Darling Girls, a companion novel to the Vampires of Crimson Cove series, with Tamara Thorne

“Put Bram Stoker in a giant cocktail shaker, add a pinch of Laurell K. Hamilton, a shot of John Carpenter, and a healthy jigger of absinthe, and you’ll end up with Alistair Cross’s modern Gothic chiller, “The Crimson Corset” – a deliciously terrifying tale that will sink its teeth into you from page one.” – Jay Bonansinga, New York Times Bestselling author of THE WALKING DEAD: INVASION and LUCID

Haunt me: alistaircross.com

The Legend of Walking Sam


Guest Alex Dolan discusses the South Dakota Sioux legend of Walking Sam, the mind-controlling spirit that made local news and the New York Times in 2015 when suicides peaked on the Pine Ridge reservation. Listen in at Thorne & Cross: Carnival Macabre.

Legends and lore, monsters and myths, hauntings and horror … bestselling authors Tamara Thorne and Alistair Cross are digging deep in their research files to bring you face-to-face with the unknown, the unusual, the bizarre … Come one, come all! 

Listen to previous shows:

The Blue Lady of the Moss Beach Distillery: On the windswept cliffs below San Francisco, walks northern California’s most famous ghost, the Blue Lady of the Moss Beach Distillery. Hosts Thorne & Cross take you back to 1927, to a speakeasy known as Frank’s Place, which was frequented by rum runners, politicians, and criminals. How did the Blue Lady die … and why does she still haunt the distillery?

Psychic Machinery: Thorne & Cross explore the world of psychic machinery — the paranormal phenomena invoked by the expectations of the living. Is it a ghost, a residual haunting, wishful thinking … or something more?

Thorne & Cross

International bestseller, Tamara Thorne

Tamara Thorne’s first novel was published in 1991, and since then she has written many more, including international bestsellers Haunted, Bad Things, Moonfall, Eternity and The Sorority. A lifelong lover of ghost stories, she is currently working on several collaborations with Alistair Cross as well as an upcoming solo novel. Learn more about her at: http://tamarathorne.com

bestselling author, Alistair Cross

Alistair Cross grew up on horror novels and scary movies, and by the age of eight, began writing his own stories. First published in 2012, he has since co-authored The Cliffhouse Haunting and Mother with Tamara Thorne and is working on several other projects. His debut solo novel, The Crimson Corset, was an Amazon bestseller. The Midnight Ripper, book 4 in The Vampires of Crimson Cove series is coming this year. Find out more about him at: http://alistaircross.com

Thorne & Cross

In collaboration, Thorne and Cross are currently writing several novels, including the next volume in the continuing gothic series, The Ravencrest Saga. Their first novel, The Cliffhouse Haunting, was an immediate bestseller. Together, they hosted the horror-themed radio show Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE! which featured such guests as Anne Rice of The Vampire Chronicles, Charlaine Harris of the Southern Vampire Mysteries and basis of the HBO series True Blood, Jeff Lindsay, author of the Dexter novels, Jay Bonansinga of The Walking Dead series, Laurell K. Hamilton of the Anita Blake novels, Peter Atkins, screenwriter of Hellraiser 2, 3, and 4, worldwide bestseller V.C. Andrews, Kim Harrison of the Hollows series, and New York Times best sellers Preston & Child, Christopher Rice, and Christopher Moore.

Currently, Thorne & Cross are hosts of Thorne & Cross: Carnival Macabre, where listeners can discover all manner of demented delights, unearth terrifying treasures, and explore the unknown. 


For book deals, updates, specials, exclusives, and upcoming shows on Thorne & Cross: Carnival Macabre, sign up for our monthly, free newspaper-style periodical, The Purple Probe!

Give us a like on Facebook

Ghost Story by Peter Straub


Ghost Story, Peter Straub, 1979

(MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS)

My favorite quote: “It seemed that if you listened to that snow hissing long enough, you wouldn’t just hear it telling you that it was waiting for you, you’d hear some terrible secret—a secret to turn your life black.” (Thanks, Peter Straub. Now I’m afraid of snow. I’ve always suspected it was evil and now there can be no doubt.)

Most interesting characters: Sears James, an attorney; Ricky Hawthorne, attorney and partner to Sears James; Lewis Benedikt, an entrepreneur (retired); John Jaffrey, a doctor; Alma Mobley, a graduate student; Eva Galli, a beautiful stranger who came to town one day and changed everything … 

Opening scene: A man named Donald Wanderley is traveling to Panama City with a young girl he has presumably kidnapped

The gist: The Chowder Society — James, Hawthorne, Benedikt, and Jaffrey — have been friends for fifty years, gathering together to tell each other ghost stories in hopes of relieving the terrible nightmares all of them suffer from. Nightmares, you ask? What’s been haunting them all these years, you ask? In short, it’s a heinous crime they committed in their past — and now the men are beginning to realize that maybe, they can’t get away with murder after all …  

Greatest strengths: I hate to make myself sound like a grumpy old man by saying they just don’t write ‘em like that anymore (technically, Ghost Story was before my time) but it’s kinda true. In Ghost Story, Peter Straub pulls out all the big guns, and he makes it look easy. I can’t think of a book that makes better use of a haunting (paranormally AND psychologically) than this one. So as much as I hate to say it, yeah, they really don’t write ‘em like that anymore. Oh yeah, and get off my lawn 

Standout achievements: There are some genuinely creepy moments in Ghost Story that you’ll remember long after you’ve finished the book. In my experience, few books have that kind of lasting power on its readers — but in Ghost Story, it’s like Peter Straub is just showing off. And I say let him do it. Ghost Story is a remarkably effective book

Fun Facts: Ghost Story was a national bestseller, and is considered to be the book that cemented Peter Straub’s reputation as one of the finest horror writers of our time

Other media: The aptly named 1981 film, Ghost Story, starring Fred Astaire, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Melvyn Douglas, John Houseman, Alice Krige, and Craig Wasson — directed by John Irvin

Additional thoughts: I read Ghost Story as a tale that’s as much (if not more) about the psychological effects of long-term guilt as a story about ghosts — a kind of Tell-Tale Heart type of thing. I’m not saying I think that’s what Peter Straub intended, but that was my interpretation of it. What’s really great about Ghost Story though, is that it doesn’t matter either way — it’s a damned good book no matter how you approach it  

Hit or Miss: Hit

Haunt me: alistaircross.com

Read Peter Straub’s Ghost Story

The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox


The Witch of Willow Hall, Hester Fox, 2018

(MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS)

My favorite quote: “Yet at the same time I want to untether my heart, toss it up into the sky and let it take wing. There’s a wildness here that, if nothing else, holds promise, possibility. Who needs society? What has it ever done for us?” (You make a pretty good point, Hester Fox)

Most interesting characters: Catherine, Emeline, and Lydia Montrose, three sisters

Opening scene: Lydia Montrose recalling a former neighborhood bully, a “vicious little imp,” called the Bishop boy, who used to throw rocks at passing carriages and attend public hangings for fun. In his defense, what else was there to do in the early 1800s, though? I mean, it’s not like they had Minecraft or Grand Theft Auto back then. They didn’t even have Frogger or Pac-Man like I did, and let’s be honest: the graphics back then were so bad I would have totally gone to public hangings too if they hadn’t gone out of fashion by then. Anyway, it was on that day, ten years before the story really begins, that Lydia Montrose first realized she had dark powers within her

The gist: It’s been like 200 years since the Salem Witch Trials, but one witch still remains. And it’s Lydia, in case you hadn’t gathered 

Greatest strengths: In The Witch of Willow Hall, Hester Fox creates the kind of gothic atmosphere that makes me feel all warm and shuddery and creepy inside. I could have crawled inside of this book and lived there

Standout achievements: The Witch of Willow Hall is, in its entirety, a standout achievement, and I’m not even kidding. It was Hester Fox’s first book, and hoo boy, does she know how it’s done. I loved every word of it and while it currently remains the only Hester Fox book I’ve read to date, you can bet your sweet, Gothic-loving asses it won’t be the last

Fun Facts: I came across this book when my collaborator, Tamara Thorne, and I were doing our podcast, Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE! We received an email from Hester Fox’s publicist asking if we’d like to have her on our show, and after hearing what The Witch of Willow Hall was about, of course we said yes. Meeting Hester Fox was a lot of fun and I loved getting the inside story of The Witch of Willow Hall. Good times were had by all … 

Other media: N/A

Additional thoughts: If you haven’t googled Hester Fox yet, do it — and look at those book covers. Those are some nice covers, I don’t care who you are. I’m particularly fond of the green cover for The Witch of Willow Hall 

Hit or Miss: Hit, for sure

Haunt me: alistaircross.com

Read The Witch of Willow Hall

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah


The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah, 2015

(MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS)

My favorite quote: “Once you’re ready to die, the plan gets easy.” (Certainly not the most uplifting line in the book, but it’s the one that stood out to me the most)

Most interesting characters: Isabelle, code name: The Nightingale; Vianne, her older sister; Gaëtan, the man Isabelle falls in love with; Wolfgang Beck, the Nazi who occupies Vianne’s home

Opening scene: It’s 1995 and an elderly terminally-ill woman wants to tell you an extraordinary story about the part she played in World War II 

The gist: Two sisters struggle to survive World War II in France. That’s the GIST of it, but it’s actually a lot better than I’m making it sound, trust me. It’s good stuff

Greatest strengths: Kristin Hannah writes some seriously fine characters — and I always love authors who know how to do that. That, more than anything else, will keep me going back to an author — and I’ll definitely go back for more Kristin Hannah. The Nightingale brims with folks I’ll never forget

Standout achievements: In The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah merges horror and romance in a way few authors are capable of. In that respect, I think The Nightingale could serve as a reminder that no matter what the external conditions are, human nature stays true to itself — and, cheesy though it may sound, love prevails (it’s not cheesy the way Kristin Hannah does it, trust me)

Fun Facts: In 2015, Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale was the Amazon Spotlight pick for the month of February 

