Rob’s Spring Sparks

So much to read and watch, so little time to review. While I wish I could blast out a full write up of everything, I’m going to go with the highlights of what I enjoyed over the last couple of months.


Cult of the Spider Queen by S.A. Sidor (Arkham Horror)

Current read in progress and so far an enjoyable 1920’s jungle romp with all the cosmic horror trimmings. I’m a huge fan of Sidor’s first Arkham Horror novel, The Last Ritual, and his two supernatural-pulp adventures from Angry Robot, Fury From the Tomb and The Beast of Nightfall Lodge, a series I hope he continues.

When Things Get Dark: Stories inspired by Shirley Jackson edited by Ellen Datlow (Blackstone Audio)

Current listen in progress and after the first few stories, altogether excellent. Lots of family, and dining rooms, and creepiness.

X’s for Eyes by Laird Barron (Bizarro Pulp Press)

I’d read the first part of the book “We Smoke the Northern Lights” in The Gods of HP Lovecraft and was excited to finally read the second half of the novella and see what happens. Pure awesomeness of course. Love the Tooms brothers and their weird, wide, universe which feels a lot like the Venture Brothers with cosmic horror replacing superheroes.

King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard (InAudio)

I hadn’t read this book since I was young and my main recollections of it were distorted by the 1985 Richard Chamberlain movie, which is more comedic parody than faithful adaption. The book is far superior, albeit steeped in damn horrible colonialism where every non white is a savage and gunning down herds of elephants is considered heroic – definitely overpowers the bones of the story which are about friendships and family.

Pickman’s Gallery edited by Matthew Carpenter (Ulthar Press)

I always loved the character of Richard Upton Pickman from a couple of Lovecraft’s stories and dug this collection continuing his legacy. I especially liked that the stories weren’t necessarily about him, but in many cases adjacent or referential. Great fun.

The Fisherman by John Langan (Word Horde)

I’m of two minds about this book. On one hand I loved it – loved the world, loved the mythology which really reminded me of my favourite Michael Shea stories. The structure, on the other hand, was unexpected. I think I was hoping for more back and forth between the times and less the three act narrative. But, as Sarah says, I’m horribly impatient, so take that complaint as a personal preference. Definitely an amazing story!

Rules for Monsters by Michael Minnis (Lovecraft eZine Press)

So many stories, and I hear there will be another volume – Michael is a prolific author indeed. While not every story is a winner, I enjoyed many of them and loved some, especially where he didn’t directly homage or extend classic Lovecraft stories.

Cthulhu Reloaded by David Conyers

Some entertaining military cosmic horror. Major Harrison Peel is a solid character and his adventures take him across many Lovecraftian locals and pit him against even more Lovecraftian monsters and gods. A fun page turner and I’m looking forward to picking up and reading the next couple of books in the series.

Mr. Cannyharme by Michael Shea (Hippocampus Press)

Michael Shea has always been one of my favourite authors and a serious inspiration for my own writing. I’ve read pretty much everything he wrote and was delighted to learn that this novel existed and would be published (and I hear there may be yet another lost Shea manuscript out there!!). Mr. Cannyharme was written in 81 and is a homage/adaption of Lovecraft’s “The Hound”. Loved it.


Possum (A Sarah pick)

Holy shit this was bleak. And British. If that’s not a genre, it should be. I’m not at all a fan of horrible creepy puppets so yeah… The plot? Sure. Well, there’s this dude named Phillip who used to be a puppeteer and ends up back at his old house with his weird old uncle. Phillip has old, deep issues. And a horrible creepy spider puppet. I can’t even… thanks for nightmares Sarah. Pro tip: Never go home with a puppet.

The Deeper You Dig (A Rob pick)

We’d watched Hellbender and enjoyed it, and I was listening to a podcast where they talked about this being the Adams Family’s (not THE Addams Family, though I kinda wonder, hmm) second movie. So we hunted down The Deeper You Dig and weren’t disappointed. Pretty much the same cast and with a similar witchy/psychic themes, which we loved. The plot? After her daughter dies and haunts the killer, her mom, a psychic, tries to figure out what’s happening. Pro tip? Don’t sled in the dark in a blizzard across a road.

