SHILOH: A NOVELLA OF THE CIVIL WAR by Philip Fracassi 5/5 Stars and all-around Aces for the work of historical fiction with a touch of the supernatural.
SHILOH plants you in the middle of the mayhem of one of the bloodiest battles in human history.
Philip Fracassi’s cinematic prose practically gives the reader a 4-D experience tossing us aside, book in-hand, even as the characters are blown backward by forest-leveling cannon fire.
The following book review of SHILOH: A NOVELLA OF THE CIVIL WAR by Philip Fracassi is SPOILER FREE.
The battle lasted for two days.
In the Battle of Shiloh, in Tennessee, over twenty thousand Confederate and Union soldiers were killed, tens of thousands more were injured, and thousands more are missing.
That is no spoiler; that is history.
The surprise attack by the Confederacy, and their staunch entrenchment, made for the gargantuan amount of carnage that ensued in the infamous two-day long battle.
Fracassi has a way with words – to say the least – and his main characters Henry and his twin brother William provide the kind of insightful thoughts, brutal actions, and realistic conversation that brings the two Confederate soldiers to life, as they attempt to carry out one of the South’s most bold endeavors.
The setting could not be better written. The feel of the battlefield and of the notion of the risky sneak attack is palpable.
When night hits, it is offset by a magical, effervescent glow of the wounds of numerous soldiers after the first crazy day.
For after a day of fighting, mortal wounds have taken ahold of many, including William, and yet Henry sees something unnatural that leads to that emerald glow.
I never thought I would become invested and feel for two Rebel soldiers from the south in the Civil War, but Fracassi has me transfixed by Henry – his blind hatred of Grant, war, and religion are well-balanced and written in a way that creates strong empathy.
Prepare for incredible detail in the fighting – these men had muskets and bayonets – that leads to vivid gore, as blood and splinters fly.
If you enjoy history, or just thriller and speculative fiction grounded in gritty realism, SHILOH is a must-read!
I read this as an audiobook, and I have to say the narration is fantastic (so keep that in mind, Fictioneers).
“SHILOH: A NOVELLA OF THE CIVIL WAR by Philip Fracassi 5/5” Was Written By R.J. Huneke.
Philip Fracassi is on his BOYS IN THE VALLEY Book Tour, and TFF’s own R.J. Huneke will be interviewing Philip Fracassi prior to his stop at the Mysterious Bookshop in New York LIVE on Facebook (the video will be on Youtube the next day), so be sure to tune in!
101 HORROR BOOKS TO READ BEFORE YOU’RE MURDERED is essential reading for all of the fictioneers out there that either love speculative fiction, or want a curated introduction to the phenomenal horror fiction that has come out since the year 2000.
As Josh Malerman writes in his foreword to the book: “Welcome to modern horror.”
Sadie Hartmann’s 101 HORROR BOOKS TO READ BEFORE YOU’RE MURDERED adds urgency to the hunt for new great reading, as the renowned writer of a gargantuan amount of horror book reviews excitedly offers up the very best she has come across in the last 23 years.
There are horror indie books, self-published titles, and best-selling novels too.
Sadie Hartmann provides accessible literary criticism for the bevy of books in 101 that are clearly near and dear to her heart, even if some of them were so terrifying they made her sleep with the lights on.
My To-Be-Read (TBR) list grew by dozens, as I perused Hartmann’s meticulous work and found exciting insight tailored to my interests.
I could not put 101 HORROR BOOKS TO READ BEFORE YOU’RE MURDERED, or my Goodreads app, down!
There is a book for everyone in here and the way 101 is organized and explained makes for both fascinating and illuminating reading.
Each book falls under one of five categories: Paranormal, Supernatural, Human Monsters, Natural Order Horror, and Short Story Collections.
Each category is explained thoroughly with wit, knowledge, and relatable candor.
Paranormal is for Hartmann, “freaky shit that defies explanation,” and she is one-hundred percent right.
And then there are subcategories, like Supernatural’s Demons and Possession.
Two brilliant sections are given to each book review and were pivotal for me: the “At A Glance” section to the right of the review and the “Quote” section at the top of the review.
I LOVE quotes, even just one line in a work of literature, be it horror, non-fiction, or poetry; I find they are so revealing as to the book’s voice and the author’s writing.
Hartmann painstakingly searched for not just a good quote, but an impactful one that represented what the work and its author’s writing are about. It is genius.
On top of the Quote, Hartmann gives us the At A Glance map to the novel where you can read about the work’s specific Themes, Tone, Style, Setting, and the Publisher; and all of which I find very helpful when determining what might interest me to delve further into a book or to run shrieking into the night, because there are clown dolls in the tale, combining two of my worst fears.
