beauty, book reviews, women

Full Throttle by Joe Hill

I’ve reviewed his work before and at this point, I call myself a fan of his work.

Full Throttle is a collection of short stories, two written in collaboration with his father, Stephen King.

These stories are fantastic. Hills voice has such a scintillating form, with a powerful sense of genre and heart authority which means you get vengeful truckers, killer carousel animals and a brilliant combined story about the business model of franchise coffee shops and British werewolves.

The best horror has an ability to find the balance between cosmic justice and also the gleeful voyeurism of bad things happening to good people. Hill is a master of the form and here is a lot of great stories.

My favourite? Too many to choose from but Wolverton Station is a Jonathan Carroll/Neil Gaiman hybrid without the manners but with the glib, empowering sense of a horrible man getting his life decisions horribly wrong. Also a werewolf in a Manchester United shirt is a brilliant image. Gaiman reads the story for the audio book and it’s pure delight.

Yes, I brought the audio book and paperback, so should you.

My book Until She Sings is out now in paperback and ebook.



My Mailing List for announcements and news with a free short story as a thank you.

books, nature, short fiction, women

Elena, In The Woods

When Mrs Parris walked into my office with her nose upturned, I allowed her a measure of disdain to hide behind. The local police and FBI had failed to find her daughter, so here she was with an envelope of unmarked bills.

She decided to stand, rather than sit down. The money leavened the insults for me.

Elena had been twenty-one years old, graceful in every way with a halo of blonde hair and alabaster skin. Her intensity had been apparent from every photo circulated about her, reflected in her politics, which was how she had ended up in Portland. A perfect rebellion against her patrician, old money family with a good helping of political disgrace dumped on top.

Six months gone. I had friends who had worked the case, dedicated and professional people who all shared a collective disbelief that she had disappeared so thoroughly.

No ransom notes.

No social media clues or posts.

No body.

Before Mrs Parris arrived, I had gone through the case and came much to the same conclusion. What would not hurt was my willingness to go over old ground.

The last possible sighting of her had been with a fledgling ecological pressure group that had been interrogated into dissolution. A single photo of her sat by a fire, singing and smiling, integrated into the group but apart from it. Some of the cash in the envelope had already been spent on camping gear and a local guide which was where I would be spending my weekend.

Deke met me at the last decent diner, and we went over the route over Greek omelettes and gallons of thick, black coffee. He accepted his cash fee with grace and tucked it away without comment.

He finished his coffee and sucked on his moustache.

‘Lot of ground to cover.’ he said.

I nodded and hid my concern that his version of what a lot of ground meant differed radically from mine.

I flexed my toes inside my gore-tex socks and hiking boots, uncomfortable with the urge to see if I could find anything to justify my fee. I finished my food, conscious that we would be subsisting on trail mix and jerky before too long.

‘So, we’re just going to wander around looking?’ Deke said.

I sat back and raised my hands in a despairing gesture.

‘That’s what I’m paying you for, Deke, charming as you are.’

Deke clapped his leathery palms together.

‘It’s your dime, ma’am.’ he said.

It was and I was keen to get started.


I left my car at the diner, took Deke’s truck to the edge of the woods and started from there. We each had framed backpacks and Deke had brought a hunting rifle which was slung from his right shoulder. I had my 9mm pistol in a holster on my right hip with two clips of ammunition. It might have been a lot of precaution to take, but if you’d ever been shot, then you would learn the appeal of a good sidearm if it came down to it.

We started strong, making good time but soon we were trudging through the dense undergrowth, slapping at insects a little too late. We had run out of conversation, which suited us both, preferring to take in the absolute silence of the forest as our guide.

Nature is a mirror, a vast reflection of the inner self. For Deke, it must have been like a shortcut home, but for me, each sound held an unnerving quality, distorted by the silence and the scale of the place. People wandered out here and were absorbed into it.

I wondered if the same had happened to Elena.

Each breath I took was damp, bearing the green taste of the pine needles and the moss. My clothing teemed with moisture, but I stayed dry beneath them which was a relief.