Jug Face (A Rob pick)

Another movie I heard about from a podcast (The Lovecraft eZine Podcast?) that sounded intriguing. Like, what’s not interesting about devout backwoods hillbillies worshiping a malevolent/benevolent pit that’s probably some kind of forest demon god? Hits all the right notes in my book. The Plot? The Pit wants what the Pit wants. And it’s not the friendly sort of blood filled pit that everyone likes. Let’s just say it’s best to obey it’s demands or you lose your intestines.. Pro tip: Don’t sleep with your brother.

The Donut Queen by Scott S. Phillips

The Donut Queen


Vampires get a bad rap these days. A terrible rap. Sure, it’s easy to point to the general body of work from the last decade and shrug at the overdone and uninspired and lazy, but that’s a vast oversimplification. All genres wax and wane, and amidst the swirling seas of creativity there are always gems to be discovered and cherished. If you’ve been keeping watch, you’ll know there is plenty of thick red blood left in the vampire genre. Still not convinced? Fire up WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (movie AND series), for one, and you will be.

Along those humorous and wildly entertaining lines, the PETE, DRINKER OF BLOOD series has been a treasure for the last few years. Since 2012 Scott Phillips has been entertaining us with tales of regular, everyman, Pete, transformed into a vampire in 1973 and sort of stuck in the seventies in so many (good) ways. The fabulous and distinctive covers by Lili Chin elucidate this aesthetic perfectly.

All poor Pete wants is to have an unexciting, normal life (or what passes as one for a creature of the night). Spending quality time with his girlfriend Angie, working his night job for the Department of Water and Power, listening to classic rock at the Starbucket diner. But a simple life is not in the cards. Over five novels (with a sixth in the works!) Pete, with a fantastic cast of friends, enemies, and frenemies, has navigated an increasing chaotic adventure oozing with greasy magic and the machinations of the insidious Untermeier’s Donuts.

This adventure and conflict comes to its penultimate conclusion in The Donut Queen. Maisie Untermeier, the aforementioned Donut Queen herself, has arrived in person to deal with the ever troublesome Pete, and with an unexpected and terrifying ally attempts to make good on that threat. But Pete has an unexpected, though possibly undesired, ally as well, and in typical Pete fashion, unlife never proceeds exactly as desired.

While you might possibly understand what the hell is going on if you jump right into this one without reading the preceding four, I’d strongly recommend picking up the others if you haven’t – well worth the price of admission.

The Donut Queen is available on Amazon now!


TST: Welcome, Scott, to the Seventh Terrace of Purgatory. The sexiest terrace of course. And warm! Want to introduce yourself and tell us a little about your new novel, THE DONUT QUEEN? And possibly about the PETE, DRINKER OF BLOOD series in general?

Scott: Thanks! I like to be warm and sexy. By way of introduction, I  guess I’m just a guy who likes to write stuff. When I was a kid I used to make little Super-8mm movies, mostly because at the time I wanted to be a stop-motion animator, but as I kept making the flicks, I realized that I liked writing the scripts for ‘em better than doing the animation and whatnot. This led to writing a bunch of screenplays and I eventually sold one that became DRIVE (Dacascos, not Gosling). I wound up writing a handful of movies and a bunch of stuff that never got made (like the infamous Steven Seagal nightmare and the script I did for Kelsey Grammer’s production company at Paramount that basically broke my spirit). Along the way, I discovered I liked writing short stories a lot more than I liked dealing with Hollywood and around that time, I wrote my first novel, SQUIRREL EYES. After a truly unpleasant experience with the editor of my novel FRIDAY THE 13th: CHURCH OF THE DIVINE PSYCHOPATH, I decided to take a stab at self-publishing, and I’ve never looked back. 