Readers, authors, horror experts and novices alike will revel in learning so much from Sadie Hartmann’s 101+ horror books.
Wait, did I just say 101+ horror books?! What is with the +?
Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann’s 101 HORROR BOOKS TO READ BEFORE YOU’RE MURDERED goes above and beyond analyzing the books themselves and hits on the very genres, tropes, triggers, and myriad nuances that give such books so much power to move, thrill, and scare the hell out of us.
And yes, though Hartmann states that this is a book of the modern age of great horror and that she is not reviewing foundational figures such as Mary Shelley, Shirley Jackson, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Anne Rice, or Bram Stoker, but, and I mean BUT, you may find a wonderful surprise as you go along and read about each of the 101, because many of the featured authors and genres lend themselves to what these classic authors have done in literature and so, for example, there may be a few mentions of THE EXORCIST by Blatty that slip past Hartmann’s portcullis before the book is closed.
And though the 101 book is limited to 101 reviewed titles, there are also ten author spotlights throughout the book, because all of these authors’ works need to be read (so we have a plethora of great titles), and each of them, from Adam Nevill, Alma Katsu, Ania Ahlborn, Christopher Buehlman, Grady Hendrix, Josh Malerman, Paul Tremblay, Stephen Graham Jones, Tananarive Due to V. Castro pick their own their three all-time favorite horror books for 101!
There also essays from other exceptional authors in the modern genre that feature their books too: Cassandra Khaw, Hailey Piper, Eric LaRocca, R.J. Joseph, and Daniel Kraus give their own thoughts on important aspects in horror.
So, what are some examples of the 101 modern horror gems in the book?
I am not telling.
Go and discover what graces the shadowy pages inside 101 HORROR BOOKS TO READ BEFORE YOU’RE MURDERED for yourselves. Ideally, do it before you’re murdered.
Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann is an author, is the Bram Stoker-nominated editor-in-chief of publisher Dark Hart Books, the owner/publisher of the horror fiction subscription service Night Worms (which is sooo much fun), and she is an epic reviewer of books.
“101 HORROR BOOKS TO READ BEFORE YOU’RE MURDERED Is Essential” Was Written By R.J. Huneke.
Catch Sadie Mother Horror Hartmann on her book tour NOW!
Sadie Hartmann was kind enough to give TFF an extra copy of 101 and we are giving it away after we see Philip Fracassi at an upcoming signing in NYC and he signs his own book review in 101! You can enter the GIVEAWAY free on any of TFF’s social media or FB here.
Speaking of Mr. Fracassi’s Book Tour, TFF’s own R.J. Huneke will be interviewing Philip Fracassi prior to his stop at the Mysterious Bookshop in New York LIVE on Facebook (the video will be on Youtube the next day), so be sure to tune in!
BOYS IN THE VALLEY by Philip Fracassi is a chilling classic.
Fracassi’s tale is labeled as horror, but is much more than that: this is a deep, gritty coming-of-age story that delves its own mark on readers.
In 1905, when the priests at a Catholic orphanage in rural Pennsylvania are brought a possessed man to heal, things go horribly wrong, for the clergy and for the 30 boys in their charge.
From the shocking opening to the pandemonium at the book’s ending, BOYS IN THE VALLEY grabs you and does not let up!
Fracassi has a great writing style that combines vivid imagery, tight-knit prose, and a tense build-up of suspense littered with unexpected action, as he creates an in-depth world filled with memorable characters.
It is because of the many aspects of the characters living within the winter-blasted setting that there are quite a few extremely moving scenes.
The following Book Review of BOYS IN THE VALLEY by Philip Fracassi has mild plot Spoilers*
The book starts with its protagonist, nine-year-old Peter, watching paralyzed as his father returns home drunk and faces scorn from his wife for not bringing the starving family any food.
Peter’s father, Jack, snaps. He murders his wife, he stares down his son, and then he turns the gun on himself.
It is the eerily realistic semblance of the defeated father losing it and the powerless boy that sees this play out, paralyzed and mortified, that captures people’s flaws and their humanity so well, and this knowledge shapes Peter, even as the event itself haunts him.
The way Fracassi writes the scene, you can feel how tired Peter’s father is when he “sits heavily” and takes off his battered hat. You get the feeling the man is, at the least, verbally abusive when he is in an angered state, and like the kettle that whistles in the home as Peter’s mother taunts her husband, Jack Barlow simmers on the page until, once boiled, he blows up.
Are the use of ‘Jack’ and ‘Barlow’ a nod to two of Stephen King’s earliest works?
