Book Recommendation – “Spontaneous Human Combustion” By Richard Thomas

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For December we bring you the upcoming release from Richard Thomas “Spontaneous Human Combustion.” We were fortunate enough to receive an ARC copy and can confidently say this is our final recommendation for 2021.

In this new collection, Richard Thomas has crafted fourteen stories that push the boundaries of dark fiction in an intoxicating, piercing blend of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. Equally provocative and profound, each story is masterfully woven with transgressive themes that burrow beneath the skin.

Portrait of Horror Writer Richard Thomas
Horror Author Richard Thomas

A Series of Short Horror Stories

• A poker game yields a strange prize that haunts one man, his game of chance now turned into a life-or-death coin flip.
• A set of twins find they have mysterious new powers when an asteroid crashes in a field near their house, and the decisions they make create an uneasy balance.
• A fantasy world is filled with one man’s desire to feel whole again, finally finding love, only to have the shocking truth of his life exposed in an appalling twist.
• A father and son work slave labor in a brave new world run by aliens and mount a rebellion that may end up freeing them all.
• A clown takes off his make-up in a gloomy basement to reveal something more horrifying under the white, tacky skin.

Powerful and haunting, Thomas’ transportive collection dares you to examine what lies in the darkest, most twisted corners of human existence and not be transformed by what you find.

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Spontaneous Human Combustion Book Cover by Richard Thomas

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

4.4 Stars on good Reads – 4.5 stars on Amazon

What the Reviewers Have to Say

Beat collection I’ve read since THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE by Mariana Enriquez. Thomas’s range is astounding.

Edward Lorn

I received the ARC for this collection a few months ago so that I could have time to read it and chat about it before its release on 02/22/22. I wish I had read it immediately upon receipt because it’s THAT good. So good that I will reread these stories, even have actually reread a couple already even though I just finished the collection recently. (I am determined that 2 stories were connected, that a character we meet in the beginning, we get his origin in a later story and I will die on that hill…but I won’t tell you who so you can reach your own conclusions…)

Each story is unique in its style and tone. Some are good old fashion classic horror, we have a few with sci fi elements, cosmic horror and magical realism. There were a couple I would have claimed were written by Stephen King and 2-3 I would have pinned on Stephen Graham Jones (two of my favorites, by the way) I did post mini-reviews of each story on my Instagram if you’re interested, I can be found on IG @the_nerdy_narrative.

I read one story per day and that is how I recommend approaching this collection because these stories will make you think. Some have those fun endings that give you plenty of fodder for your imagination to carry forward as to what could have happened going forward. Some are just thought provoking, ones that deep thinkers will enjoy exploring the meanings of actions of the characters or the underlying theme.

I was blown away by the collection as a whole – I loved every single story. Honestly. There was one that I was lackluster about, but the ending flipped it and made the whole story SHINE. (I may not have had enough coffee and missed some connections as to what was happening, lol) It’s rare I read a collection of this size and feel each story is a 5 star read, but this one is it…especially with all the stories being by the same author. Now I want to read EVERYTHING Richard Thomas has and anything he has coming out in the future.

Top short story collection of the year for me – trust me, it had some steep competition too! 

Lezlie The Nerdy Narrative

Thomas (The Soul Standard) breathes fresh air into the genre of dark speculative fiction with a brilliant collection that teems with haunting elements, dark nostalgia for lost love, dysfunctional families, and self-torment. These 14 stories ably demonstrate Thomas’s skill at conjuring visceral emotion through immaculate detail work. The gut-wrenching “Repent,” about a crooked ex-cop who makes the ultimate sacrifice to save his dying son, is told with an artist’s attention to scene setting. “Hiraeth,” about a farm boy with a “hole in his chest” who is robbed and subsequently punished by the men in the family, bristles with astonishing detail, realistic characters, and emotional depth. In “Ring of Fire,” an isolated scientist with an altered memory runs strange experiments on minerals, splicing horror and science fiction elements into an eerie tale about the evolution of the human mind amid isolation and interference. Equally devastating and refreshing, this is a collection to be savored by horror fans and literary readers alike.