Other media: N/A 

Additional thoughts: This is the first book by Kristin Hannah that I’ve read, and usually, I shy away from war stories, but I don’t know … something about The Nightingale spoke (ahem, sang) to me. It’s about a lot more than the war — although that’s front and center. I’ve heard it described as a story about the spirit and strength of women, and while that’s certainly true as well, I’d say The Nightingale is more encompassing than that — it’s about the HUMAN spirit. While it puts its main focus on the role of women during the war, The Nightingale isn’t a book I’d limit to any one gender — it’s about survival and the strength of humanity. I loved every word of it and if I ever meet Kristin Hannah, I’ll thank her for writing it

Hit or Miss: It’s a hit

Haunt me: alistaircross.com

Read the Nightingale

Devil’s Waltz by Jonathan Kellerman


Devil’s Waltz (#7 in the Alex Delaware series), Jonathan Kellerman, 2006

(MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS)

My favorite quote: The opening line: “It was a place of fear and myth, home of miracles and the worst kind of failure.” (I didn’t know what Jonathan Kellerman was describing right away, but soon realized it wasn’t my underwear drawer after all. Anyway, the moment I read that first line, I was like, here is a man who knows how to hook readers. And by readers, I mean me)

Most interesting characters: Alex Delaware, a forensic psychologist; Milo Sturgis, his sidekick; Cassie Jones, a child who keeps getting inexplicably ill

Opening scene: Devil’s Waltz begins with Alex Delaware being called to the hospital he used to work at. His friend and former colleague, Stephanie, has a young patient who’s suffering from continuous illnesses, and while she doesn’t like to think it, she’s beginning to suspect that the child’s mother is causing the sicknesses. She asks Alex Delaware to help her get to the bottom of things

The gist: Alex Delaware is called upon to prove that a mother is causing her twenty-one month old daughter’s mysterious illnesses — like I just said. Sometimes I feel like you’re not even listening to me 

Greatest strengths: Few writers can spend as much time on descriptions as Jonathan Kellerman and get away with it. The difference, I think, between those who can pull it off and those who can’t depends on what information they’re giving and why. Personally, I appreciate being placed firmly in the scene I’m reading, and Devil’s Waltz accomplished that throughout. I felt like I was there — and since hospitals and sick children and nasty nurses aren’t the kinds of things I’m immediately familiar with, I liked being fully steeped in that world

Standout achievements: With little Cassie’s overly-devoted nurse, a stern-faced indignant woman who takes an instant dislike to Alex Delaware, Jonathan Kellerman creates a whole new kind of tension. On one hand, I felt bad for Nurse Nelly (or whatever her name was — I can’t for the life of me remember it), but on the other, I wanted push her down a flight of stairs and blame it on the mother who was probably heading to prison anyway 

Fun Facts: I’ve never met Jonathan Kellerman, but I have had the pleasure of meeting his wife, Faye — a lovely woman and fine thriller writer herself

Other media: N/A — although films have been made from other Alex Delaware books

Additional thoughts: Unlike most books which I pick up on account of the attractive covers, I picked this one up for its name. Devil’s Waltz. It just sounds cool. I had no idea it was about Munchausen by proxy or that it was part of a series — I just liked the title. Come to find out, judging a book by its title is as effective as judging a book by its cover — Devil’s Waltz turned me into a Jonathan Kellerman fan

Hit or Miss: Hit

Haunt me: alistaircross.com

Read Devil’s Waltz

4:50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie


4:50 from Paddington, Agatha Christie, 1957

(MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS)

My favorite quote: “The truth is people are an extraordinary mixture of heroism and cowardice.” (Except me — I’m a total hero. Everyone says so)

Most interesting characters: Elspeth McGillicuddy, a train passenger who saw something she shouldn’t have; Miss Marple, the local busybody who not only believes Mrs. McGillicuddy’s story, but sets out to get to the bottom of it — because that’s what Miss Marple does … 

Opening scene: Mrs. Elspeth McGillicuddy is boarding the train that will not only take her to her desired destination but lead her down a dark path of lies, deceit, and MURDER! (I feel bad for what poor Mrs. McGillicuddy had to see on that train, but like I’ve always said: You can’t be a character in an Agatha Christie novel without expecting someone to die. Mrs. McGillicuddy should just count her lucky hens that she isn’t the corpse in question …)  

The gist: Mrs. Elspeth McGillicuddy takes the train on her way home from a shopping trip. As she’s riding along, another train momentarily runs beside hers, and in those few moments as she’s minding the business of the passengers on the other train instead of doing a crossword puzzle or something equally old-lady-ish like she should have been, she witnesses a murder. She gets home and tells her friend, Miss Marple, all about it. Unlike myself, who would have been like, “Oh, please, Elspeth! Get a grip. You didn’t see shit, you old bat — you just need a hobby!” Miss Marple believes her and decides it’s up to her find out who died, why, and most important of all, whodunit    

Greatest strengths: Of all the Agatha Christie books I’ve read, 4:50 from Paddington was one of the most fun. Agatha Christie’s morbid sense of humor shines here, especially in the scenes concerning the two young boys who really, really want to see the corpse 

Standout achievements: Unlike many of Agatha Christie’s novels, in 4:50 from Paddington, the sleuth (in this case, it’s Miss Marple) can’t just go down the street and start interrogating all the neighbors. They don’t even know where the body was dumped, so this time, Agatha Christie makes Miss Marple start from scratch — but she figured it out. I’ll tell you what, though: I wouldn’t so much as sneak a cookie out of the jar unless I was certain Miss Marple was on another continent. And even then, I’d have reservations …  

Fun Facts: 4:50 from Paddington was originally titled, What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw, which I think is the better title. I don’t know why they insist on re-titling all of Agatha Christie’s books (except for the unfortunate case of And Then There Were None, of course — that one, I agree with)

Other media: To be honest, I’m too tired to go look. I think we can just say there’s probably a million various film, television, radio, and stage adaptations of everything Agatha Christie ever wrote and leave it at that

Additional thoughts: 4:50 from Paddington is one of the first Agatha Christie books I read — after And Then There Were None and Death on the Nile — further cementing my status as a total Agatha Christie fan-boy. I love Agatha Christie so much that if she were alive today and I had the chance to meet her, I’d wear panties just so I could take them off and throw them at her and make her feel like the rockstar she is

Hit or Miss: Hit

Haunt me: alistaircross.com

Read 450 from Paddington

Join Thorne & Cross: Carnival Macabre!


We have a new page for Thorne & Cross: Carnival Macabre! Follow us on Facebook for all the new shows and updates!

Legends and lore, monsters and myths, hauntings and horror … bestselling authors Tamara Thorne and Alistair Cross are digging deep in their research files to bring you face-to-face with the unknown, the unusual, the bizarre … Come one, come all … step right up … and take a walk on the dark side at Thorne & Cross: Carnival Macabre!

Psychic Machinery: Is it a Ghost or Something More?


Thorne & Cross explore the world of psychic machinery — the paranormal phenomena invoked by the expectations of the living. Is it a ghost, a residual haunting, wishful thinking … or something more?: https://carnivalmacabre.libsyn.com/psychic-machinery

Haunt us at: tamarathorne.com and alistaircross.com

Let Your Darkness Out to Play …


The Crimson Corset” is a good read. There is a colorful cast of characters, a clever plot, and an intricate structure … there are surprises and jumps and starts, sex and death, beauty and gore, something for everyone … if you’re looking for set-up and payoff, this novel will not disappoint.”

– HELLNOTES

Full Crimson Cove series: https://amzn.to/3a6yvzk

Haunt me: alistaircross.com

The Black Death: A Personal History by John Hatcher


The Black Death: A Personal History, John Hatcher, 2008

(MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS)

My favorite quote: “PESTILENCE!” (That’s what they called the Black Death back then, and hoo-boy, did they like saying that word. “PESTILENCE!” in all caps, just like that. That’s how you have to do it. I don’t make the rules

Most interesting characters: Master John, a priest; The Black Death, a ruthless disease if ever there was one 

Opening scene: John Hatcher opens The Black Death: A Personal History with a preface titled “The Nature of this Book,” in which he describes this book as “an experiment in combining history and fiction.” 

The gist: The Black Death: A Personal History, follows fictional characters through the decidedly not-fictional world of the Black Plague 

Greatest strengths: I’ve spent my life fascinated by the Black Plague, reading everything I can get my hands on, and I have to say, John Hatcher knows his stuff. The Black Death: A Personal History goes a little deeper than most accounts, giving readers a broad picture of the devastation the Black Plague did — not only to the people who lived during that time, but the effect it had on societal practices and the economy, and the way it leveled the playing field between workers and employers 

Standout achievements: Most books that mix fiction with fact in this way don’t work for me. Often that’s because authors will take historical liberties to suit their characters’ needs. Under most circumstances, I don’t have anything against artistic license, but when you’re writing about something as globally devastating as the Black Plague, I don’t think it needs to be fictionalized in any way. That’s the kind of story that fiction can’t improve upon, and I’m happy to say that John Hatcher took no such liberties 

Fun Facts: Over the course of just three or four years, the Black Death reduced the European population from 80 million to about 30 million. That’s 50 million people dead in under five years. That’s seriously staggering. I’ve always said that if anyone in history ever had the right to think the apocalypse was truly upon them, it was those who lived during the Black Plague. Of all the historical events I’ve ever researched, the Black Plague, if you really look into it, puts things into perspective. The truth is, few of us know what real catastrophe is     

Other media: N/A (not that there’s any shortage of material out there on the subject)

Additional thoughts: While reading this book, I started playing a drinking game with myself. Every time I saw the word “PESTILENCE!” I took a shot. I was so shit-faced by the time I finished the book that I can’t remember the ending — but given the nature of the story of the Black Death, I think it’s safe to assume it probably wasn’t a happy one 

Hit or Miss: Hit

Haunt me: alistaircross.com

Read The Black Death A Personal History

Under the Lake by Stuart Woods


Under the Lake, Stuart Woods, 1987

(MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS)

My favorite quote: “Howell hung up the phone and pressed his forehead against the cool glass of the booth. The world was suddenly a different place. He wasn’t sure he liked it.” 