Seven years later, Peter is among the kinder and older boys of St. Vincent’s Orphanage. He is training to become a priest under his friend and surrogate father figure, Father Andrew, and his insightfulness into the difficulties of life, at the orphanage and in general, makes him an interesting lens to watch the tragic story of BOYS IN THE VALLEY unfold.
Peter, now 16, has fallen in love with a neighboring farmer’s daughter, and he has to come to grips with his knowledge that his mentor, Father Andrew, thinks of him like a son, and that to tell Andrew that Peter will not complete his training and become a priest will likely break the man’s heart.
But Father Andrew is a fantastic character and one who continually reminds Peter, despite the priest’s own hopes, that it is Peter’s choice to make.
This is a beautiful display of affection that shines throughout the book and is not forgotten when Peter does not get to make that choice.
Life at the orphanage means strict adherence to the priests’ rules, daily farm work and meager meals that never fill any of the boys’ bellies.
The 30 boys living together act as brothers will, in both caring for one another, especially Peter looking out for the smaller and younger orphans, in entertaining one another, in ribbing one another, and in picking on one another.
Boys are curious.
But the more they learn of the priests’ attempt to heal a possessed man who is then killed and buried on the church grounds, the more a malevolent mood permeates many of them.
Peter’s best friend, another main character and a good foil that makes an impression, as the gruff, ever-cynical older boy, David, is stalwart throughout the book, a pillar that Peter can count on to show no fear. Until he cannot. And when David is afraid, Peter realizes just how wrong things have gone.
Fracassi writes: “David is not easily knocked off his course. He has walls within walls to keep himself insulated from things of the world . . . Any emotions he may or may not feel . . . are buried deep within him, visible only to his inner self . . . [But] to see him so visibly, dramatically shaken is like . . . the first time I saw my mother cry.” [BOYS IN THE VALLEY, Fracassi, Tor Nightfire, Earthling Publications, Orbit Books]
The entire passage is far more impactful than the condensed quote above, but you will just have to read the book, readers.
There are many more memorable characters, from Brother Johnson, the sadistic, lifelong criminal sentenced to serve the priests and therein is often the twisted enforcer of punishments for the boys, and then to Grace, the sweet love of Peter’s life who lends him a great work of fiction every time he visits her.
As the frosty fields are quickly covered with falling snow and then the fell wind of the incoming storm that grows and grows and, finally, blasts St. Vincent’s, so too does the evil follow in its wake.
The possessed boys carry out the most heinous of acts imaginable against their orphan-brothers.
Only the union of the resistant boys under Peter and David stand in the way of the demons.
Fracassi paints so many shades of black.
Though there are parallels between Blatty’s masterpiece THE EXORCIST, Stephen King’s IT, and BOYS IN THE VALLEY, when I think of this book, I keep coming back to two impactful coming-of-age tales: William Golding’s LORD OF THE FLIES and Kurt Vonnegut’s SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE.
The latter is a favorite of mine, and I would argue Billy Pilgrim as a young man dropped into WWII Germany grows enough to be a bildungsroman in its own right, just as much as Golding’s tale of boys surviving on their own devices does, if in different ways.
LORD OF THE FLIES pits one group of children against another in a poignant way that is echoed in Fracassi’s boys forming of two opposing sides.
Demonic possession has been depicted throughout culture as an evil being often self-describing itself as ‘many’ or ‘legion’ and in BOYS IN THE VALLEY, the demons that inhabited a child murderer spread, like a disease, so that a horrific army of possessed young boys is formed and bent on further infection of the clergy and their brethren boys and the world, and for any who resist they want only to maliciously harm them.
Dominance and survival are two of the qualities that seep from Golding and from Fracassi.
There are even two orphan boys that are so close in age and friendship, they are called brothers even though they are not related, and these two inseparable characters are pitted against one another in BOYS IN THE VALLEY and it is terrifically terrible.
End of SPOILER Warning*
The horrors of war, the sheer atrocities performed by humans pitted against humans, that Billy Pilgrim is caught in in Dresden, Germany are so harsh as to be revolting, which was the point: the writing is as real as the terrible acts of war were/are.
So too does BOYS IN THE VALLEY invoke violent depictions of its own deeply personal war. But this is also realism and writing at its most effective.
This is how these characters behave.
BOYS IN THE VALLEY sticks with you like a knife in the ribs: it never really goes away.
For horror fans, you may need to read this one in the warm light of the summer sun, because the darkness and the bitter cold stalks the reader, just as it daunts the characters in the book.
Yes, there are some brutal, graphic scenes in BOYS IN THE VALLEY, but they are reflective of the history that the story takes place in, as well as the realistic actions of the characters.