As for PETE, I had originally written what became the first novel as a screenplay, although it was more of an Adam Sandler movie than what the book wound up being. My girlfriend Sarah Bartsch, who is also a writer (and we’re working on a couple books together right now), suggested turning it into a series, and THE DONUT QUEEN is the fifth book in that series. That one just came out at the end of April. They’re urban fantasy stories full of vampires, monsters, and magic, and they’re also pretty funny (I hope). 

TST: We love Pete, but why the hell would you select 1973 as the year his hair had to be trapped in? Not a particularly great year for hair if I remember, though I was only six and probably got my hair cut with a bowl.

Scott: I was nine and had that same bowl cut! Which is probably one reason I got picked on constantly, along with liking comic books and Star Trek. Remember when being a nerd actually got the shit kicked out of you? Anyway, I disagree on hair-years – personally, I’m all about the 70s hair, largely because as a guy who has had long hair (and is in the process of having it again now), it’s a lot easier to pull off the 70s thing than the 80s thing – hair metal or new wave. Of course, Pete doesn’t even have long hair, just a ‘fro. I guess this is where I should mention that 1973 is when Pete got himself vampire-bit, for those wondering what the hell we’re even talking about.

TST: So… greasy magic. Sounds like something that spontaneously happens when we leave fast food in the sun in the back seat of our Pontiac Aztec or possibly when Gary and the rest of the penguins get into the lube. How on earth did you come up with the concept and name for this unique flavor of sorcery?

Scott: One of the things I like to do with the Pete books is poke a little fun at genre tropes, and between writing the first and second books, I read MISTBORN by Brandon Sanderson, and he came up with that insanely cool and insanely well-thought-out magic system, so I wanted to do the exact opposite with PETE HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE. I figured I needed the lowest form of low magic, and you can’t get much lower than something that requires using your own pee (or other bodily fluids) to control it. I wanted a sort of magic that’s pretty much exclusively used by criminals and lazy people. The name is kind of a Trailer Park Boys reference – they’re always referring to anything particularly sleazy as “greasy,” and I just thought it fit. 

TST: The inclusion of the Fae in this novel is inspired. Did you plan this, or did you take a wrong turn at Albuquerque?

Scott: Thanks! But heck no, I don’t plan nuthin’, really. When someone asked Elmore Leonard if he outlines really tightly, he said “I don’t even have a loose outline. I just make it up as I go along.” That’s pretty much how I like to write – although I’m not comparing myself to Elmore Leonard, aside from not outlining. I tend to have little signposts in my head that I work towards but I like things to be flexible, and I find if I’m working from an outline I get all twisted up trying to stick to it even though my instincts are screaming at me to throw it out. So yes, wrong turn at Albuquerque, which is easy since I live just outside of the place. I guess it just felt like it was time for some faeries to show up in the Pete books. 

TST: What’s next for Pete? We hear tell of a capstone for his current set of adventures – though hopefully it won’t be three more years! And on related note, are you planning on writing any more Boone Butters stories? Please say yes.

Scott: I’ve just gotten started on the sixth book in the series, which is called THE GREASY MAGIC WAR. That will wrap up the Untermeier’s Donuts story arc that’s been going on since book two – and yeah, I definitely don’t want any more three-year stretches of writing one book! Depression is the enemy of cranking out the wordage, I can assure you. I’m feeling a bit better these days, though, and I’m writing every single day (and have been since January 1st, 2020). There will definitely be more Pete adventures after book six, although I think they’ll be more standalone stories unless I change my mind along the way. I already have an idea of what books seven and eight will be, in any case. I’d like to do a spin-off featuring Randy “Serious” Burns and his criminal cohorts, and I’ve got the next Boone Butters book percolating like crazy, but it’s just a matter of finding the time to write all the things. As I mentioned, Sarah and I are working on two books together – they’re both cozy mysteries, and we’re having a lot of fun with those. With any luck, the first one (WICKED SNARL: A DANGER POTATO MYSTERY) will be out by the end of the year.

TST: You have a great Patreon with a stream of terrible poems, video journals, and sneak peeks. And something called No Coward Bites where you eat… well, technically things you can put in your mouth and possibly swallow. What made you think this was a good idea?