Most interesting characters: John Howell, a former investigative journalist; Sutherland, a strange little town that harbors dark secrets deep beneath the waters of its lake (even though there are lots of great characters in Under the Lake, I’m counting the town as a character because of the way Stuart Woods writes it)

Opening scene: It’s late at night in Sutherland, and after drinking a couple six-packs, a man named Benny Pope decides it’s time to hop on a boat and go fishing for the first time — and there, under the lake, he sees lights twinkling deep in the waters. Not just any lights, but house lights. And then he remembers — he’s seen this before … 

The gist: In short, Under the Lake tells the story of a weird little town with lots of dark secrets — and I love it. It deviates from Stuart Woods’ usual fare — but in the best way possible

Greatest strengths: Even though Under the Lake is different from his other work in a lot of ways, it retains Stuart Woods’ southern crime detective vibe that makes Stuart Woods so great, so I think fans of his other work will like this one, too

Standout achievements: Stuart Woods is a fine writer, and though a bit dated, Under the Lake is one of those books you find yourself thinking about long after you’ve finished  

Fun Facts: Under the Lake has a quote by Stephen King on its cover, stating that this book “scared the hell out of him.” That may have made Stuart Woods happy, but I’m not going to lie: I think Stephen King is a total fibber. As much as I liked Under the Lake, it’s not scary, especially by Stephen King’s standards — unless he’s a lot more easily-spooked than he seems. But I think we all know the truth: Stephen King will endorse just about anything at this point. That said, at least this time he did it for a worthy book. While it certainly isn’t going to “scare the hell” out of anyone, Under the Lake is a damned good read — one of Stuart Woods’ best

Other media: As far as I know, Chiefs and Grass Roots are the only Stuart Woods books to be adapted into film but if they ever made a movie of Under the Lake, I want to play the part of Benny Pope, who gets drunk and goes night fishing

Additional thoughts: Many reviewers are outraged — outraged! — by a plot line in Under the Lake that deals with a twelve-year-old “seductress.” While I personally don’t seem to have the energy (or even the capacity) to be outraged by imaginary people doing imaginary things, I agree it was odd. That said, I came for the intrigue, ghosts, and spooky atmosphere — and on that score, Stuart Woods didn’t disappoint 

Hit or Miss: Hit

Haunt me: alistaircross.com

Read Under the Lake

The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy


The Black Dahlia, James Ellroy,  1987

(MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS)

My favorite quote: “The longer I listened, the more they talked about themselves, interweaving their sad tales with the story of the Black Dahlia, who they actually believed to be a glamorous siren headed for Hollywood stardom. It was as if they would have traded their own lives for a juicy front-page death.”

Notable characters: Dwight “Bucky” Bliechert, a boxer-turned-police officer; Lee Blanchard, his buddy and fellow officer who becomes as obsessed with the Black Dahlia case as Bucky; Kay Lake, the woman both men are in love with (if Bucky, Kay, and Lee had Facebook pages, their relationship status would definitely say “it’s complicated.” Not that they had Facebook in the 40s — I’m pretty sure they only had MySpace then — but the point is, it’s complicated)

Most memorable scene: The discovery of Elizabeth Short’s mutilated corpse, which is not only historically accurate but written James Ellroy-style, which is to say, you won’t forget it. *shudders* I mean, who does that to a person?? Ye gads

Greatest strengths: Character development. But then, it’s James Ellroy, so that’s to be expected. The characters in The Black Dahlia — like the characters in all James Ellroy’s books — are relatable and life-like. Even when you don’t like them, you kinda like them

Standout achievements: The Black Dahlia is a crime fiction novel based on the unsolved 1947 murder of a woman named Elizabeth Short. While remaining true to the known facts, James Ellroy picks up where the real case left off, and I think he did it well. I admire that. It takes guts (no pun intended)

Fun Facts: The Black Dahlia is the first book in James Ellroy’s LA Quartet series, all of which take place in Los Angeles in the 1940s and 1950s. The books, in order, are The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, and White Jazz

Other media: There’s a 2006 movie of the same name starring Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansen, and Hilary Swank, directed by Brian De Palma. Sounds pretty good, right? Well, it isn’t. I know James Ellroy sang its praises and everything, and you can’t argue with the author’s vision — but really? It’s a hot mess, you guys. Without the hot part, though 

What it taught me: The Black Dahlia’s body was discovered by some lady taking her young daughter for a walk one day, and I’ll bet that little girl was traumatized for life. That’s why if I ever come across a woman cut in half in an empty lot near a sidewalk, I’m just going to keep walking. Let somebody else deal with that shit, you know? I mean, what are you going to do — go ask if she wants a glass of water or something? She’s cut in half. I doubt very much that people who are cut in half even get thirsty, so there’s really nothing you can do for her. So, that’s what this book taught me: to mind my own business and just keep walking 

How it inspired me: James Ellroy’s writing ‘voice’ is one of things that has made his work so famous — and it’s the kind that gets into your head. Sometimes, I still wake up with James Ellory whispering in my ear and I’m like, “Dammit, James Ellroy! Shush!” But he doesn’t shush … he just keeps talking and talking 

Additional thoughts: I know everyone thinks they’ve pegged the Black Dahlia’s murderer (including James Ellroy) but I’m not entirely convinced they’ve got the guy. I think there are too many missing pieces (no pun intended) to wrap it up just yet. What really amazes me is that no one has even considered the possibility that aliens were involved. I mean, there’s no proof it wasn’t aliens and that can only mean only one thing, right? It was definitely aliens

Hit or miss: Hit. Because it’s James Ellroy

Haunt me: alistaircross.com

Read The Black Dahlia

The Firm by John Grisham


The Firm, John Grisham, 1991

(MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS)

My favorite quote: “If you don’t think about death, you don’t appreciate life.” 

Most interesting characters: Mitch McDeere, a bright-eyed young lawyer with a great future in front of him; Abby McDeere, his wife

Opening scene: Royce McKnight, senior partner at Bendini, Lambert, & Locke law firm, is looking over Mitch McDeere’s resume, thinking how perfect he’d be for their firm. How perfect and white and male — because that’s how they do things at Bendini, Lambert & Locke. They’re very particular, you see. I’m just surprised they didn’t check him for hemorrhoids before hiring him on 

The gist: A young lawyer’s dream job becomes his worst nightmare. Personally, I think working for any law firm sounds like a nightmare (can you imagine all that boring paperwork?) but this one is really, really bad. Like, life and death bad 

Greatest strengths: John Grisham’s books always give readers solid insight into the world of lawyers and law — which is cool, if that’s your thing. Personally, I always feel lost and think there ought to be a map or something at the beginning of the book, like the ones they put in all those really long, boring sci-fi novels, but that’s no fault of John Grisham’s or The Firm. I’m just very left-brained or whatever they call it, and have a hard time reading about people in suits doing stuff in offices and courtrooms — but if navigating the world of the American justice system is your bag, John Grisham’s The Firm will probably leave you pretty breathless and whatnot 

Standout achievements: The Firm is one of those rare books that shot to superstardom and put John Grisham on the map, opening up a whole new world that readers hadn’t really seen before. And if you don’t know the story about how it got so famous, look it up. Interesting stuff (there’s a great video on YouTube with Stephen King and John Grisham where he talks about it — the whole thing is just pure entertainment. I mean, Stephen King and John Grisham on stage together? Whhhaaaaat?? It’s a definite must-see)  

Fun Facts: John Grisham is one of only three authors to have sold 2 million copies on first printing (the other two being J.K. Rowling and Tom Clancy) and has written 28 consecutive number one bestsellers

Other media: The 1993 film, The Firm, starring Tom Cruise (because who else?) Jeanne Tripplehorne (whose name always sounds very painful to me) Holly Hunter (whose accent makes me feel kinda tingly in funny places) Ed Harris (who has the biggest, most handsome bald head in all of Hollywood, I don’t care who you are) Gene Hackman (whose name also sounds very painful to me) David Strathairn (who got exactly what he deserved in Dolores Claiborne) and Hal Holbrook (who stole my heart in The Fog and has had my undying hero worship ever since he fed his drunk wife Billie to that thing in the crate in Creepshow) 

Additional thoughts: After hearing more than one person name The Firm as the “best book they’ve ever read,” I decided to give it a go. I was underwhelmed. Then I watched the movie, which pretty much went in one eye and out the other. I guess I just don’t get it — but I will say that John Grisham is a fine writer who knows how to tell a good story. It’s just not the kind of story that captures me. It might be that it was talked up so much, but I found myself wanting to re-paint the walls so I could watch them dry instead

Hit or Miss: Miss — but that’s on me, not the book 

Haunt me: alistaircross.com

Read The Firm by John Grisham

Whistle for the Crows by Dorothy Eden


Whistle for the Crows, Dorothy Eden, 1962

(MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS)

My favorite quote: “It only took the forlorn sound of the baby crying to complete her loss of morale.” (I really identified with this because I, too, have felt much loss of morale at the sounds of shrieking babies — especially at Walmart when my spirits are already at their most vulnerable) 

Most interesting characters: Cathleen Lamb, a grieving widow looking for a new life, Liam and Rory O’Riordan, two brothers who both desire her — and one of which may or may not be a dastardly villain (it is a Gothic romance, after all …) 

Opening scene: Cathleen wakes up to the very unmusical sounds of that damned crying baby (and right away, Dorothy Eden sucks me into the story because I, too, have been rudely awakened many times by the sounds of inconsiderate babies while trying to nap. At Walmart

The gist: A grieving young widow (that would be Cathleen Lamb) is hired by nasty old biddy, Tilly O’Riordan, who wants Cathleen to help her research and write the O’Riordan family history. They live in a castle at the edge of the moors, of course, because unbeknownst to them, they exist in a Gothic romance novel, a fact that completely flies over their heads even though the previous heir was killed in a suspicious fall three years earlier (side note: I fall all the time and don’t die — people in Gothic Romance novels are such feeble creatures) 