Deke found the spot where the photograph was taken, kneeling down and rubbing the blackened soil between his fingers before nodding. We found two other similar sites, but kept moving through the woods.

His taciturn lack of conversation continued as we made camp. There was only the sounds of our eating and the crackle of the fire he had built. My ears were becoming attuned to the silence of the forest but even so, sleep was a long time in coming.

We were moving before dawn. My body ached for a soft bed, but Deke’s manner made me stash my complaints away for someone who would empathise.

He stopped and pointed out some unusual arrangements of twigs, lashed together with twine and dumped through the woods.

‘People say that squatches leave them.’

I smiled and asked him if he believed that. He smirked and shrugged his shoulders.

‘If they pay me enough, I’ll believe anything they want.’

The second day proved to be as fruitless as the first, but as we made camp, Deke was a little more talkative, which meant one syllable responses rather than silence and we had been sat there for an hour when a breeze arose and stoked the small fire into a state of rude health. Deke furrowed his forehead and I crossed my legs at the ankles, pretending that this was a normal state of affairs for me.

A second breeze followed and we both looked at one another as we heard the crack of a branch being broken underfoot. Deke got up and retrieved his rifle, checked the bolt and started to walk to the edge of our camp. He stopped and lifted his nose, took a deep breath and sighed.

‘Smells kinda odd.’ he said.

He walked into the trees. I tried to follow him but the shadows swallowed him up no more than a few feet ahead of me. I called his name, but he did not answer.

A fresh breeze arose and I tasted pollen and sap on my tongue. A crude surge of energy bubbled up within me and I spat on the ground as I looked around, willing Deke to appear before me.

Something moved in my peripheral vision and came towards me.

Not from the forest, but of it.

It loomed over me, some eight feet tall, a distorted funhouse mirror version of a human being.


She had flowering vines falling around her distended skull. Her skin was formed from petals of peach and pink, translucent in places with the shadows of a skeleton formed from wood underneath it. Her limbs were elongated, ending in bundles of horned roots that uncurled in twitching, rapid motions.

In her empty sockets, cornflowers bloomed and when she opened her cavernous maw, I saw chips of bark inserted into gums of packed dirt.

I stood there, taking in each terrible detail that was not filtered by the shadows. There were shadows of unknown anatomies formed from earth and plant matter, pulsing beneath a skeleton made from hard wood. She moved in jagged bursts of activity, whipping her upper body back and forth as she tried to force words through vocal chords composed of vines.

‘Help me. Hurts.’

‘Elena?’ I said.

She managed a nod and gestured behind her. Deke stood there, weeping in awe with the rifle loose in his hands. He did not acknowledge me but followed the pair of us without speaking. She strode like a colossus, pushing aside branches with an inhuman strength. We walked for a while until we came to a dense crop of undergrowth and she tore it aside with a horned hand.

Her corpse, identifiable only by the matted length of white blonde hair, teeming with insects now laid there, sightless eyes staring up at me and accusing everyone for their failure to find her. I saw her expression, knotted in a perpetual mask of agony.

‘Do you know who did this to you?’ I said.

She raised and lowered her chin as petals fell from her cheeks, showing the sculptured sweep of a cheekbone formed from a knot of oak. She reached out a hand and breathed into my face. I sneezed twice before a vision began to form before me.

His handsome but insistent features. His refusal to accept her polite refusal and then growing violent with it. I knew his hands at my throat, crushing and squeezing as my breath left me. His black hair flopped in front of his eyes as he worked at me.

His face was familiar. One of the group who had been eliminated early.

‘Johnny.’ I said.

She nodded and a wrenching screech echoed as she stood upright and touched my face. It drew blood, but I did not feel it until the coppery heat trickled down my face.

She gazed into my eyes before she strode away. Deke fell to his knees, weeping with sorrow and adoration. He kept saying how beautiful she was, and I agreed with him. Perhaps she exuded something that worked with men, but I appreciated what an effect such a thing could have on someone.