Scott: Thanks! I try to make the Patreon thing fun and deliver some goofy stuff. Writing the terrible poems is my favorite thing about it. No Coward Bites is actually something I do for YouTube, so anyone can check it out, but folks on my Patreon get early access to new episodes. It was Sarah’s idea – I have a bunch of those disturbing old cookbooks full of horrifying recipes and she thought it would be cool if I made them and sampled them. The title is something my friend Greg Freeland said when I told him I was gonna make the Veg-All Pie for the first episode. I’d like to do the episodes more often, but not only is time a factor, I honestly dread having to eat the stuff so I put it off sometimes. Like the one I’ve got coming up – it involves chicken noodle soup, cream cheese, lemon Jell-O, and canned shrimp. The idea of putting that into my mouth-parts is utterly terrifying. 

TST: You wrote a couple of fantastic short stories for us back at Coffin Hop Press, in It’s a Weird Winter Wonderland and Knucklehead Noir. Any possibility of getting another story out of you in the near/medium/long future?

Scott: You are too kind. I would love to send more stories your way, but once again it comes down to the hours in the day. I’ve got a couple things kickin’ around my brain, so it’s not out of the question. As with any of us people what puts the words on the papers, the dream is that the book sales will pick up to the point where I can cut back on the day job a bit and get more of the real stuff done.

TST: Thank you for chatting with us! Any final words before we release the leg hold trap?

Scott: Only that I wish I had that fast food from the back seat of your car right now. 


About the Author:

Scott S. Phillips has written all kinds of stuff: films, TV, books, comics and even dialogue for talking dolls. He’s the author of the PETE, DRINKER OF BLOOD series, as well as several other books. Scott wrote the screenplay for the cult action flick DRIVE (1997), and twelve episodes of the CW Network’s KAMEN RIDER DRAGON KNIGHT.

Perhaps most importantly, he once performed as stand-in for the legendary Lemmy in the video for Motorhead’s “Sacrifice.”

You can find Scott at his Patreon page, where you can get cool exclusives like sneak peeks at chapters of upcoming books, a Patrons-only blog, read his monthly terrible poems (and see videos of him doing dramatic readings of those very same terrible poems), get your name listed in the acknowledgments of his books, and even have a character named after you!

You can also find Scott at Facebook and Instagram: @scottphillipsnm

Darkest Hours: Expanded Edition by Mike Thorn


I didn’t think I could love this collection more, but I so do! When it comes to Mike Thorn, more is always better. And this Expanded Edition gives you so much more. Hard to believe it’s been four years since the original was released by Unnerving – I remember reading through it the first time thinking what the absolute fuck. In the best way of course. I never thought of hair the same way. Ever.

So what comes in the box? Besides freshly revised versions of the all the original stories, we get an awesome new cover from Mikio Murakami, a lovely foreword from Sadie Hartmann (of Mother Horror renown), story notes for each story, and a collection of excellent essays on horror cinema.

I’m not going to review each of the stories in depth, but I will say if I had to pick my jewel of the collection, I’m going to have to go with “Mictian Diabolus”. A story with anything or anyone called The Peeler hits all of my sweet spots.

Of all the new content, the story notes are my favourite addition. As both a reader and author, I love to hear how stories came to be and their influences (so incredibly varied) and how they evolved. Super cool.

And the essays? Mike knows SO much about horror film history, and his insights on such make me realize how much I don’t know and what I should go track down and devour (Rob Zombie’s 31!). He makes it look effortless. After you read this set of essays, if you haven’t poured through the lists of his favourites (and why they are his favourites) on Twitter, you’re missing out. Run, don’t walk, and read them all. Trust me, you’ll learn so much.

Darkest Hours: Expanded Edition will be released into the world by Journalstone on June 11, 2021.


Noggy: Today in the studio, we have the infamous Mike Thorn. Want to tell us a little about your new collection Darkest Hours: Expanded Edition and why we’d consider you infamous? 