Greatest strengths: Even though no one in Whistle for the Crows seems to realize they’re living in a Gothic romance novel, I like them. I mean, sure, they’re kind of dense (if I took a job in an Irish castle for some rich people with sinister family secrets and was immediately advanced upon by two darkly handsome brothers rivaling for my attentions, I would have to at least consider the possibility that I MIGHT be in a Gothic romance novel) but they’re otherwise well-developed and interesting characters. I think that’s Dorothy Eden’s strong suit  

Standout achievements: In Whistle for the Crows, Dorothy Eden manages to cram in all the expected Gothic romance novel tropes without it feeling tired and stale. Instead, it feels fresh and new somehow and I thoroughly enjoyed it. That said, I’m a bit disappointed that I haven’t found at least one edition that features a woman in a nightgown running away from a house on the cover. That kinda pisses me off, but otherwise I dig it

Fun Facts: Dorothy Eden’s middle name was Enid. Heh. Dorothy Enid Eden. That would be like if my middle name was Baluster. Alistair Baluster Cross. Okay, so it’s not exactly the same thing, but my point still stands 

Other media: None, but I have half a mind to make Whistle for the Crows into a trilogy myself and hit Netflix up for a series. Books two and three (I’ve already picked out their titles: Scream at the Pigeons and Whisper to the Red-Bellied Woodpecker) would be a little more action-oriented. I’m thinking zombies. I mean, who wouldn’t love a bunch of walking corpses ambling around in a big Irish castle whilst a bunch of rich folks have secret affairs and squabble over the family fortune? With the advent of zombies, at least then there would be some kind of explanation for all the strange sounds coming from the basement. And hoo-boy, you thought that baby was a nuisance before the arrival of the walking dead? Just wait till that little brat gets a load of Dead Ethel (she’s the leader of the zombies, and it just so happens she loves babies). Anyway,  I think Netflix is going to love it  

Additional thoughts: I never did understand the title. I mean, what does Dorothy Eden mean by “Whistle for the Crows?” Why not just call it “Go Stand Over There” or “Look at my Foot?”

Hit or Miss: Hit. I love Dorothy Eden

Haunt me: alistaircross.com

Read Whistle for the Crows by Dorothy Eden

Misery by Stephen King


Misery, Stephen King, 1987

My favorite quote: “That was it. In Annie’s view all the people in the world were divided into three groups: brats, poor poor things… and Annie.” (I think I’ve met more than a couple of Annies in my life, but that’s another story for another book review …)

Most interesting characters: Paul Sheldon, famous author of the Misery Chastain novels, Annie Wilkes, his number one fan

Opening scene: Misery begins with Paul Sheldon coming to after a car accident in the snowy mountains, as a woman — Annie Wilkes — breathes life back into him with a stomach-churning effort at mouth-to-mouth resuscitation 

The gist: Paul Sheldon’s most famous character, Misery Chastain, is dead, and to that, Paul says, ‘good riddance, you naggy little wench!’ Former nurse Annie Wilkes, on the other hand, isn’t so happy about it. In fact, she’s furious. That would be fine with Paul (no author REALLY cares if readers are upset when their characters die — they like that!) except for the fact that he’s under Annie’s constant watch now. She rescued him from a near-fatal accident and nursed him back to some degree of health … but Paul soon realizes he’s a prisoner in Annie’s isolated mountain home — a prisoner who will, by God, write the book that Annie wants 

Greatest strengths: I think we can probably all agree that the strongest element of Misery is Stephen King’s character, Annie Wilkes. Annie Wilkes is a fully-rounded, emotionally unstable psychopath who knows very well what her favorite author OUGHT to be writing. And if she has to show him the way with an ax and a blow torch, well — so be it. It’s for the greater good. And she wasn’t wrong. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said, “Use an ax and a blow torch,” when someone asks for my guidance on one thing or another. Everything from stocking up on firewood for cold winters to relationship advice to getting a waiter’s attention during the lunch rush — nine times out of ten, an ax and a blow torch is the answer     

Standout achievements: In Misery, Stephen King takes stalking to a new level. I mean, it’s one thing to scream your uninvited opinions at your favorite author on social media — we ALL do that — but to save them from a car accident and drag them home with you? In my opinion, Annie Wilkes could have handled things differently. She should have showed up at the scene of the accident and made Paul Sheldon promise right then and there that he’d write the book she wanted. After he promised, she could have commenced saving his life then sent him on his way. It certainly would have spared everyone a lot of trouble  

Fun Facts: Because the scene involving the ax and the blow torch was so gruesome in the book, they decided to take a gentler tack for the movie. And by gentler, I mean that Annie Wilkes places a board between Paul Sheldon’s ankles and bashes him at the joints with a sledgehammer so he can’t get away from her. That’s love, right there. I mean, to be so enamored of someone that you’d go to those lengths to keep them with you … it’s just beautiful. You’ll want to keep the Kleenex handy for that one — I wept like a baby. I’ve always said that Stephen King is the best romance writer of our time and that’s why — because when it comes to true love, he gets it

Other media: In 1990, they made Stephen King’s Misery into a movie (also called Misery) which stars the perfectly-cast Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes and the almost-as-perfectly-cast James Caan as Paul Sheldon

Additional thoughts: The scenario that Stephen King sets up in Misery isn’t as uncommon as one might think. There are a lot of Paul Sheldons and Annie Wilkes out there and as a writer myself, I have to constantly be on the lookout. You never know when you might catch the wrong eye, you know? Indeed, even as I write this review, my own pet author, international bestseller, Tamara Thorne, is weepily penning the tale of a torrid love-triangle between an emotionally scarred investment accountant, a shape-shifting ladybug, and the Lucky Charms leprechaun. I’ve always wanted to read a book about that. Ms. Thorne has been struggling with this one, but I cheer her on by pointedly eyeing the ax and blow torch I keep next to the desk. Again — and I can’t stress this enough — the answer is always an ax and a blow torch  

Hit or Miss: Hit. Stephen King, for all his brilliance, seriously outdid himself with Misery. I’ve read it half a dozen times and will easily read it half a dozen more. I only wish he’d write a sequel. *eyes the ax and blow torch as an idea begins to form …* 

Haunt me: alistaircross.com

Read Stephen King’s Misery

Today’s the Day!


Today’s the day!

Books 1 – 3 in The Ravencrest Saga are available today as a boxed set for only $9.99!: https://tinyurl.com/yjy36u9h

Book 1: THE GHOSTS OF RAVENCREST

Ravencrest Manor is the most beautiful thing new governess, Belinda Moorland, has ever seen, but as she learns more about its tangled past of romance and terror, she realizes that beauty has a dark side. Ravencrest is built on secrets, and its inhabitants seem to be keeping plenty of their own — from the English butler, Grant Phister, to the power-mad administrator, Mrs. Heller, to Belinda’s mysterious and handsome new employer, Eric Manning, who watches her with dark, fathomless eyes. But Belinda soon realizes that the living who dwell in Ravencrest have nothing on the other inhabitants — the ones who walk the darkened halls by night … the ones who enter her dreams … the ones who are watching … and waiting …

Book 2: THE WITCHES OF RAVENCREST

Governess Belinda Moorland has settled into life at Ravencrest and, as summer gives way to autumn, romance is in the air. She and multi-millionaire Eric Manning are falling in love … but powerful forces will stop at nothing to keep them apart. As the annual Harvest Ball is set to begin, evil abounds at Ravencrest. Murder lurks in the shadows, evil spirits freely roam the halls, a phantom baby cries, signaling a death in the mansion, and in the notoriously haunted east wing, three blood-soaked nuns, Sisters Faith, Hope, and Charity, tend to the demented needs of a maid gone mad. Ravencrest has come to life. In the gardens below, granite statues dance by moonlight, and a scarecrow goes on a killing rampage, collecting a gruesome assortment of body parts from unwilling donors … But Belinda’s greatest danger is the vengeful spirit of Rebecca Dane. Once the mistress of Ravencrest, Rebecca Dane has a centuries-old axe to grind with the powerful witch, Cordelia Heller — and Belinda becomes her weapon of choice.

Book 3: EXORCISM

In the 1920s, Henry Manning ruled Ravencrest with an iron fist. He held debauched parties that would have inspired Jay Gatsby himself. From the Manning fortune to a beautiful wife, the silent film star known as the White Violet, Henry had it all … including a loyal cult that worshipped him, and the demon Forneus. Violet lost her life putting a stop to the demented perversions that Henry and his demonic familiar visited upon Ravencrest … but now that evil has returned. In the night, an innocent maid is seduced by a demon lover. A child is born, but it is not of this earth. Father Antonio DeVargas is summoned as ghostly parties light up the old poolhouse and phantom screams rip open the night. Meanwhile, the White Violet wanders the halls of Ravencrest warning the inhabitants of death and disaster to come. . . and the current master of Ravencrest, Eric Manning, is decidedly not himself.