Without speaking, we packed up and walked back to his truck. We were both utterly disturbed by what we had seen and we slept in the front seat before we drove back to civilisation. Deke called the tip in from a pay phone and I wrote a report that said nothing of what had happened other than that we had been able to find a body.

I stood amongst the mourners a month later, appreciating the sweet, spring afternoon and staring at the branches as they played in the breeze. Her family grieved with enough force to bring tears to my eyes and I fought the urge to tell them what I had seen.

The scent of her rose in my nostrils, a warning to keep my own counsel and I heeded it.

Another reason for my silence had been when they found Johnny Raymond’s body. He had been torn into sections, his intestines snaking down the stairs and his head rolled down the hallway in a puddle of his own blood.

The presence of thorns and petals confused the investigating officers, but they figured on an open window.

I took the bonus, paid Deke extra from it and kept my silence. I thought about her, wandering there, amongst nature and free to roam the thousands of miles that remained untouched by man.

I wished her well wherever she was.

Whatever she was.



My book Until She Sings is out now.



My Mailing List for announcements and news with a free short story as a thank you.

beauty, books, short fiction, women

Audio Cassette Found At Kenner’s Wood

‘Is this on?’

‘For the sixth time, Danvers, its recording.

Forgive my husband, he’s been unbearably skittish about this for weeks.’

‘We’re all skittish, Pen.’

It’s an ugly bloody thing, isn’t it?’

‘Ugliness isn’t something to fear, Eddie.’

*Sigh* Let’s hope that ugliness is the worst we have to contend with tonight, eh?’

‘I’m still not convinced about the setting. It’s a little too rustic. We should be doing these over highballs and with good music playing, instead of all this bloody silence.’

‘There’s power here. We need that. Are you ready Pen?’

‘The birds seem to be a bit assertive around here.’

‘That actually proves Danvers’ point. Right, let’s get started.’

‘Okay, tape is running in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.’

‘I call upon the twisted

Nameless children of Abaddon

To return their mother to this

Earthly plane.’

‘I bear witness as Abaddon’s whore

Who will anoint me?’

‘I will anoint you.

With these marks

You shall..ah..become

Terrible and..uh..ugh.’


‘I accept you

Soil and scar me

Until I am a vessel

For the mother

Of the twisted

Nameless gods.’

‘God, I don’t know where to look.’

‘Shut up, Ed. We’re trying to bloody focus.’

‘Sorry, just you think you’ve seen your friends do most things, but -‘

‘Boys, it’s just flesh. And some other fluids. Now concentrate. I’m really close.’

Watch it, darling, it tickles.

‘Prostrate yourself

Show me the terrors of

The cold void




‘Dear god, man, slow down, you’ll put your back out.’

‘unh. He knows how I want it.’

‘I do?’

‘Not you, Abaddon. Now put some gusto into it, darling, I need to get there before we start the second configuration.’

‘It’s freezing in here.’

‘Are you..ah..serious?



Get off her man, she’s having a seizure.’



‘Penny, that’s not fucking funny.’


Echi ci nar Abaddon.


‘Is this in the book?’

‘Ed, is it in the fucking book?’


‘She’s supposed to have a cracker of an orgasm, speak in tongues then we get to talk to Abaddon.’

‘You’ve realised that it’s exactly what’s just happened? Just the passing out bit wasn’t expected.’

‘Oh Jesus that hurts.’


‘No, there’s something inside my….ah ah AH AH AH…oh Jesus it’s moving.’


‘Penny. Please stop it.’

‘uh..Eddie..please. It’s moving inside me.’


‘Fuck, it’s in my….*choking sounds*

‘Oh Jesus. I know where the…what fucking page is it on? Jesus Christ, man, fucking think.’


‘Ah, there you bloody are.’


‘Stay with me, Dan.’


‘It’s in my head, Eddie.’


‘I say to you that this…will not be.’

‘Eddie, I can see things. It’s showing me things. Such things.’


‘Lo, shall you

Be cast back



‘Agh, Eddie, it’s…moving.’


‘Lo, shall you. Penny, if you come any closer, I will hurt you.’


