Who are the Halloween Children?

 

Halloween Children cover

The Halloween Children by Brian James Freeman and Norman Prentiss (Random House Hydra, June 2017) works by building suspense, by gradually increasing the sense of impending dread. Readers know from the very first page that something went terribly wrong Halloween night and lots of children either killed or were killed. Dread builds as you discover how really weird and totally dis-functional everyone in the entire Stillbrook apartment complex — especially the entire Naylor family — has become. You know all hell is about to break loose, and you can’t wait for it to happen. But, like waiting for Halloween or for Christmas, wait you must.

Good horror builds expectations. There are a lot of little boos that set the scene, but you know right from the get-go that the big fright comes on Halloween. Everything else is a warm-up or a red-herring.

“I think the environment in our apartment complex had everything to do with what happened,” Harris Naylor admits. “Not just our management policies and our neighbors, but maybe even the issues that had been swimming within our own family.”

Is the apartment complex haunted? Just when you think it is, a logical explanation pops up. But then something else weird happens, and the suspense builds until you’re sure the place is haunted by evil spirits.

Or maybe by crazy people: not just the children but adults, too.

Harris again hits the nail on the head: “If a place is going to be haunted, it’s more likely to be an apartment building, since there’s a high turnaround in tenants and folks from a variety of backgrounds will bring different quirks and neuroses and illnesses with them. Going with the odds, an apartment building simply has more opportunities for crazy, haunted people to live there.”

Or die there.

Heh heh.

So who are the Halloween Children really? Mattie and Amber? Ghosts? Evil spirits?

Read the novel and see with your own eyes.

Heh heh.

Best New Series Character since Jack Reacher

Tom wood final hour

 

The Final Hour by Tom Wood (Berkley Books, August 2017) is the seventh novel in the author’s “Victor” series. Victor is a freelance paid assassin who claims he doesn’t care about anything but the job. That’s a lie, of course. But he’s so religious about protecting his privacy, he refuses to reveal any of his personal weaknesses to his victims. Or even to his friends and allies.

And certainly never to his enemies, of whom there are many. This is brought home to the reader in book 6, The Darkest Day, when Victor meets a female assassin who’s been hired to kill him.

Book seven begins with Victor confessing to a priest that he has killed many men. Plus he may have killed a female assassin, but he gave her an unprecedented opportunity to save herself if she’s strong enough. He returns later and kills the priest. Not only had British Intelligence put out a contract on him, but he had heard Victor’s confession and therefore had to die.

Imagine Tom Wood pitching the Victor novels to an agent or publisher with this elevator speech: I can’t tell you all about my protagonist because then I would have to kill you. Better you learn about him a little at a time as he reveals himself through story and dialog.

Spoiler alert: the female assassin does survive, despite incredible odds, and she becomes stronger. She and Victor become allies of sorts. More than that I can’t tell you without fear Victor will have to kill me.

I can tell you The Final Hour is marvelous. There are more complications than anyone has the right to survive, but Victor and Raven are both professionals and they know how to improvise.

This novel was so well written that I had to buy the previous six novels in the series. I was hooked on the best new series character since Jack Reacher, and I think you will be, too.

Give Cleaved a read

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Cleaved: Grafton County Series, book 2 (Tirgearr Publishing, May 2017) is Sue Coletta’s sequel to Marred, a book I loved. Coletta continues to develop as a crime writer and she now has three novels and numerous short stories in print.

I’m happy to see deputy Frankie Campanelli return in the sequel to Marred, along with deputies Ben and Bradley. There’s plenty of Frankie’s snarky dialog to ease the tension when everything’s going to hell in a hand-basket. Also present are Nico and Sage’s pups, Colt and Ruger. Plus their infant son Noah plays an important part.

I don’t want to spoil your enjoyment by revealing the plot. Suffice it to say, there are gruesome murders galore in Grafton County. I’m sure Sue Grafton would approve of murders in a county named after her.

As in all of her novels, Coletta blends forensic science with fast-paced thrills. If you like a good mystery, give Cleaved a read.

Dean Koontz has a new heroine

Dean Koontz combines Richard Condon’s The Manchurian Candidate with Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives to create his latest pulse-pounding suspense thriller The Silent Corner (Bantam Books, June 2017).

Jane Hawk’s husband commits suicide, but he isn’t the only one to die by his own hand. When Jane, a highly-trained FBI Special Agent, takes bereavement leave and investigates the sudden rash of unexplained deaths, she and her five-year-old son are threatened by mysterious strangers who know all about her. Jane’s only hope to save her son and herself is to go entirely off the grid — to disappear into the silent corner where no one can track her movements or whereabouts.

Because those hunting Jane and her son don’t play nice, Jane can’t either. She becomes a rogue agent, a cold-blooded killer, and a thief.

Like Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, Jane Hawk has skills that allow her to survive against impossible odds. She goes on the offensive and ruthlessly kills people who deserve killing. We cheer her on each time another bad guy bites the dust.

The Silent Corner is only the first of at least three Jane Hawk novels. The Whispering Room will be out next January.

Exciting, thrilling, suspenseful, and well-written, I recommend The Silent Corner to everyone who enjoys a good read.

Grunt Hero is a fast and fun read

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What more can aliens throw at the humans of planet earth than they already have? First came the Cray with their power-destroying EMP; then came the mind-controlling infestations; finally, the earth itself is being Terra-formed to become a breeding ground for aliens. This is truly the end times.