Order it now at: https://tinyurl.com/yjy36u9h

The Entity by Frank de Felitta


The Entity, Frank de Felitta, 1978

My favorite quote: “It was neither dream nor reality. And who in the whole apartment, who in the entire city of Los Angeles, could tell her what it was?” (I’ll tell you what it is, lady — it’s a horny ghost, that’s what it is)

Most interesting characters: Carlotta Moran, a single mother who’s somehow caught the eye of one of those pesky randy demons that are always going around in books and movies putting their grubby little spectral hands on people just because they can

Opening scene: Frank de Felitta starts The Entity off with a bang, opening with a statement from Jorge (Jerry) Rodriguez, reporting that he saw Carlottta Moran being molested by an unseen entity in bed. It was nice of him to go file a report or whatever. If it was me, I probably would have just assumed she was still reeling from my sexual prowess from hours before and gone back to sleep

The gist: A young mother of three is attacked night after night in bed by a serial rapist that no one can see. While her psychiatrist — who really creeps me out, btw — thinks she’s psychotic, two parapsychology students have a different take on it. They think Carlotta is being attacked by an otherworldly entity, which apparently happened all the time in the 70s if the books and movies of that era are to be believed. And they are. Books and movies are always to be believed. Especially when they have rapey ghosts in them

Greatest strengths: I liked The Entity’s old-school horror vibe. That said, I have questions. For starters, since ghosts are dead people and dead people can’t reproduce, why are they always so horny? If I were a ghost, I’d like to think I’d have more pressing matters to attend to than feeling people up in their sleep. I mean, can you imagine how much Downton Abbey you could binge if you were dead? No way would I be going around squishing boobs and stuff. I mean, boobs are cool and all, but come on … boobs, Downton Abbey, boobs, Downton Abbey. I know how I’d spend MY eternity

Standout achievements: Even though I wouldn’t go around squishing boobs and stuff like the ghost in The Entity (I shouldn’t be so judgy — maybe the entity was a twelve-year-old boy who never got the chance to feel a real boob before) Frank de Felitta got me fully invested in the story — an earmark of great writing

Fun Facts: Sprectophilia is the name of the fetish for people who are turned on by ghosts or the alleged sexual ecounters between ghosts and humans. Of all the fetishes out there, that can’t be a very common one, right? I mean, I’ve never even thought about a ghost naked, let alone being touched inappropriately by one (well, I am NOW, but I never thought of it BEFORE now.) The point is, spectrophilia is a real thing, but it probably isn’t very common. Definitely not as common as, say, the old naughty nurse turning into a werewolf while she takes your temperature (the hard way) fantasy. Just for example …  

Other media: The Entity was made into a 1982 film starring Barbara Hershey. It was directed by Sidney J. Furie and written by Frank de Felitta, who adapted it from his novel. The Entity was absolutely groundbreaking for the ghost-squishing-a-boob scene and set the course for many a ghost-squishing-a-boob scene to come

Additional thoughts: I picked up The Entity after reading Frank de Felitta’s novel of reincarnation, Audrey Rose, which I really liked, despite that annoying little girl who was constantly screaming “HOT!HOT!HOT!” and crying about fire and stuff. I’ll do a review of her later (and when I do I’ll tell you guys just how annoying she was) but the point is, I liked Audrey Rose so I bought The Entity and I liked that, too — even though I really wish the ghost would have done more than just squish boobs the whole time

P.S.: Frank de Felitta based The Entity on the allegedly true 1974 case of Doris Bither, who, according to parapsychologist, Barry Taff, was one of the strongest poltergeist agents he’d ever encountered. Taff is represented in The Entity as one of the grad students investigating the case

Hit or Miss: Hit

Haunt me: alistaircross.com

Read The Entity

The Omen by David Seltzer


The Omen, David Seltzer, 1976

My favorite quote: “It happened in a millisecond. A movement in the galaxies that should have taken eons occurred in the blinking of an eye.” 

Most interesting characters: Jeremy Thorn, the coldly ambitious United States Ambassador to England and adoptive father of the sweet-faced, cherub-cheeked antichrist; Katherine Thorn, the scowling-one-minute-and-manic-the-next mother to said sweet-faced, cherub-cheeked antichrist; Damien Thorn, the sweet-faced, cherub-cheeked antichrist himself; Father Tassone, a priest who tries to put a stop to Damien’s master plan

Opening scene: Jeremy Thorn is waiting in a room at a hospital in Rome where his wife, Katherine, is having a baby. Eventually, the hospital chaplain comes in and basically says, “Look dude, we have good news and bad news. The bad news is, your baby’s dead. BUT … your wife doesn’t know that because we didn’t tell her! And as luck would have it, we just happen to have a brand-spanking new baby whose mother died in childbirth in another room, so why don’t you just take this one and we’ll call it good?” To which Jeremy reluctantly replies, “Sure, why not?” (I’m paraphrasing here, but you get the idea). So Jeremy and Katherine go home with their new son who isn’t actually their son (but Katherine doesn’t know that) and they name him Damien  

The gist: Damien isn’t like other children. I mean, he kinda is — he’s annoying and bratty like other children, but he’s, like, extra, extra rude. Probably because he’s evil — a fact that his adoptive father Jeremy Thorn, slowly begins to realize after Damien causes the death of his nanny, and later, his mother’s unborn child. Also, he throws tantrums when he gets close to a church, zoo animals are terrified of him, his real mother was a jackal, and the only person who can stand him is his new nanny, Mrs. Blaylock, and that’s only because she’s an agent of the devil. Come to think of it, he really isn’t all that different from other children, but the point is, he’s the antichrist, and as Jeremy — along with a twitchy photographer and a stalkery priest — try to put a stop to his plans of world domination, humanity hangs in the balance and it’s really stressful for everyone involved. Except Damien. He’s got 99 things to do today and giving a fuck ain’t one of them 

Greatest strengths: David Seltzer’s prose is sharp and clear. Unlike that little shit, Damien, who thinks he can do whatever he wants, you can tell David Seltzer is disciplined and put some pretty hard work into The Omen. I say that because simplifying complicated plots and situations is not an easy task. David Seltzer makes it look easy 

Standout achievements: With the exception of the endless plethora of “The Exorcism of (insert random girl’s name here)” books and movies out there, I’m a sucker for religious-themed horror, and The Omen is one of the reasons why. David Seltzer did it right. The Omen is intriguing, imaginative, and above all else, actually pretty scary. Especially Damien. As someone who is repulsed by children in general, I may not be the best judge, but that was one seriously effed-up little dude 

Fun Facts: David Seltzer may like writing about evil little bastards like Damien Thorn, but he also has a soft side. His credits include Lucas, the 1986 teen movie starring Corey Haim, Charlie Sheen, and Winona Ryder, Punchline with Tom Hanks and Sally Field (who used to be a flying nun — a fact that’s just a little too coincidental for my taste) and Shining Through with Melanie Griffith and Michael Douglas, which I don’t think anyone’s ever heard of

Other media: Okay guys … gird your loins because this is going to take a minute … *ahem* … The Omen was first adapted into a film in 1976 starring Gregory Peck and Lee Remick (Mmm … Lee Remick …)  which spawned the sequels Damien: The Omen II, Omen III: The Final Conflict, and Omen IV: The Awakening. In 2006, The Omen was adapted into film again, this time starring Liev Schreiber, Mia Farrow, and Julia Stiles (if there’s one actress who leaves me cold, it’s Julia Stiles — but her icy, nasty, emotionally detached portrayal of Katherine Thorn didn’t bother me.) It worked in the movie because, I mean, you’d probably be a little crabby too if you were trying to raise the devil’s spawn while your husband was out gallivanting around at political lunches like he’s all important and stuff. Sometimes I go around glaring and sniping and scowling just like Julia Stiles in every Julia Stiles movie ever made and all I have is a cat, so I can’t judge. Anyway, there was also a Netflix series, Damien, starring Barbara Hershey and Bradley James in 2016, and there have been several documentaries about The Omen. (You’re probably getting as winded as I am by now, but I’m almost done, I promise.) Those documentaries are as follows: 666: The Omen – Revealed, The Omen: Legacy, and The Curse of The Omen. Long story short (too late) a lot of people have seriously cashed in on David Seltzer’s book about the antichrist 

Additional thoughts: You know, this is exactly why I don’t have children. Not only are they sticky, moist, and rather dense, but — as David Seltzer clearly illustrates in The Omen — they’re evil, too. I mean, I have nothing against a child taking out an annoying nanny or two, but I think Damien got a little carried away with this whole “I’m-going-to-rule-all-of-humanity” thing. 

What it taught me: That you should never, ever, take random babies home from the hospital  

Hit or Miss: Hit

Haunt me: alistaircross.com 

Read The Omen by David Seltzer

The Clocks by Agatha Christie


The Clocks, Agatha Christie, 1963

My favorite quote: “One gets infected, it is true, by the style of a work that one has been reading.” (Which is probably why I feel so compelled to kill so many folks in my books when I read Agatha Christie — which is frequently. From now on, when my dead characters start bitching and moaning that they’re dead, I’m telling them to it take it up with Agatha Christie)

Most interesting characters: Sheila Webb, a typist who makes a ghastly discovery; Hercule Poirot, the only man who can solve the crime

Opening scene: Miss Martindale, Principal at the Cavendish Secretarial and Typewriting Bureau (who nags her underlings a little too much for my taste) sends Sheila Webb to the home of an elderly blind woman, Miss Pebmarsh, to take dictation. Sheila is told to just walk in if Miss Pebmarsh isn’t there … which she does (I’d fault her for that if she weren’t in an Agatha Christie novel, but she is, so you gotta do you gotta do)

The gist: When typist Sheila Webb begins her new assignment, the last thing she expects to find (though I don’t know why it should surprise her — she IS in an Agatha Christie book, after all. She knew the risks!) is a well-dressed corpse (we’ll call him Mr. Deadbody) with a stab-wound to the chest surrounded by clocks. She promptly shrieks, throws her hands up, and flees the house (but not before the blind Miss Pebmarsh arrives, nearly stepping on the corpse — the whole thing is quite a debacle, guys) and in her panic, runs right into Colin Lamb, an intelligence specialist working a nearby case. He checks things out, assessing that it is indeed a homicide scene (I guess Sheila wasn’t quite sharp enough to draw that conclusion herself) and enlists the only man he knows of that might be able to figure it out. And that man, of course, is … wait for it … Agatha Christie’s most famous detective, Hercule Poirot!