Fracassi’s tale is one you will happily reread even though it still hurts.
I was fortunate to receive an advanced review copy of this book to do a Preview Review of the Earthling Publications signed limited edition for Halloween 2021 that is a stunner, and I have reread the ARCs provided to me by Tor Nightfire and by Orbit Books to do this review to expound on BOYS IN THE VALLEY for their July 2023 release dates. The book is out NOW.
INSPECTION by Josh Malerman is an unremitting classic, as is the signed limited edition of the novel by Earthling Publications.
The thing about INSPECTION that is so unnerving is that it is entirely plausible.
The main character J is one of twenty-six twenty-four Alphabet Boys growing up in a school where their adopted father, D.A.D., and his Inspectors and staff have withheld the very existence of the female gender from the boys their entire lives so that they are “undistracted” in pursuit of academic and artistic greatness.
This book is a new favorite of mine! INSPECTION is visceral, poignant, moving, and frightening, and, man oh man, that ending packs a wallop!
The world-building, the characters, the prose could not be woven together better, like a song, or be more impactful.
“Oh, J knew the inspections were for his own good.” [INSPECTION, Josh Malerman, p.86]
That very line sends a shiver up my spine.
If a boy fails a daily inspection to the point where they are dubbed “rotten”, then they will be sent to The Corner, an infamous, hidden place from which two of their brothers have gone but never returned.
That threat is nearly as ingrained as some of the specifics it is wrapped in by D.A.D. – the diseases that disobeying can bring – and therein, the need for Inspections, for every day of their twelve-year-old lives.
The boys are even fed books crafted to them to teach specific lessons and to be devoid of any female terminology.
In a world where so many struggle and generations of youth have to learn history in schools where books are banned and/or censored into incoherence, the brilliant and twisted premise of Malerman’s INSPECTION borders on prescience.
And you will not be able to put this book down.
Earthling Publications’ signed limited edition of INSPECTION by Josh Malerman is an innovative marvel that captures the soul of the book, art reflecting art.
I imagine Josh Malerman must have felt a thrill jolt through him as he first held the Earthling S/L in his hands.
There is no dust jacket. No word on the book’s cover. And it is all the more stunning because of that.
The Earthling INSPECTION has every minute facet of the tale highlighted perfectly.
The cover is a “D.A.D. red leather jacket” Skyvertex covering, and there from front to spine to back are the black silhouettes of the Alphabet Boys waiting in line for their inspection.
It such a dramatic display.
The endpapers are the actual notebook pages that Warren Bratt printed with his hand-written story where “the woman” enters.
I mean, wow!
This is powerful, as are the brilliant illustrations of Patrick Arrasmith, the fantastic foreword by Jonathan Maberry, and both of them sign alongside Josh Malerman in this numbered edition of 235 (there was a lettered edition of 15).
The paper is bright, smells delicious, and boldly displays the text on 80# Finch interior papers that are held in a Smyth sewn binding.
Earthling is top-notch, even raising the bar they have set for themselves with INSPECTION.
Gothic by Philip Fracassi – beware of the madness within these pages, because it may unravel your soul.
There are few books that come along – and I usually read many books at once – that demand all of my attention, and I cannot put them down, and Gothic by Philip Fracassi was one of these.
The thrilling tale of Gothic’s Tyson Parks and his world, packs a hell of a bite.
The characters are so real you can hear their voices and recall their mannerisms. The writing is fantastically tight and visual, the impacts of violent scenes visceral.
For fans of horror and thrillers that hold back no punches, Gothic is a rare treat.
Spoiler Alert for Gothic by Philip Fracassi.
The world-building is extremely well done, as Fracassi paints the posh and the dimmer corners of New York City alongside a publishing world that is genuine, down to the minute details, like the contractual obligation to deliver on a novel’s pitch.
And this is entirely necessary to go along with what is almost certainly a haunted desk that hints at being so much more.
Fracassi presents Gothic in such a way that I might have walked past the same swanky antique store on my way home and seen the corner of a mammoth antique desk there and felt its allure before a chill went down my spine and sent me on my way.
The best-selling author, Tyson Parks, who is out of money and time and inspiration is gifted an antique black oak desk, like no other, that immediately becomes a miraculous muse.
As the tragedy of Tyson, who begins to write rampantly and display violent behavior wholly unlike himself, progresses, with more success meeting more hints at madness, Gothic‘s story unfolds bloodily and brilliantly.
There is a steady build-up that grows faster and faster, until the plot’s rollercoaster car flies down from the track’s summit at blistering speed with many exhilarating and scary twists and turns that form an epic conclusion.
The desk is hungry!
