It was the Summer of 1961 and young Mark Gaitlin was on vacation with his family in Lake Livingston Texas. Mark was like any other 15-year-old, his body was changing, his family was driving him nuts and he was obsessed with sex. His dream of meeting a girl comes true one night when a mysterious girl invites him to go skinny dipping. Mark is on the verge of becoming a man and everything is about to change.
Mark is starting to see the social injustices in the world and also realizes that Lake Livingston is a mysterious place. He’s surrounded by abandoned villages haunted by family secrets and finds evidence of a cult of religious backwoods snake handlers. As he journeys into manhood he finds the world is more complicated than he thought and wrong decisions may cost him his life.
Lost Girl Of The Lake by Joe McKinney and Michael McCarty is about how a series of odd events shape a young man’s life. The passage that really hooked me into this story was early on when we hear Mark being introspective as an adult about his childhood. He states that “the man and the boy don’t speak the same language anymore.” He then describes the difference between how an adult thinks compared to how a child’s mind works. The beginning of this coming of age tale had a Stephen King feel to it that made me want to keep reading.
What I enjoyed most in this story is how a lot of it is open to interpretation. The authors paint a picture by the way they describe the setting. Also the use of imagery like the butterflies that gather at the lake, the abandoned town, the Copperhead snakes and the dreams that Mark is having are metaphors and they all shape the man he will become. It’s up to the reader to wonder what the meaning behind everything and how it affects the characters in the story.
For a short novella there is a lot going on in this book and every little detail seems to have a deeper meaning. I enjoyed the references to pulp fiction magazines in the story and since at points it felt like the pulp fiction that Mark reads I thought it was a good metaphor. Another scene I liked that illustrated what its like to be on the edge of adulthood was when Mark and his friend are heading to the lake to look at “spicy” pulp magazines and have to keep a look out for anyone who may get them in trouble for having them. At one point Mark tries to walk away but his friend urges him to stay which leads to something that illustrates what 15-year-old boys are like.
Whether you like this book or not will depend on what you’re looking for. If you’re expecting a good horror story or a tale with a lot of supernatural activity you may be disappointed. On the other hand if you are into coming of age stories that make you think about how certain events shape your life then you will like this novella. This is a story of the loss of innocence, the road to adulthood and how your reaction to what’s happening around you affects your life.
Modern Mythmakers: 35 Interviews with Horror & Science Fiction Writers and Filmmakers by Michael McCarty is a must have for genre fans. It’s a peak inside the brain of several great minds in the world of horror and science fiction. The best part about it is it has conversations with people who are no longer with us, such as Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Dan Curtis, Forrest Ackerman and others. It’s an opportunity to find out what the greats have to say about their profession.
One of my favorite moments in this book was the introduction by Alan Dean Foster. He says if life is getting you down society says to gulp down a handful of pills. Instead you will find it better if you listen to the words of the people interviewed in this book. You will feel better, stimulate your brain and become addicted to their work without the use of a narcotic. Mr. Foster is right because what’s in this book are the words of people who are passionate about what they do and you can learn from them, you just have to keep your mind open.
One interview I enjoyed was with Dark Shadow’s creator Dan Curtis. Dan gets into how he made the Zuni Fetish Doll chase Karen Black in the made for TV classic Trilogy of Terror. I found it fascinating how much work went into pulling that off, but what I liked even more is when he mentions why so many horror films stink. He talks about how people making horror films think they can do anything but they can’t because if an idea is too illogical the audience won’t be scared, they have to believe it’s possible. Dan Curtis knew how to make a good horror story and I liked reading his opinions here.
Another interview that stuck out for me was with Science Fiction author Frederik Pohl. At the time of this interview I imagine he must have been in his eighties. He has seen a lot of changes in the world of literature and he never stopped doing what he loved even when he having health issues. I love that he mentions at his age he is still trying to figure out the cosmos and how society works and changes. He even gets into all of the scientific breakthroughs that were predicted in Science Fiction. Pohl is only one of the great minds you hear from in this book and one idea he gives on writing is that the hardest part of it is sitting down and making yourself say on paper what needs to be said.
While you may not like every interview in this book it’s still a good read if you love hearing from creative people. For instance there is a wealth of information for anyone who wants to be a writer. I love reading interviews with writers along with finding out what makes them tick. I also loved that Michael asks each one: What advice would you give to a new writer? All of their responses were a little different but they all seem to agree that you always have to keep writing and write what’s in your heart, not what will make others happy. As Ray Bradbury puts it: “Write what you love, it doesn’t matter what others love.” Good advice from the masters, do what you love.