Greatest strengths: Of all the Agatha Christie books I’ve read (which is a lot at this point) this one, The Clocks, features one of the most intriguing set-ups. What’s the deal with the clocks surrounding Mr. Deadbody? Is there a reason that four of the six of them are stopped at 4:13, exactly one hour ahead of the actual time? Mr. Lamb and company are very perplexed … and so is the reader. And by reader, I mean me. I was perplexed. Not to say I’m not easily perplexed (I still can’t figure out where Walmart keeps their dramamine, for Christ’s sake) but this was a real head-scratcher

Standout achievements: In The Clocks, Agatha Christie seamlessly weaves together two unlikely plots: the murder of Mr. Deadbody, of course, and a spy passing information to the enemy during the Cold War. She juggles both perfectly, tying them neatly together, and thus proving, once again, who the master is (hint: It’s Agatha Christie. Agatha Christie is the master)

Fun Facts: The Clocks is the second Agatha Christie book I read that featured Hercule Poirot. The first (because I just can’t read series books right, no matter how hard I try) was Curtain, which is the book that (spoiler alert) Hercule Poirot dies in. After finishing Curtain, I was like, ‘Well, that was a drag …’ and then I discovered The Clocks and it was like someone had resurrected Hercule Poirot just as sure as they did Jesus. I was stoked. For Poirot, not Jesus. Not that there’s anything wrong with Jesus, but I don’t really know Him. But I’m sure He’s a great guy  

Other media: I started trying to find out how many radio, television, and film adaptations have been made of The Clocks, and was so overwhelmed by the endless stream of Agatha Christie adaptations that I got all sweaty and nervous and had to take a Xanax — and now I can barely even keep up with my full-time job of petting my cat. Suffice it to say, there’s a lot. And not just of The Clocks but of all Agatha Christie books. Seriously. Look it up. But don’t be eyeballing my Xanax. Get your own

Additional thoughts: I read somewhere that Agatha Christie eventually grew tired of her detective, Hercule Poirot, and in fact, tried killing him early, but the powers that be wouldn’t let her do it. Whether that’s true or not, it definitely seems like Poirot was an afterthought in some of her later books — including The Clocks. You kind of get the feeling she just stuffed him in there to shut her publisher up (I think we all know how that goes, right?) Anyway, Hercule Poirot just kind of whooshes in at the end of The Clocks, figures things out, and goes on his merry, mustachioed way, making his entire Presence in The Clocks feel a little forced. Now … I know a lot of folks begrudge Agatha Christie her eventual disinterest in Hercule Poirot, but seriously, think about it: he was in 33 novels, two plays, and more than 50 short stories from 1920 to 1975. That’s 55 years. FIFTY-FIVE YEARS! To be honest, I’d be pretty sick of him, too. On the bright side, Hercule Poirot was the only fictional character to receive a front-page obituary in the New York Times when Agatha Christie finally did kill his sorry ass  

Hit or Miss: Hit 

Haunt me: alistaircross.com

Read The Clocks

Look at all the Agatha Christie adaptations (have your Xanax handy):

First Peek at “TMR”


Here is my first book quote from the upcoming 4th book in the Crimson Cove series, “TMR.” (Although if you look at the little book cover in the corner, you can see the the book title. There. I did a title reveal.)

Get the first three books in the series: https://amzn.to/3a6yvzk

Body Language by Julius Fast


Body Language, Julius Fast, 1967

My favorite quote: “The inheritance of instinct is not a simple matter, nor is the process of learning simple. It is difficult to pinpoint just how much of any system of communication is inherited and how much is learned. Not all behavior is learned, any more than it is all inherited, even in humans.” (This sent me down a rabbit-hole or two, let me tell you. Thanks, Julius Fast. I should have been writing or finishing my cross-stitch “Jesus Playing with Bunnies” quilt — but no. Instead, I was reading about inherited versus learned body language and human behavior) 

Most interesting characters: As a non-fiction book, Body Language doesn’t really have ‘characters’ in it (unless you count Julius Fast) so I really wish you’d stop asking me to name the characters in books that very clearly don’t have any (it’s like talking to a brick wall, you guys)

Opening scene: Julius Fast’s Body Language opens with a chapter called, ‘The Body is a Message,’ which sums up the basics of the science of non-verbal communication, thus setting the stage for the rest of the book

The gist: Body Language centers on the science of kinesics wherein author Julius Fast, a pre-med major at New York University, breaks down the unconscious physical signals telegraphed by human beings of the 1970s 

Greatest strengths: While Body Language is readable and moderately interesting, I didn’t come away with any real new insights. Not only because it’s impossible to exist on this planet for a while without picking up the basic clues covered in this book, but because, despite the promises it makes, Body Language doesn’t offer anything concrete. Because it can’t. Body language means different things from different people at different times under different circumstances. That man folding his arms? He’s mad, right? Not necessarily. Maybe he’s cold, you judgy jerk. Is he closed off to your ideas? Maybe. Or maybe that’s just a comfortable position for him. Again, quit being so judgy, you jackass. You don’t know him! The point is, body language in and of itself is a tenuous communicator at best. I’m more inclined to put my eggs in the instinct basket. Meaning that I’ve gotten a lot more mileage from taking note of those quiet little internal knee-jerk responses I get from people and situations. Language (including body language) shifts and evolves, but instinct, in my experience, never lies  

Standout achievements: I’m sure this book was pretty groundbreaking when it was first published about 60 years ago (it sold three million copies and was the first of its kind to use the phrase ‘body language’) but it’s pretty old hat now. That said, despite some very serious thank-you-Captain-Obvious moments (see that lady scowling? She’s not happy) I think Julius Fast did a fair job conveying the information. But if it has a “standout” achievement, it has to be that vintage cover with the vintage woman on it (assuming you find the same copy I did). I love it. As a matter of fact, I think I’ll make that my next cross-stitch pattern (but not till I’m done with my “Jesus Playing with Bunnies” quilt, which I’ve already put seven and a half years into — I’m almost done with the Lord’s holy face and although He looks more like Charles Manson than the Savior right now, I will not rest until it is done. I figure, worst case, I’ll make it “Charles Manson Playing with Bunnies” and pretend I meant to do it that way all along.) But I digress (which is a fancy way of saying I can’t focus on shit and went into left field again.) The point is, Julius Fast’s Body Language is a decent book. If you’re looking to learn how the ancient peoples of the 1970s communicated without words, Body Language might the book for you

Fun Facts: in 1946, Julius Fast was the very first recipient of the Edgar Award (given by the Mystery Writers of America) for best first novel. As a side note, in 1946, my mother wasn’t even a twinkle in my grandma’s eye. Not that my grandma’s eyes twinkled very often. It was more like they kind of just … drilled holes into you. Unless she’d been drinking. Then they twinkled.  Oh, you’ve never seen a happier, brighter-eyed woman driving me to school on the days my mother was out with another one of her “headaches.” Good times. But again, I digress …  

Other media: It would be awesome if they made Julius Fast’s Body Language into a movie. Just a bunch of people moving around silently. Wait, they did that. It was called the 1920s. Sigh. You know, sometimes, it’s like every single good idea I have is already taken. It’s just horseshit is what it is 

Additional thoughts: For some reason the name Julius Fast makes my mouth water. Probably because it makes me think of drinking an Orange Julius really fast, which also gives me phantom brain-freeze. And that puts me in the perfect state of mind to go lay down some serious work on my “Jesus/Chuck Manson Playing with Bunnies” cross-stitch 

Hit or Miss: Eh, let’s just put it somewhere right down the middle and call it good. I liked it but it could have been bigger and more stimulating (that’s what she said)

Haunt me: alistaircross.com

Read Body Language

After Midnight by Richard Laymon


After Midnight, Richard Laymon, 1997

My favorite quote: “My eyes are brown. So are my teeth. Just kidding about the teeth.”

Most interesting characters: Alice, who’s real name isn’t Alice; The intruder  

Opening scene: Alice, enjoying a quiet night alone while house-sitting for a friend. But let’s be honest: After Midnight IS a Richard Laymon book, so you know it’s not going stay quiet for long (see below)

The gist: After Midnight follows a mysterious young woman who calls herself Alice. Alice is house-sitting for a friend when, one night, she sees a strange naked man jumping into the outdoor pool. Alice just knows he’s out to get her — she knows all about men and what they can do. Deciding she’ll never be a victim again, she retrieves the Civil War cavalry saber that hangs on the wall in the living room … and a night of bloody terror begins … 

Greatest strengths: Here’s what I admire most about Richard Laymon: His absolute and unrepentant absurdity. He KNOWS he’s being over-the-top, and you know he knows it, but you’re still like, ‘Really, Richard Laymon? Really?’ And After Midnight isn’t even one of the craziest

Standout achievements: After Midnight has some seriously good character development. That can’t be said about all Richard Laymon books, but this one excels at it 

Fun Facts: Some of Richard Laymon’s earlier books were published under the pseudonym Richard Kelly

Other media: None I know of, but personally, I think After Midnight would make an awesome video game. You could be Alice, running around looking for weapons, gaining power by having inappropriately-timed animalistic relations with everyone in your path, slaughtering your way to safety. It could be a movie, too, but I gotta be honest: There’s no way a Richard Laymon movie would fly in this climate

Additional thoughts: Here’s the thing about After Midnight (and really, pretty much all Richard Laymon books) — you have to go in knowing what it is. I mean, it’s definitely a horror novel, yes, but it’s a very specific kind of horror. If I had to break it down, I’d say that the majority of Richard Laymon’s tales can only be described as deranged slashery misadventures with lots of sex, shock, and gore thrown in just because. After Midnight definitely fits into this category. You’ll either love it or hate it, depending on your own sensibilities — but one thing is sure: You won’t forget it

Hit or Miss: After Midnight was a hit … for me. It might be for you, too — but only if you like your horror campy, brash, and oozing with the blackest kind of black comedy  

Haunt me: alistaircross.com

Read After Midnight

The Blue Lady of the Moss Beach Distillery


On the windswept cliffs below San Francisco, walks northern California’s most famous ghost, the Blue Lady of the Moss Beach Distillery. Hosts Thorne & Cross take you back to 1927, to a speakeasy known as Frank’s Place, which was frequented by rum runners, politicians, and criminals. How did the Blue Lady die … and why does she still haunt the distillery?

