Book Rec – Maniac Gods by Rich Hawkins

Where to start with this one…

I first read Rich Hawkins’ fiction in preparation for interviewing him on the This Is Horror podcast back in 2015. I picked up “The Last Plague” and “Black Star, Black Sun”, both of which are excellent. But what struck me was how as good as the writing was in “The Last Plague”, Hawkins had improved by the time he brought out “Black Star, Black Sun”, despite there not being a huge amount of time between the releases.

Fast forward three years and Hawkins has completed his “Plague Trilogy” and released some of the best novellas I’ve read in recent years. So I find myself pleased, yet unsurprised to be recommending his latest release “Maniac Gods”.

I was delighted to pick up a copy of this book from source – aka Justin Park of The Sinister Horror Company at Edge Lit in Derby back in July. The cover art and production of the book are superb.

As ever with Hawkins’ work, he blasts straight into the story, thrusting our protagonist Albie into a village overcome by religious mania, to which his ex-wife and daughter appear to have succumbed. What happens next is a visceral, gut-wrenching examination of a man groping for salvation and reason in his life.

One of the many strengths of this novella is how Hawkins paints vivid characters, that immediately make the reader feel something – it isn’t always empathy, but then it doesn’t have to be. Whenever I’ve reviewed Hawkins’ work in the past, I’ve always talked about his descriptive abilities. This novella is another stellar example of his talent. There is a sick poetry to the way that Rich writes, how he draws the fetid and disgusting. It’s compelling, grim and not for the faint of heart. This is how I like my fiction.

Hawkins’ nails the emotional core of the story. The horror of a missing child and broken family. The despair drips from the page, but in a way that drives the reader onward. He pulls at the heartstrings as well as delivering horror beyond words.

As with all of Hawkins’ work – this book is highly recommended.

Pick up your copy here. Do it!


Book Recommendation – Six Stories

As well as spreading the word about my own writing and publications, I wanted to use this site to discuss books, films, music – whatever I’ve been enjoying lately. They’re not reviews, as such, more a quick run down of what I’ve been reading or listening to so that people who read this site can check them out for themselves.

Seeing as the site is just getting going, I wanted to take the opportunity to get promoting other books as soon as possible. Luckily, I have just finished reading a cracking book so I can get the ball rolling with something memorable.

Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski is a book I saw recommended by the fantastic Alasdair Stuart of Pseudopod fame in a column that he wrote at about childhood cruelty and Moors settings. A cheery mix huh? The column is a great read, I’m yet to read Chalk but it’s pretty high on the list.

Six Stories is a tale of murder and teenage bad behaviour, with a sprinkling of the supernatural thrown in for good measure. The story centres around the murder of a teenager, Tom Jeffries in 1997, and those who were either there or associated with him at the time.

I’m a big fan of books that are told in an epistolary style and Six Stories is presented in the form of an ongoing true crime podcast. Each week, the host of the titular Six Stories podcast, Scott King, interviews someone connected with Tom Jeffries and unravels another layer of the mystery around his death.

The skill in Wesolowski’s writing is two-fold. His characterisation is superb, with each podcast guest having their own truly unique voice. The characters in Six Stories are all full realised and have quirks and motives that are believable and logical. Be it, a hidden agenda or overt unrequited love, each interview makes the reader feel a different emotion.

The layering of the story throughout the novel is also exceptional. Each interview reveals details, contradictions and motives that build towards a tense, deserved climax to the story. Whilst not overtly a horror novel, there is a touch of folk horror here. Repeated references to a local myth crop up throughout, and whilst the supernatural element is a minor part of the story, the passages where it features prominently are among the most powerful. A quick browse through Wesoloswski’s back catalogue reveals a love of horror, something that is evident in the strength of his Nana Wrack myth in this book. (Note to self: pick up The Black Land)

The Six Stories series continues with Hydra, another investigation from podcast host Scott King and hopefully there are plans afoot for future installments.

You can find out more about Matt Wesolowski’s work at his author site, his Facebook or on Twitter where he is @concretekraken 

Buy it now – Amazon (UK|US)