Book Review: Chasing Ghosts by Glenn Rolfe


Chasing Ghosts

By Glenn Rolfe

Published by Sinister Grin Press, August 1, 2016

4 Stars

One of my earliest guilty pleasure movies was Wrong Turn. I was obsessed with the backwoods creatures that knew no moral boundaries, who seemed to exist solely to inflict pain and eat other humans. This premise is ruthlessly terrifying, and I found myself, years later, equally frightened by Glenn Rolfe’s take on this vicious plot in his novella, Chasing Ghosts.

For such a short book, Rolfe is able to pack an immense amount of characters into the main plot—and not just filler, but characters you actually feel for. He opens with a ghost hunt gone wrong, where a group of young boys stumble into a dangerous family of monstrous humans. It then fast forwards a bit, following a punk band and their mistake to agree to play a show in the secluded woods. We are treated to a slasher-esque pacing of characters being picked off one by one, and as quickly as the blood-spilling and mayhem begins, it continues until the stories bittersweet end.

This book is brutal. It is relentless. The thrill moves at a breakneck speed. Rolfe depicts violence in such an empathetic, yet over the top way, that you find yourself cringing involuntarily when the action ramps up. There are few details spared to really bring that 80s horror vibe home. I could easily picture what was going on at every turn, as Rolfe’s writing has a very cinematic quality to it. Each page splashes across your imagination vividly, a feat that is not often achievable at this consistency.

While this is a book that I will remember because of its hard-hitting gore and horror, the amount of emotional work done in this book does not go unnoticed. The relationships between characters are well-established in a short period of time and still find space to develop in interesting, interconnected ways. This makes the pain felt by characters resound even louder as it’s felt by the characters close to them as well. Rolfe does what a lot of modern-day slashers can’t—makes you care if the characters live or die.

There were few things I was less enthusiastic about with this book. One, however, is that the title, combined with the summary, makes you feel like you are going to read something very different than what you get in the book. I was a bit confused when the focus of the book started to become clearer, but still, far from disappointed. The other small issue I had was with the late introduction of the law enforcement characters, who felt slightly forced into the fray. It would have been interesting to see them developed more throughout the story. I gladly would have read another hundred pages in this world!

All in all Rolfe’s Chasing Ghosts was a true treat to read in the dark, covers pulled tight. I’m looking forward to reading more in Rolfe’s catalog, as he clearly has an eye for horror and pulls off one of the more disturbing reads I’ve come across.

(Disclaimer: Review copy received from publisher. Thank you!)

Book Review: Kill Hill Carnage by Tim Meyer


Kill Hill Carnage

By Tim Meyer

Published by Sinister Grin Press, July 15 2018

4.5 Stars (Rounded up)

A few pages into Kill Hill Carnage by Tim Meyer, published by Sinister Grin Press, I knew I was holding one of my favorite horror books to be released this year. I was in the mood for something gory, lively, with a little humor and a lot of heart, and I found that in this book and so much more.

Kill Hill Carnage draws from the splattery depths of 80s horror, with creature and mad scientist throwbacks, campground massacres, and classic tale of “group of friends go into the woods and get more than they bargained for”. At face value, that’s enough fun to keep your attention through this novel. However, Meyer, with a knack for writing witty dialogue and palpable action, brings these fun tropes into a league of their own.

The plot of this book is thoroughly amusing, requiring page turn after page turn with an inability to be put down. The story travels non-linear paths, describing the monster-led massacre of a camp decades earlier, switching back and forth to the current-day group of young adults seeking thrills in those same woods. At no point did I feel lost in the story, each timeline and character perspective serving to push the story along at relatively breakneck speed.

One of the aspects I enjoyed most from Kill Hill Carnage was that there was a dynamic range of characters in the story. Meyer created realistic, interesting, and complex characters in the group of friends who are at the heart of this story—Jenna, Seth, Fiona, Dave, and Warren. While this group of friends are tied together in a twisty web of bffs, partners, wannabe-lovers, and acquaintances, Meyer does well to illuminate relationships in compelling directions. The other characters in the story—rough and gruff Frank and the scientists of Kill Hill allow for additional character development in well-written personalities. In addition to the solid cast at the center of the story, Meyer treats the reader to plenty of fodder to live up to the titular carnage.

Speaking of slaughter, while Meyer’s is talented in his ability to portray likable (and appropriately unlikable) characters with fun and often humorous dialogue, his ability to make me feel a little ill is to be equally lauded. Kill Hill Carnage was wrought with gore and the grimace-inducing action that causes it. This book is sharp in its descriptions of mayhem, with tense, gooey moments to fill the gaps between action as well.

I could go on and on about how this book is something close to a perfect read, but instead, I’m going to go light a candle and wish to the splatterpunk gods for a sequel.

(Disclaimer: Review copy received from publisher. Thank you!)