Find out at Thorne & Cross: Carnival Macabre

Legends and lore, monsters and myths, hauntings and horror … bestselling authors Tamara Thorne and Alistair Cross are digging deep in their research files to bring you face-to-face with the unknown, the unusual, the bizarre … Come one, come all … step right up … and take a walk on the dark side at Thorne & Cross: Carnival Macabre …

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager


The Last Time I Lied, Riley Sager, 2018

My favorite quote: “Although their eventual fate remains a mystery, I’m certain that what happened to those girls is all my fault.”

Most interesting characters: Emma Davis, a painter with a past; Francesca Harris-White, a socialite who encourages Emma to return to the past 

Opening scene: Camp Nightingale, fifteen years ago — and as always, Riley Sager sets the scene perfectly

The gist: The Last Time I Lied is Riley Sager’s sophomore suspense novel — and a shining success, if you ask me. Fifteen years ago, at Camp Nightingale, three of Emma Davis’ friends disappeared in the woods. Now a rising star in the New York City art scene, Emma puts her memories of that summer into her paintings, intriguing and frightening viewers. When her work catches the attention of Camp Nightingale’s new owner, who encourages Emma to return to the camp as a painting counselor, Emma thinks she’ll find closure. But what she really discovers are more secrets than you can shake a stick at — including the truth about what happened to those girls all those years ago. If you liked Riley Sager’s first suspense novel, Final Girls, The Last Time I Lied will be up your alley

Greatest strengths: Riley Sager builds intrigue as if he’d invented it himself. This is true of all his novels, but in The Last Time I Lied, I was like, “Whaaaat is going on!?” And I like books that make me go, “Whaaaat is going on!?”

Standout achievements: Of all the  “Whaaaat is going on!?” moments in The Last Time I Lied, the unexpected ending was the most  “Whaaaat is going on!?” moment of them all. This is my third Riley Sager novel and I’m thoroughly convinced: If anyone knows how to write a good  “Whaaaat is going on!?” moment, it’s Riley Sager

Fun Facts: Riley Sager is a pseudonym for Todd Ritter, a former journalist and graphic designer. He’s also written as Alan Finn

Other media: I have no doubt that The Last Time I Lied is under contract for something or another and slated to come out at some point. If not, well, that just sucks

Additional thoughts: One of my favorite things about The Last Time I Lied (and all of the Riley Sager books I’ve read so far) is its nostalgic vibe. His work is reminiscent of the stuff I grew up on — the stuff that turned me into a writer myself. It’s nice to see those old-school-horror-ish elements recognized and treated with respect

Hit or Miss: The Last Time I Lied is a hit

Haunt me: alistaircross.com

Read The Last Time I Lied

Ghosts, Witches, and Demons, Oh, My!


Coming March 29th (and available for pre-order now at: https://tinyurl.com/yjy36u9h) Books 1 – 3 in The Ravencrest Saga are available as a boxed set for only $9.99

Book 1: THE GHOSTS OF RAVENCREST 

Ravencrest Manor is the most beautiful thing new governess, Belinda Moorland, has ever seen, but as she learns more about its tangled past of romance and terror, she realizes that beauty has a dark side. Ravencrest is built on secrets, and its inhabitants seem to be keeping plenty of their own — from the English butler, Grant Phister, to the power-mad administrator, Mrs. Heller, to Belinda’s mysterious and handsome new employer, Eric Manning, who watches her with dark, fathomless eyes. But Belinda soon realizes that the living who dwell in Ravencrest have nothing on the other inhabitants — the ones who walk the darkened halls by night … the ones who enter her dreams … the ones who are watching … and waiting … 

Book 2: THE WITCHES OF RAVENCREST 

Governess Belinda Moorland has settled into life at Ravencrest and, as summer gives way to autumn, romance is in the air. She and multi-millionaire Eric Manning are falling in love … but powerful forces will stop at nothing to keep them apart. As the annual Harvest Ball is set to begin, evil abounds at Ravencrest. Murder lurks in the shadows, evil spirits freely roam the halls, a phantom baby cries, signaling a death in the mansion, and in the notoriously haunted east wing, three blood-soaked nuns, Sisters Faith, Hope, and Charity, tend to the demented needs of a maid gone mad.  Ravencrest has come to life. In the gardens below, granite statues dance by moonlight, and a scarecrow goes on a killing rampage, collecting a gruesome assortment of body parts from unwilling donors … But Belinda’s greatest danger is the vengeful spirit of Rebecca Dane. Once the mistress of Ravencrest, Rebecca Dane has a centuries-old axe to grind with the powerful witch, Cordelia Heller — and Belinda becomes her weapon of choice. 

Book 3: EXORCISM 

In the 1920s, Henry Manning ruled Ravencrest with an iron fist. He held debauched parties that would have inspired Jay Gatsby himself. From the Manning fortune to a beautiful wife, the silent film star known as the White Violet, Henry had it all … including a loyal cult that worshipped him, and the demon Forneus. Violet lost her life putting a stop to the demented perversions that Henry and his demonic familiar visited upon Ravencrest … but now that evil has returned.   In the night, an innocent maid is seduced by a demon lover. A child is born, but it is not of this earth. Father Antonio DeVargas is summoned as ghostly parties light up the old poolhouse and phantom screams rip open the night. Meanwhile, the White Violet wanders the halls of Ravencrest warning the inhabitants of death and disaster to come. . . and the current master of Ravencrest, Eric Manning, is decidedly not himself. 

Pre-order your copies now at: https://tinyurl.com/yjy36u9h

The Back Passage by James Lear


The Back Passage, James Lear, 2006

My favorite quote: “Youth and athleticism are a wonderful combination: not even a sudden murder can quell the storm in a young man’s flannels.”

Most interesting characters: Mitch Mitchell, a well-hung insatiable stud who collects clues at almost the same rate he collects steamy sexual encounters with other well-hung insatiable studs 

Opening scene: It’s a hot day in 1925 and Mitch Mitchell and his fellow guests (many of them also well-hung insatiable studs) are on a country house weekend preparing to play a game of “Sardines” with their hosts, Sir James Eagle and his wife, Lady Caroline. Not thrilled with the idea of playing “Sardines,” Mitch and his friend, the not-so-impenetrable-after-all Harry “Boy” Morgan, are squeezed into a broom closet under the stairs where they soon find themselves not-so-accidentally in flagrante delicto. And then, right at a peak moment, a murder is announced! Right away, James Lear sets the tone for the rest of the book — and so begins the steamy descent into … THE BACK PASSAGE … 

The gist: The studly Mitch Mitchell and his studly Watson-like sidekick, Boy Morgan, are banging their heads — and other body parts — trying to figure out who the murderer is. The Back Passage is a campy hilarious spoof on traditional murder mysteries that reads a little like an X-rated Downton Abbey. Think Agatha Christie meets Fifty Shades of Grey — but really graphic. Oh, and gay. In the Back Passage, James Lear, ahem, inserts more man-action than you can shake a sticky marital aid at. I mean, seriously. Who knew gay guys got so much ass (literally)? Maybe they’re onto something after all …  

Greatest strengths: Despite the non-stop sex that takes place in The Back Passage (I’ll do anything to say ‘The Back Passage’) James Lear manages to write a pretty coherent — and hilarious — murder mystery that works — as long as you’re able to let logic fly out the window, anyway. Long story short, there’s a pretty decent whodunit under all that whodunwho 

Standout achievements: I’ve always said I’ll read pretty much anything, and it’s true. But gay porn? — *shrugs* — Why not? James Lear’s The Back Passage is the first book of its kind that I’ve read (it’s also the last but that’s no fault of the author or the book itself) and I found it to be fun, entertaining, and … actually kinda cute in its way. As for a standout achievement, however, I’d have to go with its clever prose. Let it never be said that James Lear doesn’t know how to turn a phrase — usually in some unexpected pervy direction. But still. Seriously, The Back Passage is full of witty quips and powerful (albeit scandalous) imagery. Not surprising when you learn that James Lear is actually a journalist (‘James Lear’ is a pseudonym for Rupert Smith)    

Fun Facts: The Back Passage is book one in James Lear’s Mitch Mitchell Mysteries. The series continues with the (equally audacious) titles, The Secret Tunnel, A Sticky End, and The Sun Goes Down. I haven’t read any of the others, but after writing this review and remembering how much fun it was, I probably should …  

Other media: Although society has come a long way, there’s just no way The Back Passage could be a movie. Or a video game. A porno flick, sure, but a mainstream movie? We haven’t come that far, folks

Additional thoughts: One day, as I was innocently strolling through a bookstore somewhere, I found myself scandalized to see a naked man on the cover of a book. Not just naked, but almost showing his peen. Gasping, I clutched my pearls and stormed right over to read the title — and quickly found myself further aghast. ‘The Back Passage,’ it said. ‘The BACK PASSAGE?’ Very clever, thought I, and of course, I had no choice but to pick it up and thumb its pages. What I found was one filthy scene after another after another. After another. Murder mystery meets gay porn? How unseemly! How utterly shameless!’ Naturally, I bought it and pretty much read it one sitting. And once I was able to let go of my (mostly feigned) mortification, I have to say, I rather enjoyed it. Once the shock wore off, I did eventually become a little bored with all the sex scenes but even so, I kept reading … and much chuckling ensued 

Hit or Miss: Hit

Haunt me: alistaircross.com

Plumb the Depths of The Back Passage

Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done? by Harold Schechter and Eric Powell


Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done?, Harold Schechter and Eric Powell, 2021

My favorite quote: “You can’t apply morality to an insane person.”