Mike: Yes, I do want to tell you about Darkest Hours: Expanded Edition! Thank you, Sarah and Rob. This is a deluxe reissue of a short story collection initially released in 2017. This updated version includes my author notes for all 16 original stories, 17 essays on horror cinema, and a foreword by the great Sadie Hartmann (Mother Horror). It also features beautiful new cover art by Mikio Murakami. 

I suspect you might consider me infamous because my reading of “Hair” made several customers gag at Owl’s Nest Books. Is that true?  

Noggy: I’m going to say yes! (Sarah’s nota bene: it is true and it was me). And that’s probably why the Nest now has hardwood instead of carpet. So with that out of the way, I do have a burning question, are you perhaps any relation to the Frank Manly Thorn? – you’re both sort of dapper writer types in that monstrous and indescribable way. 

Mike: I can’t respond to this with any certainty. If I send my saliva to 23andMe, will they be able to confirm? I apologize for answering your question with a question, but it’s the best I can do right now. 

Lola: Understood. If anyone understands evasion, we certainly do. What horror movie/book/media you totally love and adore that most people think is garbage – and vice versa? 

Mike: I recently rewatched the director’s cut of The Bye Bye Man, directed by Stacy Title, and I liked it even more on a second viewing. I’m also a huge fan of John Boorman’s Exorcist II, M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening, all of Dario Argento’s late-career work, Bela Lugosi’s Poverty Row pictures … I could go on and on. There are so many horror films that I think are misunderstood and/or underappreciated!  

As for the reverse: I did not respond to A Quiet Place at all, but I know a lot of people were excited by it.  

Lola: Fuck/Marry/Kill: characters and monsters from Darkest Hours. Come on, we know you have answers! 

Mike: Fuck the blob from “Mired.” 
Marry Cate from “The Auteur.” 
Kill Steve from “Party Time.”

You’ll have to read the book to psychoanalyze these responses, folks!

Noggy: You just released your first novel – Shelter for the Damned – do you think you’ll write more novels, or are you retreating back to short stories where the fun and uh… money is? 

Mike: Right now, I’m drafting a screen treatment and an essay for an anthology on Weird Fiction. I’m also neck-deep in a second novel. I intend to keep working within both the long and short forms. Wherever the muse leads me, you know? 

Lola: What would you do if you woke up one morning and found a single stout hair growing in the middle of your tongue? 

Mike: Just one hair? In all honesty, I would probably just pluck it. If this became a recurring issue, or if one hair became two (or more), I would promptly schedule a visit with my doctor.  

Lola: The only thing less respectable than being a horror writer is being a film critic. In your view, is becoming a critic failing up or down? 

Mike: “Respectable” is overrated.  

I like to think my failings are on a consistently upward trajectory. Thanks for this question.  

Noggy: Could be worse I guess, you could be a poet. Want to tell us about what you have coming out this year and what you’re working on? Or have you peaked and plan on coasting for the rest of the decade? 

Mike: My second short story collection, Peel Back and See, comes out from Journalstone in October. Also, Jamie Blanks and I have been talking about collaborating on something scary for the screen! 

Right now, I’m working on getting vaccinated and staying afloat.

Noggy: Good luck with with all your endeavours, and enjoy your new microchip. Well Lola, guess we should mention that Mike has also been coerced into writing a story for The Seventh Terrace’s forthcoming mini-anthology Terrace VI: Forbidden Fruit, out in June!

Lola: Do yourself a favour and pick up Darkest Hours: Expanded Edition. And remember, there’s always more than one hair…


About the Author:

Mike Thorn is the author of the novel Shelter for the Damned and the short story collection Darkest Hours. His fiction has appeared in numerous magazines, anthologies and podcasts, including Vastarien, Dark Moon Digest, The NoSleep Podcast, and Tales to Terrify. His film criticism has been published in MUBI Notebook, The Film Stage, and In Review Online

Visit his website or connect with him on Twitter @MikeThornWrites.

