Archive for the ‘Scary Stuff’ Category

You know, I meant to put out another post between this one and my last post about The Pure World Comes. But I couldn’t think of anything worth blogging about, so you get two posts about TPWC in a row. Lucky you!

Anyway, as you all are aware, my novel The Pure World Comes is finally available in paperback and ebook. The novel is set in Victorian England and follows a maid who goes to work at the estate of a mad scientist. The full description is below:

Shirley Dobbins wants nothing more than to live a quiet life and become a head housekeeper at a prestigious house. So when she is invited to come work for the mysterious baronet Sir Joseph Hunting at his estate, she thinks it is the chance of a lifetime. However, from the moment she arrives things are not what they seem. As she becomes wrapped up in more of the baronet’s radical science, she realizes something dark and otherworldly is loose within the estate. And if left unchecked, it’ll claim the lives of all she holds dear.

Not bad, right? And a lot of the early reviews have been really positive. In fact, at the time I’m writing this, TPWC has a rating of 4.5/5 on Goodreads based on four ratings and two reviews. Honestly, I thought people might like the book, but this response has been better than I expected, and I’m so happy!

Anyway, I hope you’re as excited to read this as I am for you to read it. This novel is a love letter to the Victorian period, both its glitz and glamour and gentility, and its darkness, violence and the possibility of death around every corner,* as well as the scary stories that came out during that time. I had a blast researching it over the years and then an even bigger blast just writing it, followed by editing it for publication.

If you’re interested in grabbing a copy, you can buy one through the links below. And if you do end up getting a copy, please let me know what you think. Positive or negative, I love reader reviews and feedback, and your thoughts not only help me as a writer, but other readers as well.

And if you like TPWC, please consider checking out my other books. Who knows? You might enjoy reading those as well.

And if you’re the type of reader who prefers audio books, I am working on making that possible. I’ll keep you posted on any developments.

Anyway, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ve got a big day coming up (first day back in the office after working from home for two years straight), but I’ll check in when I can. So, until next time, good night, happy reading, and pleasant nightmares!

The Pure World Comes: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Kobo

*Seriously, everything and anything could kill you in the Victorian period. Coal dust, cleaning the chimney, the majority of makeups and beauty products, the clothes you wear, the color of your wallpaper. Even your food and water could kill you! Seriously, refrigeration didn’t really exist, they didn’t always throw out their food even after it had gone bad, and a lot of people got their water from the same sources where they dumped their poop. Not exactly sanitary.

And don’t think about going to your doctor. Not unless you wanted to be prescribed solution of lead or powerful opiates!

I know, technically it’s still available on the Readict app, but let’s face it. This is a bigger deal than that.

So, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that my novel The Pure World Comes will be releasing in one week on May 10th, and will be available in paperback and ebook. This Gothic horror novella is my love letter to the Victorian era of British history and follows a young maid who goes to work at the estate of a mad scientist. Here’s the description off the back of the book:

Shirley Dobbins wants nothing more than to live a quiet life and become a head housekeeper at a prestigious house. So when she is invited to come work for the mysterious baronet Sir Joseph Hunting at his estate, she thinks it is the chance of a lifetime. However, from the moment she arrives things are not what they seem. As she becomes wrapped up in more of the baronet’s radical science, she realizes something dark and otherworldly is loose within the estate. And if left unchecked, it’ll claim the lives of all she holds dear.

Sounds pretty cool, right? And it’ll be out in a week or so. I’m super excited. And with that cover, I think a lot of people are going to be interested. I know we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but many readers do just that, including authors like myself. This new cover for The Pure World Comes looks absolutely brilliant, so I’m hoping it’ll draw plenty of people in.

And yes, I’ve noticed that Iseult Murphy’s name is spelled wrong on the cover blurb. We’re working on getting that fixed before release date.

Anyway, I hope you all decide to check out and read The Pure World Comes when it releases on the tenth. I’ll include links below so you can get it from your preferred retailer. And if you do read the book, I do hope you’ll let me know what you thought of it. Positive or negative, I love reader feedback. And not only does it help me as a writer, but when you leave it on certain sites like Amazon or Goodreads, it lets other readers know whether the book is worth their time.

Oh, and if you’re more of an audio book person, I have good news: I am taking steps to produce an audio book of The Pure World Comes. It’s still too early to make any announcements like narrator or release date, but I am working on it. And as soon as it’s ready, I will let you all know.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m sure I’ll be checking in with you again before The Pure World Comes out next week. And until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares.

