Due to my personal life getting extremely busy of late, I’ve fallen far behind my typical reviewing pace — while the queue of titles to review has continued to grow. In the hope of trying to do some catch-up, I’m going to try to write more concise reviews for at least the next couple months…hopefully without sacrificing too much in the way of opinion and analysis. With that goal in mind… let’s get going…
I’ve reviewed a couple of Paul Kane’s titles in the past — Sleeper(s) and Pain Cages — and now he’s back with a YA thriller under the thinly-veiled pseudonym P.B. Kane, published by Rocket Ride Books. At a high level, it’s a tale of an interloper who manages to keep his true nature hidden from all but a single, strangely perceptive teenager.
Fifteen-year-old Daniel Roush is that teenager, a kid at a tough spot in his life, with a deceased father, a mother who’s a little too fond of the bottle sometimes, a little brother who’s always trying to tag along, and a male friend (Greg) who shares with Daniel a crush on their mutual female friend, Jill. Feeling somewhat trapped, and often bored to tears, on the secluded island of Shorepoint, Daniel’s world is turned upside when an amnesiac man apparently washes up on shore. The stranger — who is given the temporary name of John Dee — is able to assert a subtle but powerful control over seemingly everyone on the island except Daniel. Unable to convince others of what he perceives about Dee, Daniel finds himself more alone than ever as the fate of the island hangs in the balance.
The Rainbow Man is a quick read at 162 pages, but even at that length, the story seems to drag a bit at times. I’d attribute that primarily to the YA target demographic, which typically yields a tamer plot, as seems to be the case here. The narrative and the language used seem quite basic, but not to the point of simplicity. Kane’s initial foray into the YA field is a solid read for that age group, but perhaps not too engaging for adult readers.
The list that I maintain of active small presses whose output is predominantly horror, dark suspense, or dark fantasy continues to grow, with the count growing to a rather astonishing 138 publishers. Over the last few months, I’ve added no less than 27 presses and imprints to the list, and I’ll summarize each of those 27 below.
The following presses are recently launched, recently discovered by me, or recently re-evaluated and found worthy of inclusion.
- Acid Grave Press – an ebook-only publisher with one title to their credit so far — the anthology Living After Midnight, which contains six stories inspired by hard-rock/heavy-metal songs, by authors such as Randy Chandler, L.L. Soares, and David T. Wilbanks.
- Altar 13 – a new imprint from Delirium Books publisher Shane Ryan Staley, which seeks to take classic genre titles that have only been published in paperback and reprint them in hardcover for collectors.
- Bandersnatch Books – debuted in 2010 and has published a chapbook by T.M. Wright, a novella by K.H. Koehler, and an anthology, Dead West, containing some familiar names. Their website is currently a bit of a mess, however — among other issues, the “Bookstore” page offers no way to actually purchase any of the titles.
- Belfire Press – a mult-genre publisher with 13 titles to their credit, including horror titles such as Gregory L. Hall’s At the End of Church Street, Aaron Polson’s Loathsome, Dark and Deep, K.V. Taylor’s Scripped, and several anthologies.
- Black Room Books and the Zombie Feed – two new imprints of Apex Publications. The former will publish both horror and science fiction, with their first title being a reprint of Tim Waggoner’s novel, Like Death, while the latter is yet another zombie-focused publisher, with three novels/novellas and an anthology published.
- Blasphemous Books – an ebook-only imprint of Black Death Books, with a single title so far, a min-collection by John Everson.
- Camelot Books – restored to the active publisher list after previously assumed to be moribund (probably my mistake). Recent titles include a collection by Ray Garton and an anthology of four novellas that includes Brian Keene and Nate Southard.
- Crossroad Press – formerly appearing to be only a distributor of ebooks from other publishers, but now publishing both print and ebooks under their own imprint. CP has quickly become a prolific publisher of ebooks, with recent titles from Elizabeth Massie, Tom Piccirilli, and Chet Williamson, among many others.
- Dark Prints Press – Australian press founded in 2010, with three anthologies and a collection by Martin Livings to their credit.
- Dark Silo Press – published a novel by Brian Kaufman, but an anthology originally scheduled for March 2011 still hasn’t appeared, so viability of this press may already be in question.