Publishers Weekly

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Book Recommendation – Crazytimes

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Best Horror Books Best Of Featured Horror Books Indie Horror Reviews

Puzzle Box Horror’s book recommendation of the week is Crazytimes by Scott Cole.

Scott Cole is a writer, artist, and graphic designer living in Philadelphia. He writes mostly horror, bizarro, and absurdist fiction. He also likes old radio dramas, old horror comics, weird movies, cold weather, coffee, and a few other things too. Need a book layout or a movie poster designed? Want to option one of his stories for film? Feel free to contact him at 13visions@gmail.com.

Synopsis

You wake up Monday morning and everyone is crazy. Everyone was already crazy, though, right? But somehow things are worse today. People are angry, throwing chairs out of office windows, eating rocks, violently scratching their necks, and running naked through the streets. They’re killing each other for no reason and laughing through the carnage. The whole city is like this. And meteors are falling from the hazy skies above. How are you going to survive? Do you even want to? This isn’t just another manic Monday. This is Crazytimes.

Review

“…fuses Cronenbergian body horror and visions of the apocalypse onto a wry, heartfelt-yet-absurdist first-person narrative that falls tonally somewhere between Joe Lansdale and Sam Raimi.”

Shawn Macomber, Rue Morgue

“A tongue-in-cheek orgy of gore-splattered insanity”

Peter Caffrey, Ginger Nuts of Horror

“The book is gruesome and fast-paced with lots of creative kill scenes. All manner of limbs are dismembered, bodies split open, and gory flung about with reckless abandon. It’s also really gross as whatever virus is infecting people has some real nasty side effects. Ultimately the book plays out like a trashy, fun, grindhouse B-movie (think Planet Terror meets The Crazies)”

Ben Long, reviewer at @reading.vicariously

Crazytimes by Scott Cole is available now at Horror Hub Marketplace

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Book Recommendation – Ghost Mine

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Puzzle Box Horror’s book recommendation of the week is Ghost Mine by Hunter Shea.

Hunter Shea is the product of a misspent childhood watching scary movies, reading forbidden books and wishing Bigfoot would walk past his house. He doesn’t just write about the paranormal – he actively seeks out the things that scare the hell out of people and experiences them for himself. Hunter’s novels can even be found on display at the International Cryptozoology Museum. His video podcast, Monster Men, is one of the most watched horror podcasts in the world. You’ll also find him every week on the Final Guys podcast, available everywhere. He’s a bestselling author of over 25 books, all of them written with the express desire to quicken heartbeats and make spines tingle. Living with his wonderful family and two cats, he’s happy to be close enough to New York City to gobble down Gray’s Papaya hotdogs when the craving hits.

Hunter Shea author photo

Synopsis

Deep in a Wyoming mine, hell awaits. Former cattle driver, Rough Rider and current New York City cop Nat Blackburn is given an offer he can’t refuse by President Teddy Roosevelt. Tales of gold in the abandoned mining town of Hecla, in the Deep Rock Hills, abound. The only problem-those who go seeking their fortune never return. Roosevelt’s own troops are among the missing, and the President wants to know their fate – and find the gold. Along with his constant companion, Teta, a hired gun with a thirst for adventure, Nat travels to a barren land where even animals dare not tread. Along the way, they are joined by a Selma, a fiery and beautiful woman in search of her brother who was swallowed up by Hecla years earlier. What they stumble upon is a hellish battle of underworld forces while being tortured by the ghosts of their checkered pasts. There’s a mystery in Hecla thousands of years old. Solving it could spell the end of the world.

Review

“What do I not see enough of in books? Horror stories full of scares and violence set in the old American West featuring spooky abandoned (or not) gold mines and a climactic fight of Biblical proportions. How do I know I need more of this? Because I just finished Hunter Shea’s Ghost Mine and loved every second of it! If you wanted to make comparisons you could use The DescentBone TomahawkConstantineThe Lone RangerScooby Doo, and Indiana Jones – but then throw them away because none of them do this story justice. Instead you need to stop everything, go get this book, and then buckle up because it’s a hell of a ride. This is my first time reading Hunter Shea and I’m hooked! Excuse me while I go get everything else he has ever written!

Ben (@reading.vicariously)

To read the full review, click here!

