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Paradise by Koji Suzuki (2006 Vertical Inc.)  Read more about the author and the novel  here.

     This book boasts not only an impressive assemblage of authors…..Esther Schrader, Alex Severin (with an introduction by her, a great talent from Scotland), Stephanie Simpson-Woods, Lisas both Mannetti and Wilson and  even Morton, Elizabeth Blue, L. Marie Wood (who also served as editor)……but is entirely comprised of female authors, all coming together under the themed adage hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

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(All reviews copyright © 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 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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Truly, hell hath no fury like such.

There are thirty stories here, some packing quite a wallop with this theme, others falling a tad bit short but only along the lines of literary critique when it comes to matters concerning story flow and perfection, but all in all there is no lack of creativity or trace of yawning ho-hum.  Each author does their damnedest to make male readers question just how carefully they should go about treating a woman, and they each evoke in their tales a deep rich gooey blackness side of allegory and suspense, and not always a Cat Woman’s piercing night cry of militant feminism. 

Which makes this collection appealing to all.

At least, to those of us persuaded towards the kind of highly entertaining fiction as to invoke suspense and night chills when your head’s against your pillow and it’s dark everywhere and you can’t get to sleep because of all those women-against-men vindictive visions surfacing because you read this anthology and it got to you.  Especially if you’re a man.

Scarlett Dean’s slickly bloody Soul Surgeon, Sandra Ramos O’Briant’s blatantly feminist Mothers of Invention, and Lisa Mannetti’s The Ghost or the Hammer are preferential highlights, and goddess bless Ms. Mannetti for handing me this gem.

But if you want to get down to it, don’t take my review here for anything.  Go to www.pretty-scary.com.  Heidi Martinnuzzi gets right down to a detailed description of this book’s best moments, with all the enthusiasm of a Cat Woman’s piercing night cry, which, after hearing it, is all it takes to rush out and get a copy to read for yourself.

dealer's tables, and I came across a young Japanese lady sitting alone at a table displaying several stacks of the same unattractive-looking books she was literally giving away.  I say unattractive, from the point of view of a guy with an eye for something offbeat and twisted and appealing to me, cool covers depicting creatures or zombies or a maniac holding a severed head, and not, rather, a skyscraper photograph below an Arizona mountaintop photograph. 

But that’s just me.

Aside from that, it was a historical love story and not my typical reading material of choice, or so I assumed, at least not something that would in itself attract me into buying it at a local book store. 

The lady was most gracious, and I was nonetheless grateful, adding it to my collection of books I would soon afterwards read and review.

Throughout the course of the convention, I found myself spending time with Koji, first accidentally spilling my drink all over his shoes and making an ass of myself, then for the longest time conversing and laughing with him and his interpreter over a few drinks at my table on the balcony of a publisher’s private party.  He was mild-mannered, cordial, remarkably intelligent and possessed about him a rare wit.

The man truly impressed me, and I’ll never forget that time with him.  It goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway…..if you’re going to be introduced to an exciting author you’ve never previously heard of before though has been accomplished enough as to produce a pop culture horror sensation, that’s the way to do it.

Almost immediately upon returning home from the convention I set out to purchase Ringu on DVD (and not yet the Americanized The Ring, since I prefer to see the original foreign production before any Hollywood remake), and put Paradise on my reading schedule.

Ringu, the literary masterpiece itself (which I’m reading any day now) has been highly regarded as Mr. Suzuki’s first novel, but not so.  It’s this one.  The tale reads like an epic though has an easy 200 or so pages to it, and is divided into three parts, each linking together with the other, each taking place in historical periods hundreds of years apart from the other, progressively.  Over this vast timescape, two souls long to be with one another, only to find loss and separation even after death.  Firstly belonging to a prehistoric Mongolian tribe, the man sets out to achieve his manhood by hunting a legendary red deer.  When he succeeds, the deer becomes his strength, and he becomes not only able to wed the woman he loves and be a father to their son, but is on his way to becoming chief of the tribe. 

That is, until terrible things happen which shake their world. 