- Fungasm Press – a new imprint from bizarro publisher Eraserhead Press, “Fungasm Press grounds its weirdest ideas in contemporary realities, meeting at the freaky juncture where genre and mainstream collide with indescribable strangeness.” Fungasm will publish 2-3 titles per year, starting with Laura Lee Bahr’s debut novel, Haunts.
- Harrow Press – longtime publisher of The Harrow magazine began publishing POD books in 2007 and has so far produced two anthologies, with a third in the works.
- Hersham Horror Books – UK-based publishers of the Alt-Dead anthology, with two more anthologies announced.
- House of Murky Depths – UK publisher of a namesake magazine, several graphics novels, and four novels by Sam Stone.
- Innsmouth Free Press – Canadian publisher of a novel and three anthologies, most recently Future Lovecraft, which features authors such as Nick Mamatas, Jesse Bullington, and James S. Dorr.
- LegumeMan Books – an Australian press “devoted to extreme and/or unusual fiction for extreme and/or unusual people,” with twelve titles already to their credit, including novels by Steve Gerlach and Brett McBean.
- NECON E-Books – Leveraging the connections he’s made from running the eponymous convention for thirty years, publisher Bob Booth has assembled an impressive roster of writers, including Ramsey Campbell, Christopher Golden, Charles L. Grant, Tom Monteleone, and Tim Lebbon. Despite the press’ name, they do offer print editions of some titles.
- Necro Publications – moved from moribund back to the Active Publisher list after recently publishing the Jeffrey Thomas novel Blood Society and an ebook-only collection by Edward Lee, Grimoire Diabolique.
- Panic Press – UK-based multi-genre publisher with 11 books published already, including titles such as Jason Whittle’s The Dead Shall Feed and Nate D. Burleigh’s Sustenance.
- Rainstorm Press – another multi-genre publisher, with apparent vanity leanings, as all four announced titles are either written or edited by the owner of the press. If Rainstorm turns out to be strictly vanity, they’ll be removed from the list.
- Rocket Ride Books – SF/horror publisher who made an interesting debut with a new edition of John W. Campbell’s Who Goes There? (basis for three movie versions of The Thing), available in print and audio versions. Their second title is William F. Nolan’s Kincaid: A Paranormal Casebook, “in the tradition of The X-Files and Kolchak.”
- Sinister Grin Press – launched at KillerCon 2011 with a chapbook containing original stories by Ramsey Campbell, Ray Garton, and Bentley Little, and have announced two upcoming novels from Wrath James White, one solo and one co-written with J.F. Gonzalez.
- Strange Publications – taking a buffet approach since their 2008 debut by publishing a chapbook, three anthologies, and a collection (by Cate Gardner). As of this writing, their website appears to have been hacked, so it’s unclear how active the press still is.
- Swan River Press – Ireland-based publisher of 28 chapbooks and mini-hardcovers, some of which are dedicated to writers from decades past (there are multiple Bram Stoker and J. Sheridan La Fanu titles, for example), and some of which feature work from contemporary writers such Gary McMahon, Rosalie Parker and Mark Valentine.
- Terradan Works – announced as a multi-genre publisher, but their four titles published to date have all been horror or suspense fiction, including books by Jeffrey & Scott Thomas, and Wilum H. Pugmire.
- Ticonderoga Publications – this Australian multi-genre publisher has been around since 1996, but I only recently concluded that they produce a sufficient amount of horror to be included on the list. Published authors include Terry Dowling and Kaaron Warren, and Ticonderoga recently launched an annual Australian Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror series.
- West Pigeon Press – Putting forth a prospectus that is, depending on how one looks at it, either extremely ambitious or off-puttingly arrogant, WPP has one title so far, the collection You Shall Never Know Security, by J.R. Hamantaschen, which certainly sounds intriguing.
Conversely, the only publishers removed from the publisher list since my last column are Snuff Books and Twisted Publishing, both of which seem to have sunk without a trace. With 27 presses added to the list vs. just two removed, either the horror small press field is faring better than the overall economy, or the genre has a knack for converting overly-optimistic fans into would-be publishers.
While I’m talking numbers, the other thing I took the time to total up is how many of the 138 presses on the list are publishing at least some of their titles in ebook format. The result? No fewer than 56 presses (40%) have jumped on the ebook train, strong evidence of the growing adoption of ebook formats.