The world as we knew it is no more; The United States no longer exists as a political entity, although Russia apparently still does (and China, too). NUSNA (the New United States of North America) has formed an alliance with the Cray and their masters. So Mason and Team OMBRA must reluctantly ally with other aliens who call themselves Khron. If you thought author Ochse threw in everything including the kitchen sink in the first two novels, this third novel includes Aliens from captured UFOs who’ve been held hostage at Area 51 for more than 70 years. The fast-paced storyline doesn’t stop, and people close to him continue to die on Lieutenant Mason’s watch just as they did when he was a simple grunt. But true heroes — even reluctant heroes like Mason — don’t let the dead and dying slow them down. They forge ahead because it’s all they know to do.

Although we learn the war between the human-like Khron and the more alien Umi has been going on almost forever, the battle for earth is almost over. The warring parties will have to continue the fight elsewhere.

What the world needs now — perhaps more than ever before — is a hero. But who is left to step up to the plate and pinch-hit for humanity? The author has already polished off most of hero squad. Fort Irwin and everyone still there was flattened by an asteroid. Are there no grunts left to be canon fodder?

This third volume in the Grunt-series raises as many questions as it answers. It’s action-packed like the first two books, and it’s a fast and fun read. I recommend Grunt Hero to all lovers of military sf.

And don’t be surprised if a sequel appears with Mason visiting other worlds to continue battling the Cray and their masters.

Why so many serial killers?

 

“If every age gets the lunatics it deserves, then our age of anxiety deserves those who are in the grip of a compulsion.” Can’t Just Stop: An Investigation of Compulsions by Sharon Begley (Simon & Schuster, February 2017) hypothesizes that “compulsions are a response to anxiety, and modern life is filled with overwhelming anxiety.” Compulsions offer us an illusion of control in a world gone mad. “We cling to compulsions as if to a lifeline, for it is only by engaging in compulsions that we can drain enough of our anxiety to function.”

The idea behind Begley’s book was so compelling that I simply had to buy it. I’m a compulsive bookaholic who needs to know what’s inside every book (which may be an impossible task) or continuous wondering will drive me crazy.

That’s my excuse, anyway, for buying books, and I’m sticking to it. I’ve become a compulsive book hoarder. Books are more than a compulsion with me, they’re an obsession. And, as long as I have a book to read or a book to write, I don’t feel the need to kill anyone.

Is compulsion an anxiety disorder? Is it a personality disorder? An addiction? A syndrome? What’s the difference between Impulsive and Compulsive drives? Everyone feels anxious. Everyone is occasionally impulsive or compulsive. Should impulsive and compulsive behaviors be considered pathological only when they become so excessive they interfere with normal life functions?

Can we control our impulsive and compulsive behaviors? When do we know we need to?

Serial killers are addicts who get pleasure from risk-taking. They thrive on anxiety rather than feel a need to alleviate anxiety. They’re addicted to the pleasure they get from causing pain. They know their actions are wrong, but they can’t stop until they get caught. Seeing how long they can get away with doing something dangerous and forbidden is half the fun. They’re more concerned with what happens when they do something than when they don’t do something. They’re thrill addicts who need regular fixes or suffer the pains of withdrawal. Serial killing is addictive behavior, It isn’t compulsive.

Compulsive behavior, on the other hand, results from worries about what will happen if one does not possess something (knowledge, an object, followers on Facebook, love, money, drugs, bullets, soldiers, words in print, etc.) in sufficient quantity or quality to prevent disaster. It is the opposite of risk-taking. In one’s mind, possession is seen as the only thing that can prevent a future catastrophe from occurring.

Addictions can become compulsions only when worry about what may happen if you can’t continue the addictive (pleasurable) behavior takes over. You no longer get pleasure from risk-taking, but must take different risks to avoid pain caused by discontinuing the risky behavior. Like feeling compelled to kill in order to cover your tracks and not for pleasure. Like stockpiling books you’ll never have a chance to read.

When anxiety becomes fear, compulsions can become obsessive. You’re terrorized that unless you get things just right, absolutely perfect, calamity will happen. You, and only you can prevent bad things from happening, especially to ones you love. Only scrupulous adherence to a magical ritual (like buying certain books or writing them a certain way) will prevent disaster.

As a writer of crime-suspense thrillers, I enjoyed this book ‘s insights immensely. It was written in language a layman could understand, covered the gamut of compulsive behaviors, and tried to tie things together in a nice package. More importantly, though, this book taught me that when compulsions serve a useful function and contribute to a successful life rather than destroying it, being compulsive isn’t always bad.

Maybe that means I’m not as crazy as I thought.

Here is my interview with Paul Dale Anderson

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Name  Paul Dale Anderson

Age 70

Where are you from

Born and raised in Rockford, Illinois. Left Rockford for twenty-some years while serving in the Army and to further my education. My wife and I bought a home in Rockford in 1988.

A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc  

My middle name Dale is an Americanization of Dalarna, the province in Sweden where my paternal grandmother came from in 1890. My male cousins on that side of the family all have Dale as their middle names.

I’m an only child. My parents were old enough to be my grandparents, and the one thing we did together every day was read. Both of my parents were prodigious readers. They read to me, and I read to them. I’m also a perpetual student, and I attended the University of Illinois, Rockford College, University of Chicago, Loyola University…

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