Most interesting characters: Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done? centers, of course, on Ed Gein 

Opening scene: Harold Schechter and Eric Powell begin Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done? on June 16, 1960, when Alfred Hitchcock began his next project — an adaptation of Robert Bloch’s novel, Psycho — which was based on the Ed Gein case. Due to its violent content, Paramount Pictures refused to back the project, so Hitchcock put his own home up for collateral to back the film himself. The final result, of course, was the classic, Psycho, starring Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins, which made 50 million dollars at the box office

The gist: Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done? is a graphic novel written by renowned true crime writer, Harold Shechter, and illustrated by five-time Eisner Award-winning graphic novelist, Eric Powell, which covers the gruesome crimes of Ed Gein — an odd but seemingly gentle man from Plainfield, Winsonsin, who gained police attention in 1957 when local hardware store owner, Bernice Worden, went missing. As Ed Gein was one of the last to see Bernice alive, the police paid a visit to Gein’s farm, where they found Bernice, who’d been fatally shot and decapitated. And that’s not all they found, either. A deeper investigation revealed a vast collection of body parts which Ed Gein used to make clothing and masks, furniture and other various household items. They also discovered the body of another local, Mary Hogan, who went missing in 1954. Under questioning, Gein revealed that he made as many as 40 nighttime visits to local cemeteries between 1947 and 1952 with the intention of stealing body parts from recently-deceased middle-aged women who resembled his domineering (and by now dead) mother. His goal: to make a female skin suit he could wear, thus ‘becoming’ Mother. Apparently, he missed her  

Greatest strengths: In Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done? Harold Schechter and Eric Powell not only give the gruesome facts of the Ed Gein case, but explore the nature-versus-nurture debate in violent crimes, lending educational weight to this graphic novel (but not, by any means, bogging it down) 

Standout achievements: I think the standout achievement here is the simple fact that a true crime writer (Harold Schechter) and an artist (Eric Powell) came together to do something like this in the first place. That it worked so well is an added bonus. Something weird happens when you’re reading a comic book. Your brain (or my brain, at least)  kind of tricks you into thinking you’re going to be doing something light and fun. Not the case with Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done? It shocked and discombobulated me — and I was impressed by that. Harold Shechter and Eric Powell pull no punches, not only telling readers (viewers?) the facts of the case, but showing them those facts, as well. And there are facts galore, here. In Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done? Eric Powell and Harold Schechter go deep, providing the audience with a lot of lesser-known details of Ed Gein’s crimes. Even I — a lifelong true crime junkie — learned things here I never knew about the case

Fun Facts: While there’s certainly nothing “fun” about it, some of the items found in Ed Gein’s possession included (but are not limited to) leggings made out of human leg skin, a belt made from nipples, a corset made from a skinned female torso, a pair of lips on a window shade drawstring, four noses, a lampshade made from a human face, and nine vulvae in a shoe box (I don’t even know how Ed Gein achieved that one — and that’s just fine by me). This (and more) is explored in Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done?

Other media: While there are no current adaptations of Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done? out there, the Ed Gein case is cited as the inspiration for everything from Psycho to The Silence of the Lambs to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I even wonder if Margaret White, Carrie’s nutjob mom in Stephen King’s novel, Carrie, wasn’t fashioned in some way after Augusta Gein, Ed Gein’s mother. Tamara Thorne (my collaborator) and I certainly drew inspiration from her for our own thriller, Mother, not too long ago. Long story short, when it comes to horror, Ed Gein is the gift that keeps on giving, and Did You Hear What Eddie Gein done is easily my favorite among them 

Additional thoughts: I’m a longtime fan of Harold Schechter’s work and Tamara Thorne and I interviewed him several times on our podcast, Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE! Because we conducted our interviews over Skype, I had Harold’s Skype address in my contacts. One day, instead of Skyping Tamara to begin our work day, I accidentally rang up Harold Schechter, realized my mistake, and ended the call before he answered. Within moments, he called me back and was like, “Hey, if you’re looking for a show idea, I’ve got this new thing out, a project I did with Eric Powell called Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done? …” He sent us each a copy of the graphic novel, we loved it, and soon afterward, interviewed him and Eric Powell. And that’s how I first heard about Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done? …  

Hit or Miss: Hit

Haunt me: alistaircross.com

Check out Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done by Harold Schechter and Eric Powell

The Guide to Getting it On by Paul Joannides


The Guide to Getting it On, Paul Joannides, 2009

My favorite quote: “Morality, from this Guide’s perspective, is respecting and caring for your fellow human beings. It has little to do with the way you enjoy your sexuality, unless what you do breaks a special trust or violates the rights of others.”

Most interesting characters: As a non-fiction book, Paul Joannides’ The Guide to Getting it on really only has one character and that’s you, you big perv 

Opening scene: The Guide to Getting it On begins its merry jaunt into the frolicsome and tawdry with a warning and disclaimer explaining the purpose of the Guide — which, by the way, is not to act as a definitive authority on sex, but as an informative sex-centric sidekick to those who wish to expand their sexual consciousness 

The gist: The Guide to Getting it on reads like the Kama Sutra and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy had a baby out of wedlock. Funny, informative, and sexy, Paul Joannides’ The Guide to Getting it On covers everything from sex toys to STDs to sexual orientation, romance, and pregnancy, with a heavy dose of information on basic human anatomy, oral, anal, manual, and solo sex. And it has pictures. Cute ones 

Greatest strengths: Unlike so many of its kin, The Guide to Getting it On pays equal attention to both male and female sexuality, addressing issues of concern for both sexes with the same playful enthusiasm and wit. It celebrates rather than shames sexuality, making room for everyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or erotic appetites. In short, The Guide to Getting it On isn’t a judgy directory of dos and do-nots, nor is it a dry manual of flavorless facts. It’s fun, honest, and uncomplicated. And it has pictures. Cute ones 

Standout achievements: I’ve never seen better chapter titles than those in The Guide to Getting it On. A few of my favorites are: The Importance of Getting Naked, Intercourse: Horizontal Jogging, Dead Wood — Boner Down!, The Internet Killed the Plumber in Porn, Fun with a Foreskin, and Choking During Sex is as Dangerous as a Police Chokehold   

Fun Facts: When Paul Joannides’ penned The Guide to Getting it On, he wasn’t fooling around. For all its sparkling jocularity, The Guide to Getting it On is as educational as it is entertaining, including topics and ideas contributed by psychologists, lawyers, writers, sex workers, over 10,000 survey-takers, and more. That’s a lot of sex-talk 

Other media: I don’t see how The Guide to Getting it On could be a movie or a video game, but if they ever made tarot cards out of the illustrations, I would become a full-time fortune-teller, stat

Additional thoughts: With The Guide to Getting it On, Paul Joannides did more than write a sex manual — he brought sex back to what this reviewer believes it always should have been: fun, healthy, approachable, and open-minded. The Guide to Getting it On takes the sting out of the “S” word and doesn’t take itself too seriously. And it has pictures. Cute ones

Hit or Miss: I’d hit it. Again. Oh yeahhhh …  

Haunt me: alistaircross.com

Read Paul Joannides’ The Guide to Getting it On

 

Archangel’s Enigma by Nalini Singh


Archangel’s Enigma, Nalini Singh, 2015

My favorite quote: “If blood alone is what defines us, no child born is born in freedom.”

Most interesting characters: Nassir, the most rambunctious and undomesticated member of a powerful group of angels and vampires known as “the Seven”; Andromeda, the young scholar who accompanies him on his mission; Raphael, an Archangel the “Seven” have pledged their loyalty to; Zhou Lijuan, enemy to Raphael and the “Seven”

Opening scene: The first character introduced in Archangel’s Enigma is Zhou Lijuan. Lijuan hasn’t fully regenerated since Raphael tried to kill her, and now, she’s speaking with the Scribe, who brings her a prophecy that sets her evil plans into motion. **Side note: I knew right away, from the descriptions in this scene alone, that not only was Archangel’s Enigma going to be a good book, but that Nalini Singh was one of those writers who was going to suck me in. Not that I didn’t go willingly, but still … I blame Nalini Singh 

The gist: Archangel’s Enigma is the 8th book in Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series (I really need to start reading series from the beginning, you know?) Anyway, Archangel’s Enigma tells the story of Naasir, who is assigned to escort the scholarly angel Andromeda on a dangerous mission that will put many lives at stake. Along the way, he makes some powerful discoveries about himself, the world, and the mate he’s been searching for

Greatest strengths: The world-building. I haven’t read any other installments of the Guild Hunter series, but by the time I was halfway into Archangel’s Enigma, I was pretty much in love with the universe Nalini Singh created for these books. 

**Honorable mention: I would be remiss if I didn’t say something about the sexy stuff in here. I don’t find many “sexy” books to actually be sexy, but Archangel’s Enigma (and Nalini Singh books in general) really … ahem … ‘worked’ for me, if you see what I mean. A great strength, indeed …    

Standout achievements: The imagery. Nalini Singh seriously knows what she’s doing with words. You not only see the colors she describes, you can feel them and taste them, too. It’s remarkable. When I started Archangel’s Enigma, I didn’t know it was part of a series, or that the romance aspects would be so central (truth be told, I’m not much of a romance reader, but let’s be honest: I’ll read anything) but the imagery in Archangel’s Enigma was too delicious to put down. I suspect the entire Guild Hunter series is the same, and one day, I’ll start it at the beginning

Fun Facts: I know it isn’t a nice thing to say, but most authors just don’t have very interesting websites — I’m not sure why. Nalini Singh’s site (nalinisingh.com), however, is an exception. It not only has all the information you need about the Guild Hunters books and her other series, but deleted scenes, free short stories, a fan page, a merchandise page, behind the scenes, and even a travel diary. Cool stuff

Other media: There are no film or television adaptations of Archangel’s Enigma I’m aware of (or any of Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter books) which is probably a good thing. I don’t think they’d be able to capture all those bright colors. Also, all the hot coupling would likely melt your TV, so yeah … it’s better this way 

Additional thoughts: I’ve read a few other Nalini Singh books (outside of the Guild Hunter series) and I have to say: I really, really dig her. Not only is she a great storyteller by technical standards, but she has one of the most fertile imaginations I think I’ve ever come across 

Hit or Miss: Hit

Haunt me: alistaircross.com

Read Archangel’s Enigma or start at Angels’ Blood, book one of Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series

%d bloggers like this: