Page Thirteen

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The Conqueror Worms by Brian Keene (2006 Leisure Books/Dorchester Publishing.  Read more about the author and the novel  here.

     So......okay, Brian, I started reading this on a rainy day, just like you suggested, and, by the time I was finished, there was sun in the sky.

     No kidding.

     And that's very unlike The Conqueror Worms, because in it the rain never stops.  Imagine that.  Well, I guess, in this book you can more than imagine........

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(All reviews copyright © 2004, 2005, 2006 by Nicholas Grabowsky and Diverse Media, all rights reserved.   All book cover images are owned by their respective owners and used by permission.)

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     But before I get into all that, let's get into the blah blah blah, and I mean that very respectfully:  firstly, Brian is an established ace at writing what he writes.  I'd rather not pat him too much on the back for fear the swelling redness between his shoulder blades may make him wince in pain from all the countless other pats.  He's got a plethora of notches under his literary belt and is one of today's outstanding voices in horror fiction.  Two Stokers, an impressive body of work in few enough years to more than rival authors with twice as much longevity in the business....Keene is head and shoulders above his breed to date and there's no reason to believe he won't become a household name in time.  That's the blah blah blah.

     The Conqueror Worms is the first novel I'd read of his, and as for my assessment of it, here goes:

      A man growing older in years and wrestling with a serious nicotine fit writes an account of his last days, from his personal point of view and exploits, of course, but these may likely be the last days of Mankind also.  It seems that God has broken His promise to Noah that He'd destroy the Earth with water never ever again, and globally it's now rained constantly for more than forty days and nights, all it took to cover the world with H20 the first time, biblically.  And this time, in this story.......'s like Dante's Waterworld.  (If I had the money, I'd open up a water theme park and call it just that, team up with Brian to make it something abysmally special.....)

     Though clearly here there is no such thing as dry land, land does exist and it is the world's coastal areas that lie under a sea swallowing more of it each day.  Now, we all know earthworms emerge from the earth when it rains.  The rich, juicy element of genius in this book, in my opinion, is Keene's core idea:  if it rains and the rain forces earthworms from the ground, then what will it force from out of the ground if it rained long enough?

     In the lore of mankind's history, we imagine we get closer to hell the deeper into the earth we look.  Brian looks deep into the earth.  And like a magician pulling the obvious from out of a top hat, we get from the earth's inner reaches not merely earthworms but colossal carnivorous ones that make the sand worms of Herbert's Dune look like timid giants and these are their terrestrial progeny experiencing their terrible twos.

     Very War of the Worlds, as Keene himself remarks in his narrative halfway through, and I was thinking along those lines myself though also more precisely Wyndham's Day of the Triffids.  And there's a very nifty second act, where the author takes us away for awhile from the earthworm situation and introduces us to a new set of characters under similar circumstances, but where Satanist surfers, seductive  mermaids and Lovecraftian underworld lords take the reader into a wild ride.

     Though I prefer its original title (The Earthworm Gods), The Conqueror Worms is a staple for those who readily consume contemporary horror fiction, particularly, as Brian insists, to be read on a rainy day.


The All- Soul's Faire  by Kristy Tallman (2006 Ferrell Tallman Publishing, Inc.)  Read more about the author & book here.

You're Dead Already....Living in Hell  by Jake Istre (2006 Diverse Media.)  Read more about the author & book here.

First, before you read any further, allow me to divert you towards my first review of Kristy Tallman’s works, aka Rainey Moon, by clicking here.

Now we can proceed…….

And what have we here, but a novel-length version of her short novella I enjoyed so much!  Tallman’s Detective Cole is like a fish out of water in a backwoods


     I’m doing this review mostly to spread the word.  After all, I published Jake Istre’s You’re Dead Already…..Living in Hell myself with my Diverse Media press.  But I did that for a reason:  Jake deserves to be heard, and the guy’s a damn talented poet, a “street poet” by my own coined term for him.  He writes raw, off the top of his head, as the mood

mountain town immersed in what on the surface seems to be an unnaturally mysterious CSI-type investigation…….though with a swig or two of specially-concocted North Mountain moonshine given to him by a surreal hillbilly-man with seductive young daughters and all hell to hand out, Cole finds himself digging deeper into the murders surrounding a rural area where the supernatural dwells and death itself hosts an otherwise very festive ghostly event called The All Soul’s Faire.

Very respectfully, I’d like to coin Kristy’s first official novel as a Tall-tale, if you will, (Tallman----get it?) because essentially that’s what it is, though its focus is not on a hero like you’d think at first (Cole) but on Cecil Hicks, a despicably dark villain whose moonshine and inevitable invitation to the Faire forces Cole to face his innermost dark desires.  If not for the help of a kindly old lady intimately involved with it all, will Cole face eternal damnation? 

I was right when I determined early on that Kristy had enough literary talent to eventually become great by my assessment of her poetry books alone.  She’s advancing, and her storytelling skills combined with her drive to succeed in this field astonishes me. 

The All-Soul’s Fair is thoroughly and ultimately a read worth a weekend’s devotion, and you’ll find that although the tale’s simplistic at the start, it takes you into darker and more complicated places like digging into the caverns of a deep dark cave and finding riches that become more abundant the deeper you go, like in Cole’s journey, both outward and inward, and like Kristy’s mind itself……

………like the mind of a storyteller who will one day soon have us all swimming in a moonshine sea concocted by a talented bestselling name.   


suits him, and it comes out entertaining and with extreme feeling. This collection of both poetry and very small stories makes for a as much a leisure reading as a Dead Kennedy’s tune makes for elevator music, this stuff is heavy and heart-felt and vivid. It leaves you feeling that you are dead already and living in hell, and that’s precisely the point. And it reads like the diaries of a rock star. Well put-together too, I might add.

"Glue A Yeast Chip to the Back of a Cockroach......and Hello!  It's Corporal Cockroach Reporting for Duty!"  is one entry that practically says it all, but "Standing Off the Back Porch, Pissing" and the short-short tale "Fat Mama" are very memorable.

Here's the official book description:  Jake Istre--- Highly popular underground cult writer and bassist, actor and high-end restaurant chef who personally prepares meals for such celebrities as California Governor Schwarzenegger; author of such acclaimed works of poetry as "Shocking Tales of Murder & Insanity" and Sacramento's crowned resident "street poet." Presented here are intense, explicit, raw and highly personal collected prose and short stories mirroring a life's dark journey of experience, angst, love and loss, drugs and twisted death and sex and high times lived to the fullest. Do partake and enjoy. "One of the top 5 poets of 2005!" ---Predators & Editors 2005 Readers Poll