The two meet again on an uncharted island centuries later, the man washed ashore from the aftermath of his sea ship going under in a storm only to be taken in by the peaceful inhabitants of the island paradise he’s inadvertently discovered, and by an exotic maiden who leads him into a cave where someone long ago had inscribed the image of a magical red deer. 

Not long afterwards, terrible things happen which shake their world. 

Again.

The final act takes place in modern times, set first in New York and then the vast Arizona desert, where the man is a successful composer of symphonies that wears the images of a red deer around his neck for good luck, who crosses paths with a woman journalist frustrated with her life and who has longed for true love for so very long……

I’m so grateful for having this book handed to me despite my initial disinterest.  It read like a masterpiece, was a breath of fresh air and reminded me of all of those important masterworks I grew up reading in school for good grades and book reports.  You know the same ones.  Steinbeck, Ken Kesey, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Hemmingway, Twain, London.  Stuff I wouldn’t likely have ordinarily read unless I had to under those circumstances, classic works which actually ended up inspiring me and enhancing my life and my love for literature.  Paradise reminded me of this love, and of the fact that even now I should broaden my reading horizons.  It was thrilling, overflowing with emotion and poetic genius, the sort of book you find yourself reminiscing over in your mind weeks after you put it down.  This book should be required reading at any high school or college here in America, and I say this, with the urgency to actually start a campaign. 

I think, just like me, if more readers who otherwise wouldn’t be drawn to it were exposed to its pages, Suzuki would be well on his way to achieving the sort of status that all great names in world literature share.      

 

Hell Hath No Fury  edited by  L. Marie Wood (2004 Cyber-Pulp Press) Read more about the authors & book  here.)

 

 

Before I proceed, I must firstly make a confession here.  Prior to my attending the World Horror Convention in San Francisco in ’06, I did not know the name.  Oh, I was familiar enough with The Ring from all the hoopla generated from its American theatrical and subsequent video release, and at the time it was all the rage.  I never saw it at that point, am not certain if its sequel had yet emerged at that time.  At that convention, I was prowling about the

 
 

 

Chasing the Dead by Joe Schreiber (2007 Ballantine Books.)  Read more about the author and the novel  here.

     My brain soaked up this Ballantine hardcover in a matter of three nights, and had I more time on my hands I would’ve made those handful of hours reading it consecutive because it was difficult to put down. I know that sounds cliché, but it happens. It was one of those mind foods that was easy to digest and never filling until you ate all of it, and I wanted to eat all of it like a glutton.  Putting it down was like having to place a damn good dinner in

refrigerator because it was late and I had to rise early the following morning but was nevertheless still hungry and looked forward to the same dinner the next day.

     Enough of praise and of relating the praise to what we all can understand.  Here’s something to understand and more to the point:  Joe Schreiber’s Chasing the Dead starts at first like a Lifetime movie with all of the staple ducks in a row…...Susan Young’s husband left her and their little girl Veda alone in Massachusetts to live a life on their own, and recently so, Susan harboring a deep secret she shared with him, a secret which goes back farther than their first kiss to when they were kids and she witnessed him kill a child killer, helped dispose of his body.  So many years later and after her hubby left her, she gets a phone call from someone who knows everything about her and starts making demands, telling her that he kidnapped her daughter and she must go on a night-long road trip through New England, following his directions, if she ever wanted to see her again.

     It’s a point-A-to-point-B story, where after the road trip begins we follow Susan throughout her trip until the very end, and I’m a sucker for these kinds of tales, the ones that don’t go back and forth and entail a lengthy cast of characters or locales.  This ride is a sweet one, and almost at the get-go is where the Lifetime movie predictability takes a dive off the deep end and you have no idea what to expect from chapter to chapter.  Without giving away much, I was impressed with not only the superb prose and story flow but more importantly with the almost iconic antagonist---the guy who abducted Susan’s daughter---who under the guidance of Schreiber becomes something of theatrical movie slasher caliber with a solid mythology.

     This is first rate stuff, for sure, and I’d never heard of Joe prior to this;  I think I came across him on MySpace or him across me.  Whatever the case which brought this novel and its author to my attention, I’m overjoyed to make acquaintance with high hopes for more.