The Pure World Comes: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Kobo

As many of you know, last year I had a novel, The Pure World Comes, published on an app called Readict. The novel, a Gothic horror novel set in Victorian England, follows a young maid who goes to work at the estate of a mad scientist.

One year later, I’m excited to let you know that The Pure World Comes will be released in paperback and ebook on May 10th, 2022! Just 17 days from the time I’m writing!

I can’t wait to hear what you all think of the book now that it’s coming out in formats that are more accessible to readers. Those who read it on the app said it was really good. One or two people even said that one scene made the toilet scary! Now that’s an accomplishment!

By the way, I read that scene at an event back in October. It was so awkward and hilarious and I actually got compliments on portraying going to the bathroom from a woman’s point-of-view. Now that’s an even bigger accomplishment, if you ask me!

Anyway, let’s talk about The Pure World Comes. First, here’s the new cover.

You like? This cover was created by the artists at Rooster Republic Press, who also did the cover art for my short story Agoraphobia. They do some amazing work, and it shows in this latest cover by them. Not only did they bring the Hunting Lodge, the main setting of the story, to life with such brilliant art, but they also included sacred geometry in the illustration of the moon, which works well with the themes and plot of this novel.

Plus, it reminds me of some really amazing art covers I’ve seen, like the Charlie Bone books I read as a kid, with hints of that one cover for We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. Those are really eye-catching covers, so I hope that applies to this one.

As to how to get a copy, you can preorder from a variety of sites, especially Barnes & Noble and other sites. Not Amazon just yet. I’m using a different printing service than KDP Amazon, so Amazon’s being annoying by not allowing you to preorder through them. You have to wait till May 10th to get through them (unless they take their time approving them. Which I totally expect them to do). But all the other sites? Yeah, already available for preorder.

Anyway, I hope you decide to check out the book. I’m really proud of The Pure World Comes and I can’t wait to see what you all make of it. Do you think it’s scary? Do you like the characters? Did I research the Victorian period well? And if you read the book, I hope you let me know what you think. Positive or negative, I love reader feedback. It helps me improve as a writer and gives readers an idea of whether or not the book is for them.

And if enough people read and like the book, it might lead to an audio book. I would be very proud if that happened.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to make sure the world knows about this new story. You can check it out by clicking on the links below. Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares!

Barnes & Noble

Apple Books

Kobo

Praise to the King in Yellow! I’ve got my first acceptance of the year! Even better, it’s a story I was having trouble finding a home for!

So, you’re probably all excited to hear what the story is about and when and where it’ll come out. “The Dedication of the High Priestess” is a story I first wrote back in winter after I got back from my vacation. The story follows a young ballet student named Anastasia “Annie” Hummel. She dreams of being a famous ballerina, and being selected as a model for a famous artist’s latest series of paintings seems like a great boost to her fledgling career. However, what actually happens is that Annie is awakened to her true destiny. A destiny that will change the course of her life, and the world. forever.

If you read my post about elevated horror the other day, you might realize from the description and my opening shout of praise that this is the ballerina-meets-the-King-in-Yellow story I mentioned. And yes, I realize it got accepted right after I mentioned trying to find it a home. Not sure if that counts as irony, but it is funny.

And if you’re wondering what this King in Yellow thing is, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Sadly, I think The King in Yellow is even less well-known than HP Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos.* It’s a collection of short stories written in 1895 by Robert Chambers. Most (and the best) of the stories revolve not around the titular character, but around a play bearing the character’s name and which is said to be so twisted, reading the second act will drive you mad (or make you a servant of the King, depending on if you believe he’s a real entity).

The stories have proven influential, being beloved by Lovecraft and becoming partially integrated into the Cthulhu Mythos by later writers. If you would like to find out more, you can read my own blog post on the collection, which I wrote back when I first read the stories, or you can watch this awesome YouTube video on the collection. Or you can read the collection yourself, that’s a valid choice as well.

This is my copy of the collection. Seriously, you should check it out!

Anyway, my take on the stories and the character combines both elements from the collection, from what later writers have added, and adds ballet, because let’s face it, I’m a huge fan of ballet and I’m sad there aren’t more ballet-themed horror stories. As to how I use ballet in the story, you’ll have to wait till it’s out to discover that.

Speaking of which, “The Dedication of the High Priestess” will be published as an audio story by the horror podcast Tales to Terrify. This is a podcast where professional narrators read one or two short stories or short novelettes per episode, the goal of each story being to chill you silly. I listened to a couple of episodes a while back and thought it might be a good place for my story, so I sent it in. I’m so happy they agree.