When you think of poetry you don’t think of horror, but maybe you should. Poems are all about expressing emotions and while most poems I think of are about describing something beautiful, you could also use poetry to explain something dreadful. Fear and desire are strong emotions so it stands to reason that there should be some great poems out there that are all about horror.
Fear and Desire by S.A. Gambino and Michael McCarty is a collection of poems all about the primal emotion of terror.What I liked about this book was how it covers the horror genre so well. There are some poems that are funny, some have monsters and some are about real emotion. For instance in the poem No Escape we hear about someone trapped somewhere without bars, chains or locks. They describe pain but it’s not physical and they scream but only on the inside. I loved this poem because it was psychological, it could have been about a job, a bad relationship or just life in general. We don’t know for sure but it felt personal and really hit home for me.
Another poem that felt emotional and personal was The Mind, this one is about the feeling of anxiety and how sometimes life and all the information around you is too much to bare. One of the lines here is: “Taking in the entire world, Mind goes into a chaotic twirl. Hypersensitivity is so much to take. A mind That’s constantly awake.” Who hasn’t felt like what’s described in this poem? At this point in the book I found myself just simply thinking: “Wow!”
While there are some very personal feelings in these poems there is also a sense of fun here. In Zombie Love we hear about what love is like for flesh eaters. This one hits on love, comedy and horror. We get the description of a zombie couple eating someone and it ends with the line: “Zombie lovers rise to an upright stand and walking away hand and hand..” Another similar poem is My Cannibal Girlfriend. I love how this one says that dating a cannibal is never easy because when you kiss them you taste someone else.
Horror, desire and comedy can all go hand in hand and this book covers it all. Another poem I loved here was It Has No Name. Here we get a description of a female creature climbing out of the swamp looking for a sweet delicious man to eat. I love how lyrical this poem is and how it describes the lust of a monster for a man. Another poem that sounds like the lyrics of a song and has a great rhyme is Carnival Of Souls. This one describes a soul after death and the decent to purgatory because its to late to repent. “A Mortician’s transition Formaldehyde ride The Carnival Of Souls Where you go when you die.
I have to admit a lot of times I don’t understand poetry, I think that’s because the meaning is always open to interpretation and it’s about something personal to the author.. You have your own idea what it’s about but the writer may have had something else in mind. In the case of Fear And Desire some poems made me think while others made me smile and it also appealed to the horror fan that I am. . This is an entertaining and quick read, if you love poetry and horror you have to get it.
I enjoy reading all kinds of books but the ones I enjoy the most are the ones that have a good mix of horror and comedy. This is not a combination you can always find but Dracula Transformed & Other Bloodthirsty Tales by Mark McLaughlin and Michael McCarty is one of those books that can scare you and make you laugh. Here we have ten short stories and one novella which puts Dracula in the present day with new powers that we’ve never seen before.
The reason I wanted to read this was because I love Dracula and any movie or book that has the character catches my interest. Also I’m familiar with the work of both authors and knew it would be a fun ride. Right off the bat in the first story they address one of the issues with the original Dracula novel. In Bram Stoker’s novel we get points of view from several characters but we don’t hear much from Dracula. In Lucy Transformed we hear part of the story in Dracula’s own words via letters to his daughter. Needless to say Dracula looks at the events of the book a little differently than the other characters do. Maybe Dracula wasn’t a villain after all and just doing what vampires are supposed to do.
Two other the stories that stick out in the book are Dracula Has Risen From The Couch and Incident In The Back Of A Black Limousine. In the first story set in the present we see a very different Dracula then we are used to. He is kind of lazy and he finds out his wives are cheating on him, but he doesn’t really care enough to get off the couch until they decide to kill him. In the second story also in the present we see Dracula has fallen on hard times and now works as a pimp calling himself Big Daddy. For both of these we see a Dracula that we haven’t seen before and get to laugh at the idea that Dracula may not fare to well in the modern world.
In what is the main event in this little anthology, we have the novella Dracula Transformed which shows us Dracula resurrected in the present by a cult and given the powers of the monsters from Greek Mythology. All of the characters from Dracula are here through reincarnation and Van Helsing never died. I love that Dracula gets his power from hearing the sins of others and I loved hearing that Renfield is now a goth rock superstar. We also have another character from history that is still making a good living in Las Vegas. The best part though is hearing how Dracula acts when he hears someone talk who has no sin.
Dracula Transformed is a must read if you loved the Bram Stoker book or any of the various movies that have had Dracula in them over the years. Not only is it a fresh spin on a character that has been around for over 100 years, it’s a lot of fun for anyone who has a love for monsters and mythology. My only complaint was that some of the short stories contained an idea but no real story and I would have liked the main story to be longer and have a little more suspense. All in all though the book is a lot of fun and I look forward to reading more from both authors.