Ghost Mine by Hunter Shea is available now at Horror Hub Marketplace

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Book Recommendation – Jennifer Strange

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Puzzle Box Horror’s book recommendation of the week is Jennifer Strange by Cat Scully.

Cat Scully is the author-illustrator of the queer young adult horror series Jennifer Strange, pitched as Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark meets Evil Dead. She’s best known for her world maps, which have been published with Random House, Simon and Schuster, and Sourcebooks. When she’s not writing and illustrating books, Cat works in video game development for the Deep End Games on their next title Romancelvania.

Cat Scully author photo

Synopsis

Fifteen-year-old Jennifer Strange is the Sparrow, cursed with the ability to give ghosts and demonic spirits a body – a flesh and blood anchor in the mortal world – with the touch of her hand. When a ghost attacks her high school and awakens her powers, her father dumps her unceremoniously in the care of her estranged older sister Liz, leaving only his journal as an explanation. Drawn to the power of the Sparrow, the supernatural creatures preying on Savannah, Georgia will do anything to receive Jennifer’s powerful gift. The sisters must learn to trust each other again and uncover the truth about their family history by deciphering their father’s journal…because if they can’t, Jennifer’s uncontrolled power will rip apart the veil that separates the living from the dead.

Reviews

“JENNIFER STRANGE is a gruesomely fun, demon-infested YA romp in which two teenage sisters learn and ply the family’s secret demon-fighting trade. A promising debut.”

Paul Tremblay, author of A Head Full of Ghosts and Survivor Song

“This debut novel is overflowing with sardonic wit and memorably feisty (and satisfyingly angry) female protagonists…It’s clear this is a story that has more to come, and horror buffs will happily anticipate the next volume.”

The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“Wow, I had SO much fun with this book! There’s an element of mystery to it right from the beginning, but then it also turns fairly gruesome and horrifying very early on. It reads like a typical YA book, so I was actually caught off guard (in the best way) by the brutality and pulse-pounding scares of our protagonist’s first major paranormal encounter. It’s violent, it’s instantly memorable, it lasts for three glorious chapters, and it instantly hooked me into the book. From that point on reading this was pure bliss.”

Ben Long, reviewer at @reading.vicariously

To read the full review, click here!

Jennifer Strange by Cat Scully is available now at Horror Hub Marketplace

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Book Recommendation – Labyrinth of the Dolls

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Puzzle Box Horror’s book recommendation of the week is Labyrinth of the Dolls by Craig Wallwork.

Craig Wallwork is the author of the novels Labyrinth of the Dolls, Bad People, and The Sound of Loneliness, as well as the short story collections, Quintessence of Dust, and Gory Hole. His stories have been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize, many of which feature in various anthologies and magazines both in the U.K. and U.S. He currently lives in England.

Craig Wallwork author photo

Synopsis

It’s been one year since the horrific murders of Stormer Hill, and the events of that time continue to resonate with Detective Constable Tom Nolan. In an attempt to find the second killer, known only as the Ragman, Nolan joins West Yorkshire’s Murder Investigation Team. Partnered with Jennifer Morrison, a straight-talking detective with her eye on promotion, the two officers are assigned to track down a new killer whose victims are all found dressed like human dolls. As the investigation progresses, Nolan becomes an intricate piece in the killer’s grand vision that puts his life in danger.

Reviews

“Wallwork is a talented crime-thriller storyteller. He delivers what genre buffs want: An investigator we care about, grisly murder scenes, unexpected plot developments, and hideously wicked ‘bad people’. LABYRINTH is everything. Wallwork develops our stalwart constable Tom Nolan even further for his readers; emotional investment is at a new level of intensity that I was not expecting.”

Sadie Hartmann, Mother Horror

“I’m happy to report that this sequel retains everything I loved about the first book, while adding new twists, more insight into Nolan’s character, and a creepy new killer. Without spoiling too much I’ll just say that I loved this sequel! The blend of crime thriller and psychological horror, the police procedural elements, the impeccable pacing, the strong writing voice and vivid detail, the gruesome moments and surprising turns – all of it is great!”

Ben Long, reviewer at @reading.vicariously

To read the full review, click here!

Labyrinth of the Dolls by Craig Wallwork is available now at Horror Hub Marketplace

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