As to when it comes out, all I can say at that point is that it’ll be some time in 2022. Yeah, that’s vague, but that’s just how it is sometimes. And anyway, the moment it is out, I’ll be sure to let you know so you can check it out yourself.

I want to thank Tales to Terrify for accepting my story and I can’t wait to hear what you guys do with it. I’m very proud of this one and I’m glad it was able to find an excellent home.

And that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ve got some other stuff cooking that I’ll be announcing soon, so keep an eye out for that. And I have dinner cooking, so I’ll keep an eye on that. Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares.

*Which is a damn shame, because I think it’s better than Lovecraft in many ways, though I still like the stories the latter wrote.

Photo by Pedro Figueras on Pexels.com

I’ve heard this term thrown about a few times since January, first in the new Scream movie and most recently in an analysis of a horror film on YouTube. “Elevated horror.” And the speakers, whether in in the Scream movie or in the YouTube video, made it sound like it’s a recognized subgenre of horror with its own staple of tropes and trappings. Like slasher and its killers and gore, or Gothic with its ancient, diseased settings and corrupting influence.

The thing is, it isn’t. Elevated horror isn’t an actual subgenre of horror. I’ve consulted with dozens of writers on this (thank you, Twitter and the Horror Writers Association Facebook group) and it’s not a subgenre. It seems like a subgenre of horror at first glance when you look at works referred to elevated horror. In movies, films referred to as elevated horror include The Witch, Babadook, It Follows and Get Out, among others: they’re horror stories that focus more on probing psychological drama, characters and metaphor than blood and gore or supernatural horrors. Often, there’s a powerful social commentary being presented through the narrative, such as Get Out‘s commentary on race.

In terms of literature, “elevated horror” might have all of these as well as flowery language. It might be almost called “literary horror,” because there’s an emphasis on wording the story nicely and making it just too dark to be called “literary fiction.” Examples include The King in Yellow by Robert Chambers, Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice, The Deep by Alma Katsu, and A Cosmology of Monsters by Shaun Hamill.

And, most importantly, “elevated horror” can sometimes cross over into other genres, such as thriller, literary, or even comedy.

Can you really say The Witch and Get Out belong in the same subgenre?

Sounds like a subgenre, doesn’t it? But it’s not. The works called elevated horror are all as different from each other as roses are to tulips are to primulas. All flowers, but all different kinds of flowers. Let me explain: The King in Yellow and The Deep are cosmic horror mixed with deep psychological themes, The Witch is some cross between folk, religious and historical horror, and Get Out‘s searing satire makes it borderline horror-comedy. In fact, it was nominated at the Golden Globes under categories for comedies or musicals!

Yet all of them are given the designation of elevated horror. So, if it isn’t a subgenre, what is it?

The conclusion I’ve come to after speaking to numerous other writers is that elevated horror is actually horror films taking place in elevators.

Just kidding, that’s elevator horror, and the only example of that I can think of is 2010’s Devil.

No, “elevated horror” is a marketing term. And like all marketing terms, it’s directed towards a specific audience. Who is this target audience? It’s people who normally wouldn’t check out horror because they fear it’s low class, dangerous, or degenerate. They may want to check out horror or be curious, but the stigma still attached to the genre keeps them from doing so. Either that, or they won’t check it out unless a work is given a specific designation.

Calling something “elevated horror” is basically saying, “This isn’t like other horror stories, where half-naked teens are voyeuristically killed with tons of blood and gore, or where supernatural entities menace children in sewers. No, it has nuance and social commentary! There’s psychology and drama and fleshed out characters! You can be respectable while enjoying this!”

In other words, it’s another way of something is high-brow. “There are no explosions and superheroes here. No aliens or elves. No star-crossed lovers up against the odds. Only real people having real life situations, or real people in situations that are absurd but it’s okay, because it says something important about society.”

I almost wish it was a subgenre. I might have found a home for my ballerina-meets-the-King-in-Yellow story already (still working on that, give it time).

Pinhead may not be from an elevated franchise, but that doesn’t make him or Hellraiser any less awesome.

And the problem with this marketing term is it’s misleading. By calling certain movies or books “elevated horror,” it’s labeling all other horror as “trash,” or at the very least “common.” Either way, the designation puts other horror stories down. And that’s a shame, because there’s such good horror out there. Dark Harvest, Kill Creek and Salem’s Lot aren’t high brow, but they’re great stories that thrill and can leave their readers up late into the night. Same with The Thing or the Hellraiser franchise: they may never win Oscars, but goddamn are they scary, and the latter has led to one of the most memorable characters in the slasher genre.