The very first writing marathon that Tyson takes at his new desk causes cracks in his fingertips that bleed. And whenever blood touches the desk and its centerpiece, a massive stone surface, it is absorbed and a sacrificial contract of sorts gets underway.
As the time goes on, more and more blood is fed to the desk, and the carved ivy branches lift from the desk’s surface and slip into the author’s veins.
Though Tyson does not remember what he wrote, exactly, his next book becomes a bigger best-seller than he has ever had.
Despite that, his agency begs him to dial down the rampant violence in his next project, The Horror, and to take out the unsavory elements that fly in the face of many 21st century readers’ morals.
Tyson, enthralled by the desk, and incessantly listening to the old blind wizard that speaks to him from it, goes off on his agency and threatens to walk if his written word is ever questioned again.
He is a multimillionaire and god-like among his world.
But as he discovers at the book launch party for his newest book, the text has inspired madness, suicides, violence, and cult-like reverence that he never intended. He does not even remember the parts of the book that are referenced as causing harm.
Even after losing his family to the desk’s murderous influence, losing his own mind, life, and seemingly his own soul, he – or the spirit of the desk, maybe – writes one final manuscript.
Because he is completely in the hold of the desk, and he cannot stop himself from going to it.
That final work of Tyson’s arrives completed at his agent, Harry’s, office, and Harry who has already succumb to alcoholism and drug addiction as a means to cope with Tyson’s work, starts to read the book, titled Gothic; will it fully unravel his mind?
Not since Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness does a character, like Gothic’s Tyson Parks, tragically reach such megalomaniacal heights that the overthrown mind crumbles and the realization of their lost humanity comes only at the moment of their bitter demise.
As Conrad’s Kurtz sees the darkness about him and within him, he can only mutter, The horror. The horror, as he dies. For Fracassi’s Tyson, the irreparable inward degradation is only made fully apparent to him as the literal cause of his fate in the ancient relic – now a desk – kills him, and at that moment a door opens in it to an alternate plane of existence where a leviathan’s jaws emerge to utterly consume his soul.
Want to question your own grip on sanity? On reality? There is a book for you called Gothic by Philip Fracassi.
For those looking to keep themselves up at night, afraid that some artifact in their home, a desk, a table, maybe, might be haunted and hungry and so much worse, Gothic will oblige.
On Gothic’s Limited Edition
In 2022, Earthling Publications released the first printing of Gothic by Philip Fracassi in a gorgeous signed limited edition.
Earthling has long held some of the best small press releases in the industry, and this is no exception.
With the art, from the gorgeous desk on the cover, by Glenn Chadbourne, to the interior layouts and the lavender textured endpapers, to the quality paper and Smyth-sewn binding, this is a work of art encasing a work of art.
In 2023, Gothic – with another badass cover – was released en masse and is available by Cemetery Dance for purchase now. Philip Fracassi’s next major release Boys in the Valley will hit shelves in Summer 2023!
The Monster on Mulligans Hollow by Patrick Reuman Book Review: this is the first book in the Creepy Little Nightmares series by Wicked House Publishing. Patrick Reuman, author and founder of Wicked House Publishing, wrote this novel for his son, Aidan, who had been asking his dad to be included in one of his books. Thus, the idea for Creepy Little Nightmares was born!
The Forgotten Fiction received an advanced review copy of this book, and this horror fanatic didn’t even realize that it would fit in YA genre until someone said, “Heck, it does!”
Creepy Little Nightmares is a series of books written by a variety of authors under the same publishing house. Intended to be enjoyed by readers of all ages, Patrick Reuman describes it as,
A series of books that are creepy enough to entertain adults but are appropriate enough in their content that your kids can read them as well. Horror for the whole family!
The Monster on Mulligans Hollow follows 12 year-old Aidan and his group of friends after a boy in their grade disappears from Mulligan’s Hollow Road without a trace on his way home from school. The townspeople of Witherbrook and fellow classmates alike join the search crew, but when another boy goes missing, the town is on lockdown until further notice.
As fear spreads rampant through the town of Witherbrook, Aidan and his friends unite with some unlikely friends to try and solve the mystery of Mulligans Hollow.
Compelling from start to finish, this is indeed a book that the entire family could enjoy.
The Monster on Mulligans Hollow is fantastically written, and certainly safe for young readers and squeamish parents alike.
Additionally, this book was refreshingly free of some of the more common plot holes in horror, and even featured parents who were not criminally negligent for a wild change of pace! This book is highly recommended, and we can’t wait to see what comes next in the Creepy Little Nightmares series!
The Monster on Mulligans Hollow is available for purchase on Bookshop.org.