Publisher: Journalstone

One Tough Bastard by Adam Howe

One Tough Bastard

In Adam Howe’s One Tough Bastard, the most legendary buddy team-up in cinematic history has flung itself from the 80’s silver screen to plummet onto the written page. Maybe not the traditional vector for this sort of blockbuster, but given the lack of time machines, it’s not like modern humanity is able to return the favour. If Adam ever got a film made from this book, the universe would probably explode, Ouroboros being what it is.

Worth the risk of course, and until then we have this exquisite… historical document about Moxie and Duke and their wild-ass testosterone drenched misadventures. As a child of the 80’s (acid wash notwithstanding) this book is a love letter. To me. Hell, I owned pastel blue parachute pants (made from a real parachute) and a jean vest and cowboy boots. And a sick mullet. I’d post a picture, but the twenties don’t appreciate style and I’d get arrested for being nostalgically awesome (a real thing, look it up).

Anyways, I digress. Actually, no I don’t, the 80’s ARE the best. Maybe you had to be there, maybe you had to be the right age, but nothing beats the pure unfettered blend of action and humour and music and style. Peak movie insanity. Peak wrestling. Peak cheap booze. Peak stripper bars. A higher percentage of enbiggening oxygen in the atmosphere (also a real thing).

So, what to say about One Tough Bastard that hasn’t already been politically incorrectly uttered in every cool bar in every cool corner of every cool city and town and backwater cesspool? It’s just plain, unapologetic fun. In a world that seems to think everything has to be have a deep, underlying theme about loss and grief, it’s fabulous to read a story that’s pure fun romp. Sure, there are integral themes about friendship and self-confidence and being unable to understand how much of an idiot you are. And sure, even a nod to grief, of course as fuel for revenge, but all heaped with a giggling lemon spread of fun. Which is exactly what 2021 needs. Beyond the 80’s buddy movie dynamic, Adam has created a mythology around the characters and story squeezed from the best this genre have to offer. Shane Moxie is a hero. Possibly flawed, sure, but who wouldn’t be with that much awesomeness warping reality? If his movies were available, bootleg or not, I’d have Amishing in Action, Gung Ho-Ho-Ho, and especially Copscicle, splashed across a 108” 8K screen every chance I could.


About the Author: Adam Howe writes the twisted fiction your mother warned you about. A British writer of fiction and screenplays, he lives in London with his partner, their daughter, and a hellhound named Gino. Writing as Garrett Addams, his short story Jumper was chosen by Stephen King as the winner of the international On Writing contest, and published in the paperback/Kindle editions of King’s memoir. His fiction has appeared in Nightmare Magazine, Thuglit, Mythic Delirium, Year’s Best Hardcore Horror, and other places. He is the author of One Tough Bastard, Scapegoat (with James Newman), Tijuana Donkey Showdown, Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet, and Black Cat Mojo, and the editor of the Wrestle Maniacs anthology. In the pipeline: The Polack, a gritty 1930s noir co-written with Joseph Hirsch. Stalk him at Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter @Adam_G_Howe.

Publisher: Honey Badger Press

Luster by Raven Leilani

Edie is the only Black woman working at a children’s book publisher where she hopes to get promoted from reception to illustrator. But when they hire another, younger, hungrier, lighter-skinned Black lady, Edie is fired. It’s racism, tokenism, an outrage. It’s also because Edie fucked most of the men in the office and isn’t good at her job. So, lacking any other option, she moves in with her married white boyfriend, his white wife, and their recently adopted 11yo Black daughter. It’s every bit as strange as it sounds but this book blew my mind. A story of alienation, desperation, and bewildering tenderness, Luster is a darkly curious dive into unconventional relationships, the surprising ways in which people bond, and what they can teach each other.

I don’t know if I’d call this horror in the genre sense, but since I prefer to think of horror as an experience, an emotion, I gotta say I was peeking over the edge of a blanket, tense, cringing, and biting my knuckles in avoidance of my own unvarnished reactions to this story and the people living inside it. Raven Leilani’s prose is voracious, with a full set of teeth in each sentence.