I’m not trying to put down the term. I’m just saying we should understand what it means, both for works designated as such and those that aren’t. And if it lets you enjoy horror, great. Just make sure to check out works that aren’t “elevated” and whose creators don’t really think or care if their work is called that.

Personally, I can see some of my work being called elevated, but I’ll just say that I was trying to write a fun story and wanted others to enjoy it as well.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. After getting my thoughts on this topic out, I’m off to dream of beasties and ghosts. Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares.

I heard a movie based on this book was coming out later this year, so I thought I would check it out. And since I had to drive up to Cleveland yesterday (it’s a Passover thing, don’t ask) and the audio book was long enough for the drive to and back, I thought I would listen to it. I started as I pulled out of my parking space and finished about a mile from my complex on the way home. And I have to say, it certainly added to the drive.

Set in an unnamed village on Halloween night 1963, Dark Harvest follows Pete McCormick, a teenage boy who is participating in the Run, an annual harvest ritual where he and the other teen boys in town chase a living pumpkin-headed scarecrow known as “Sawtooth Jack” and “The October Boy.” The kid who manages to catch and kill Sawtooth Jack before he reaches the church in the center of town by midnight wins great prizes for him and his family, including the right to leave the village. Pete is gearing to win this year, even if it means breaking some rules, but he soon finds out there’s a darker truth to the Run. And losing might not be the worse thing in the world.

I have to say, while I was able to predict certain things, I enjoyed the story. I was sucked in by the immediate weirdness of the tale and by the haunting atmosphere. There’s this explosive potential in the narration and the reveling in violence and death that comes from the story. It really fits the Halloween vibe, as well as the cruelty and nihilism that comes with it. And while some things were predictable, as I said, it’s such a joy watching them unfold.

That being said, the style of narration was kind of annoying at times. There’s a lot of addressing the reader and rambling on the thoughts of individual or multiple characters. Great, it’s lots of psychological flowery language, but I would like to reach the next exciting bit of the story, and what does this all add to the overall book?

That, and it wasn’t really explicit about why the Run exists. It’s hinted it’s some sort of pagan ritual to help with next year’s corn harvest and keep people in town, but it’s never really spelled out or how this sort of thing began in the first place. Mostly, you hear stuff about how the Run is part of a way of life, but that only explains so much.

Still, I had a great time with this novel and was glad I finally got around to reading it. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge a 4.3 out of 5. It’s a fun little Halloween romp that you can gobble up in a day or so. Whether or not you plan to see the movie version, if you haven’t read this one and love your Halloween stories, I recommend checking it out.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope to have some exciting news out very soon. Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares!

You know, many great stories were originally published in serialized form. From Charles Dickens’ many novels to the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs and HP Lovecraft, many writers we still read today had stories serialized in newspapers and magazines.

I’m not saying that “Blood and Paper Skin” is one of those great stories, but I do think it’s cool that it’s not only been serialized, but that the last part is now available.

So, if you’re wondering what I’m talking about, “Blood and Paper Skin” is a novelette I wrote some time ago about a bunch of teens and college students who go out to get drugs, only to be taken captive and held in a strange prison-like room. The story has been serialized by The Dark Sire literary journal, a quarterly journal that specializes in horror and dark speculative fiction and poetry. And they also do serializations of longer stories, such as “Blood and Paper Skin.”

I’m very happy that TDS has released the final part of the story, especially this is the publication’s last print issue (they’re moving entirely to e-book after this issue). It’s a story I didn’t think would find a home, so I was glad it did and that the team behind that home loved the story. Every time I talked to them, they praised it and said they got so much feedback from readers who love “Blood and Paper Skin.”

Anyway, if you would like to check out “Blood and Paper Skin,” I’ll include the links for all issues of The Dark Sire where the story appears, starting from the most recent. And if you would like what you read, either of “Blood and Paper Skin” or The Dark Sire, please make sure to leave reviews and check out our other work. We both work really hard to deliver to you the best stories, so we hope you continue to check them out and let us know what you think.

Anyway, I’ve got a new story rattling around in my wacky head, so I’m going to start outlining. If you need me, you know where to find me. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night and pleasant nightmares!