‘No, Penny, please. I love you.’

*Wet slurping sounds.*

*The sharp crack of bone.*

*Wooden slats shattering. The teeming hum of birds, so loud that it sounds like static*




My book Until She Sings is out now.



My Mailing List for announcements and news with a free short story as a thank you.

books, film, television

Press F – Horror and Technology

Press F To Pay Respects – Horror and Technology –

My first article for Haunt Jaunts.

blogging, creative writing, short fiction


My first article will be up soon. I will be talking about horror, crime and the paranormal and I hope you will pay the site a visit. They’re a great and passionate crew of people, and I’m looking forward to posting there often.

poetry, politics

Zombie Movies

I’m watching zombie 

Movies and the phone

Pinging with

Fits of neuroses

Squeezed into strait jackets

Not even a silver of moon

And everyone goes feral

Happy, bland faces

Gnawing at people’s futures

To feed a belly adapted for

some notion of justice

it is a hunger

Bland and cold

Relentless and puritan

The mob, clawing

And I turn the movie off

But it doesn’t end anymore

Does it?

I finger the faded bite scars

Remember how I too

Shambled and bit on


But I’m human now

Forgiving and puzzled

By how mindless hunger

Is mistaken for hilarity

And the disinfecting


when (read another book)

It’s all too close to beautiful

To see

The headshot rebuilt 

My brain

And I shut the door

Hear their nails clawing at the door

Wonder when they’ll come 



dogs, short fiction

Like Dog Bites



Preston rolled his shoulders back, stuck his chest out as he looked at the crowd. When the mayor handed him the key to the city, there were a few boos from people but nothing more. Preston’s security flanked him either side like pillars but these were events where he felt fragile. Hundreds of people still offering him their shame, and how he writhed against the offer.


Fucking dogs, he thought.


The starched collar of his shirt rubbed against the back of his neck as he squinted against the flashes until something etched the strain into his skull. He agreed he wouldn’t drink at these events and so Preston was already contemplating the first smooth burn of brandy when he got home.


He posed for photographs, noting there were fewer people eager to have their photograph with him. Still, it had been a tough road to get this far. Preston had a career, and he played the role of regret with a stoic enthusiasm but there was an ugliness to things which exhausted him. It was an endless drill under Georgia sun all the time. Preston’s soul begged for water, but what relief there was, came in small public sips and gluttonous private feeding.


When his assistant, Keiko came over to tell him his car was ready and he looked at her with gratitude. She was reporting back to Sharon, but she made herself scarce when it benefited her.


The bark wasn’t close but the hackles on the back of his neck rose, stinging where the collar burned into the skin as he looked up. Keiko was ushering him out to the car, and he convinced himself he imagined it as he got into the back of the car.


His hands shook when he reached for the vape pen and pressed the ignition button as he sucked down the smoke. The CBD kept his head straight and his knees from killing him every day. As the smoke settled into his synapses, he sank into the seat and looked out of the tinted window at the sun flashing off the windows.


Something caught his eye. Spry and aggressive as it leapt from the sidewalk, a loping shadow but he couldn’t make out the point of origin. His eyes burned as he pressed his fingers against the bridge of his nose.


Keiko woke him by saying his name. His chin was damp and his head hurt, but he staggered out of the car with gratitude to be home. Preston was relieved of the burden of performance.


Well, one kind, anyway.


Sharon was in the living room, feet up on the couch as she typed into her tablet.


‘What’s wrong with you?’ she said.


He grimaced and shook his head.




Her nose wrinkled with disappointment as she sniffed.


‘Stoned too. Shit, you got one hundred and thirty million dollars to burn, motherfucker?’


Preston swatted the air with one thick hand as he loosened his tie and staggered through to the master bedroom. He waved the air conditioning on and kicked his shoes off as he crawled onto the bed before he clapped his hands and switched the lights off.


In the cold dark, he laid there and breathed in, tried to let the tension which clung to his skin like second hand smoke.