The Dark Sire Issue 10 (“Blood and Paper Skin” Part 3): https://tinyurl.com/2p99ahfm

The Dark Sire Issue 9 (“Blood and Paper Skin” Part 2): https://tinyurl.com/4cdnkevt

The Dark Sire Issue 8 (“Blood and Paper Skin” Part 1): https://tinyurl.com/ya6r77ww

The placeholder cover I made for Hannah and Other Stories. I can’t wait to show you all the official cover someday soon.

Well, the story I was writing for that one anthology will have to be put on pause. Good thing I don’t have to submit till June.

So, as many of you are aware, back in October I signed with BSC Publishing Group to release a collection of short stories. The collection is going to be called Hannah and Other Stories and will consist of seven short stories, novelettes and novellas, including: Hannah, which follows two ghost hunters whose latest investigation has consequences for multiple people; The Autopsy Kid and Doctor Sarah, about a young girl’s relationship with a budding psychopath; and Poor, Unfortunate Souls, in which a rave underneath the streets of Paris receives an unexpected and horrifying guest.

Anyway, since I signed that contract, some time has passed, and I’ve been writing and editing stories like crazy so I don’t get rusty. And today, I finally received the first round of edits. And it looks like I have a lot of work to do!

Man, I wish all those edits I’d done back in spring and summer last year were enough to spruce up the stories. But I guess I wasn’t so lucky.

On the bright side, I still have some pretty clear memories of when I edited Rose back in 2018 and 2019. That was the last time I edited an entire book with a publisher, and it was quite the learning experience. Given what I remember, I will take it story by story, part by part, and try to identify the same issues my editors did, as well as using their suggestions to improve the story.

I will also make sure to take care of my mental and emotional health. It’s not something that’s talked about enough in the writing community, but this path we walk takes a toll on us writers. And that’s especially true when it comes to publishing an entire book! When I got the first edits back on Rose, for example, I went into a tailspin of anxiety. There were a lot of issues with the novel, a couple of which led to me rewriting around two-thirds of the book. Needless to say, I was upset with myself that I missed so many issues and worried I wasn’t going to be able to fix them. It took a lot of work for me to calm down again and start to work on the book again.

This time around, I’ll be better prepared. As I said before, I’ll take each story one at a time, and I’ll try not to let the issues with each story get under my skin. After all, not only have I been through this ordeal before, but I wrote these stories already and the publisher thought they were decent enough in their imperfect state that they wanted to publish them. If I was able to do that, I can edit the stories to a state where they can be released.

Plus, I have a support network I can rely on if things get to be too much, and I’ve already ordered my comfort anime from the library (nothing like a Sailor Moon binge to make you feel refreshed). Add in some ice cream and the occasional pizza delivery, and I’ll be fine.

Anyway, I’ll keep you all updated on the progress of the book, as well as my other projects. I may also write a post on maintaining your mental health during the publishing process at some point. In the meantime, if you’re looking forward to Hannah and can’t wait to read it, or you need something to read in the meantime, I’ll include links to Rose and my other books down below. Who knows? You might just find your new favorite horror story down below. Let me know what you think.

And please also check out the anthology Dead of Winter from the Dublin Creative Writers Cooperative and Spark Street Media, which contains the story “Azazel Dances” by myself and Richard Gerlach. It’s a great story inside a great anthology, so why not check it out?

And with that, I’ll take my leave. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night and pleasant nightmares.

Dead of Winter: Amazon

The Quiet Game: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo.

Snake: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible, B&N

Agoraphobia: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

Mother of the King: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

The Pure World Comes: Readict app (free with ads)

Ladies and gentlemen, we have our first publication of 2022!

Some time ago, I met another Jewish horror writer by the name of Richard Gerlach. There was an anthology being created at the time of holiday horror stories, and we thought we’d team up to write one with a little Jewish flair. We wrote a story set around Hanukkah and submitted it. It didn’t get in, but it birthed a friendship and we both believed in the story, so we kept shopping it around.

Dead of Winter from Dublin Creative Writers Cooperative and Spark Street Media, which contains mine and Richard Gerlach’s story “Azazel Dances.” Looking forward to hearing what you think of it!

Some time last year, the story was accepted by the Dublin Creative Writers Cooperative,* who in partnership with Spark Street Media are releasing the anthology Dead of Winter. And our story, “Azazel Dances,” is featured in the anthology! Which is out today!