The growl was soft. He sat up, clapped the lights on and found it stopped. Preston swore under his breath as he looked around him. No one heard him, and he sat there, heart thumping hard against his ribs as he wiped chill sweat from his forehead.


Preston checked under the bed and found there was nothing waiting for him. He laid back down, clapped the lights out but sleep was a long time coming.




Preston had gone to church, grew up with the Bible stories.


His fear of dogs came from there, but he lacked the means to reach far enough inside himself to grasp it.


“For without [are] dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.”


Revelation 22:15.


“And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.”


Luke 16:21.


It was close to whore in the amount of insults. His issues with women came later, but it was dogs which betrayed them.


Then, it was his brother.


The irony, like his sense of self-preservation, escaped him. His viciousness grew florid in line with his success. His status armoured him against any moral considerations.


No became why not?


Why not became










His brother Stanfield got picked up on a possession charge and gave them Preston’s house as his place of residence. The sheriff’s department sent a team out to search the house and grounds.


They found the kennels.


Truck axles dug into the ground with thick lengths of chain welded onto them.


The pit, laced with lime which grew so full they were debating another one before the police came.


Forensics found thirty dogs buried in the pit, but the process of decomposition made it difficult. Preston was unsure himself. People bought their dogs from all over, and some of them were left there. He enjoyed watching the dogs fight, and the money wasn’t even the point, just an excuse because everything he needed was in watching two animals fight until one of them was dead.


It was the same on the field, and it was something no one ever asked about.


Money made most of it go away. The shame was something he pretended to accept, and after some court-mandated therapy and the promise of season tickets, his agents returned his calls again.


When he walked into the kitchen for some water, he heard the clatter of claws on the kitchen tiles. A rapid tattoo played on his nerves as he turned away, crawling with unease. He opened the bottle and drank in a deep gulp as something moved in his peripheral vision. A blur of motion registered but when he looked in that direction, there was nothing.


Preston shook his head and whistled under his breath as he put the cap back on the bottle and replaced it in the fridge. He chuckled to himself as he walked out of the kitchen.


He heard the wet rasp of a dog panting.


Handsome Jimmy had been the only dog allowed in the house. His daughter and worse, his wife had taken to it and despite his protestations, it slept inside.


It meant Jimmy was never getting in the pit but Preston saw the utility in it.


It was his breathing Preston heard.


He ignored it, walking to the living room and sinking into the custom recliner, found the remote and switched the television on.


Sharon hadn’t left him. She wasn’t a ride or die bitch, but the prenuptial agreement would have put her out on her ass without a penny to her name. His daughter got everything and she got an allowance. Preston’s name meant something and Sharon swallowed her disgust before things went back to normal again.


His daughter knew better than to ask about Jimmy.


Preston swallowed and his head throbbed. He had some pills in the bathroom and he went upstairs to get them. His heart was thumping like he had been doing wind sprints but he figured it was just stress. He wanted to be out on the field where none of this shit could touch him.


A wave of sadness overwhelmed him and he sat on the stairs, fighting a thick, ugly impulse to cry and when he heard Jimmy’s panting as it came up the stairs, he gave in and wept.


He wondered if he would ever stop.




Sharon pulled up at her sister’s house and turned to her daughter who sat in the back seat.


‘If she asks about your dad, he’s fine.’ she said.


Tanisha sneered without looking up from her phone.


‘She ain’t going to ask, momma.’ she said.


Sharon pouted and clicked her fingers at her daughter.


‘Bitch will eat out for a month on the news her brother-in-law’s a vegetable.’ she said.


Tanisha looked up, wounded and appalled but not surprised by her mother’s assessment.


She had found him on the stairs, weeping and inconsolable. He was three hundred pounds of breakdown. Keiko arranged for Preston to visit the hospital. Sharon had said the scans showed evidence of too many blows to the head, trauma which left scars on his brain which would never heal.


Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy


As they got out of the car, Tanisha agreed not to say anything and Sharon adjusted her hair one last time as she tried not to think about how the trauma in her husband’s brain had looked.


Like dog bites, she thought.


They looked like dog bites.