Honestly, Rich and I are so excited for you to read this story, which centers on a demon who interferes with two feuding Jewish families around Hanukkah. Not only do we get to add to the ever-growing subgenre of Jewish horror (something I’ve been trying to do anyway), but we worked really hard on this story. Like really hard. Like oh my God, the amount of work that went into this story to make sure it was ready for publication! And it was not easy for either of us to find time to edit it, either. Like, I tried to buy the guy a bottle of wine because we somehow made the deadline despite the amount of work and how crazy our lives got! Sadly, mailing alcohol without subscriptions or memberships to special clubs is troublesome.

The point is, we put in a lot of hard work, and I’m very proud of the work we put in to write and edit this story together. So I hope you read it and see what we managed to create together. And if you like what you read, please make sure to spread the word somehow. Goodreads, Amazon, Twitter, Instagram or TikTok, whatever. Leaving your thoughts online somewhere allows us writers to know what people think of our work, as well as helps other readers decide whether or not to check out the book.

Anyway, that’s all for now. I’ll leave a link to check out Dead of Winter below. Ebook is already available, and paperback shouldn’t be far behind. Either edition, there are a lot of great stories in there besides the one by Rich and me, so it’s worth your while. And while you’re at it, you should also check out Richard Gerlach. He’s a great writer with another story in another anthology and has more on the way. He also writes for Divination Hollow Reviews and is a co-host for the podcast Staring Into the Abyss. You can find him on his Twitter account here, his previous publication here, Divination Hollow Reviews here, and the Twitter account for the podcast here.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I don’t know how we got to the end of February so fast, but I’m looking forward to whatever March brings. So until next time, good night, happy reading and pleasant nightmares!

*Dublin Ohio, which was used for a short scene in Rose. Not Dublin, Ireland. Just clarifying.

DEAD OF WINTER Amazon Page

As many of you know, I’m a big fan of manga author Junji Ito. While sometimes his stories can be hit-or-miss with me, there’s no denying the man has a distinctive style that aims to bring out the full horror of whatever story he’s drawing. And his latest release in North America is Deserter, a collection of some of his early works dating back all the way to the late 80’s. You can bet I was curious. What was Junji Ito, the author and illustrator behind such terrifying stories as Uzumaki and Remina like during his early days? I was determined to find out.

Now, as I said, this is a collection of the author’s early works, and with just one exception, the stories are presented in the order they were chronologically published in. And that really gives you a clue on Ito’s evolution as an artist and storyteller. For example, the artwork is a lot rougher and feels more rushed in the earlier stories in the collection. You can see more of a reliance on thicker brushes and the characters are a bit more sketch-like. Ito’s famous for purportedly spending up to ten hours a day on a page with pen and paper, making his artwork as dark as possible. If I had to guess, this would be from the days he couldn’t afford to do that, or wasn’t yet at that stage, and that explains the roughness we see.

The stories in the earlier sections are also pretty rough around the edges. The first, “Bio House,” feels shocking for shock’s sake and has a rather slap-dash kind of plot, while “Where the Sandman Lives” makes little sense. Others, such as “Face Thief” and “The Devil’s Logic” have good concepts behind them but the payoff is either a rushed conclusion or a story that feels like its potential wasn’t fully reached.

It’s not that they’re bad, they were good enough to be published. They just remind me of some of my earliest horror writings, when I was realizing you needed more than a monster to tell a horror story but I didn’t yet have the tools to write a truly scary story. That’s how those stories feel to me.

However, once you get to the last five stories, you can see Ito really gaining experience and the stories improving in quality. “A Father’s Love” still is a little rough in the art department at times, but it has a compelling stories and characters you really feel for (ooh, I shipped those two young kids!). “Village of the Siren” is a bit long-winded, but it has a really cool idea and the artwork to match. “Bullied,” which is a famous story of Ito’s that I’ve been waiting to get to America, is a terrifying story of karma and psychological trauma built around childhood guilt. And the titular story, “Deserter,” is a meditation that asks, “Who is really doing the haunting? Who is really trapped in a haunted house?” I was in awe of that one.

Overall, I’m conflicted on what score to give the collection. On quality alone, I’d give it a 3.3 out of 5. However, the value of the book and how it shows Ito’s evolution is a 4 out of 5. I’ll meet it halfway and award Deserter by Junji Ito a 3.6. If you’re new to Junji Ito, I wouldn’t advise checking this one out till you’ve read some more of his work, particularly Uzumaki or Remina. However, if you’re already familiar and want to consume more of his work, I would totally recommend it just to see how the author evolved and to read those last five stories.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Life is crazier than the Joker right now, but I’m hoping have some good news in the near future. Either that or you’ll hear about my attempts to open the gates of Hell just so I can get some peace and relaxation.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night and pleasant nightmares.