Monday, December 3, 2012

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
Written and directed by Stephen Chbosky
From his novel of the same name.

Compiled by Anthony Servante

Sometimes an inexperienced filmmaker can use a helping hand from his cast. That's exactly what Stephen Chbosky got from Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller and Emma Watson in the adaptation of his popular young adult novel "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" (Betsy Sharkey from the LA Times)

The film is a psycho-drama in the guise of a coming-of-age comedy. Many times, for me, a movie can be better than it really is when the soundtrack is so good. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is the case with Wallflower because the safe storyline about teen trauma reaches a very unexpected peak in the conclusion to the film, rendering all that we had seen moot and far from a comedy of manners and morees.

The music plays an important role in the atmosphere of the story and acts as the trail of crumbs leading us to that shocking revelation. So, I won’t bore you with a gushing review. There’s plenty of them out there on the net. On Rotton Tomatoes, the movie ranks an 86% with critics and 94% with audiences:
What I want to share with you is the soundtrack and quotations from the novel (most of which show up in the movie).

  1. “We accept the love we think we deserve.”
    Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

“Could It Be Another Change,” by The Samples

  1. “Things change. And friends leave. Life doesn't stop for anybody.”
    Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

“Come On Eileen,” by Dexys Midnight Runners

  1. “I would die for you. But I won't live for you.”
    Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
“Tugboat,” by Galaxie 500

  1. “This moment will just be another story someday.”
    Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Temptation,” by New Order

  1. “Please believe that things are good with me, and even when they're not, they will be soon enough. And i will always believe the same about you.”
    Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
“Evensong,” by The Innocence Mission

  1. “And all the books you've read have been read by other people. And all the songs you've loved have been heard by other people. And that girl that's pretty to you is pretty to other people. and that if you looked at these facts when you were happy, you would feel great because you are describing 'unity.”
    Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
“Asleep,” by The Smiths

  1. “It's strange because sometimes, I read a book, and I think I am the people in the book.”
    Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
“Low,” by Cracker

  1. Maybe it's good to put things in perspective, but sometimes, I think that the only perspective is to really be there. Because it's okay to feel things. I was really there. And that was enough to make me feel infinite. I feel infinite.”
    Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
“Teen Age Riot,” by Sonic Youth 

  1. “Sometimes people use thought to not participate in life.”
    Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
“Dear God,” by XTC

  1. “Standing on the fringes of life... offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.”
    Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
“Pearly-Dewdrops’ Drops,” by Cocteau Twins

  1. “... Try to be a filter, not a sponge.”
    Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
“Charlie’s Last Letter,” by Michael Brook

  1. “And I thought about how many people have loved those songs. And how many people got through a lot of bad times because of those songs. And how many people enjoyed good times with those songs. And how much those songs really mean. I think it would be great to have written one of those songs. I bet if I wrote one of them, I would be very proud. I hope the people who wrote those songs are happy. I hope they feel it's enough. I really do because they've made me happy. And I'm only one person.”
    Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
“Heroes,” by David Bowie

Hope you enjoyed the songs from the movie The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Now go see the film in a theater with a great sound system. A very entertaining movie with a fantastic soundtrack.
1942 (2012)
Directed by Feng Xiaogang

Reviewed by Anthony Servante

I saw the horror movie sequel to The Collector, called The Collection, both of which I enjoyed. As I left the theater, I saw a long line of well-dressed Chinese cordoned by black velvet separators used at movie premieres. So, I went for it. I got in line, wearing a black hoodie. There were security and uniformed ushers, all Chinese. As more patrons lined up behind me, one of the ushers counted people in the line and then instructed the last fifty or so people in line to follow him. I understood his body language enough that I didn't need to understand his Mandarin. We were escorted to the theater showing Red Dawn. Cool. I haven't seen that yet. Then the usher left and returned with two more ushers and hundreds more patrons who immediately filled the cinema to capacity. We were told by the escort usher that they have found a copy of the movie at a sister theater nearby and that it is being readied for showing in about 15 minutes. He apologized that the other theater was oversold, but while we are waiting for the movie to start, he and the other ushers would hand out free movie passes for a complimentary visit to attend a different film. When the usher reached me, I told her that my partner was in the restroom. She handed me an extra ticket.  Xie xie, I said. As I listened afterward, I found that most of the audience had a friend or family member in the restroom as well. The ushers smiled and bowed a lot. They didn't care. The tickets were an apology. That is all that mattered. Minutes or so after the freebies, the movie started straight away. No turn-off your cell phones. No refreshments in the lobby. No don't talk during the movie. No trailers. The movie started, the lights went down. I heard the crowd gasp. I sensed something about the movie was going to be good.

It was not Red Dawn. It was a Chinese film called 1942. That's what the four Chinese characters read. A one, a nine, a four and a two. Yet the English subtitle read: Back to 1942. (Later I found it's based on the book Remembering 1942, because as the author Liu Zhenyun points out: Americans remember [bad times in history]; the Chinese forget). The cast titles were Chinese except for Tim Robbins and Adrien Brody (other Brody movies, The Thin Red Line & The Pianist, and now this movie all take place in 1942, as Zhenyun also points out). The movie begins with a confrontation between peasants carrying torches at night and the landlord and his hired help carrying rifles. It seems the starving "bandits" as the rich owner refers to them are starving to death and they intend to share in the plentiful food behind the wall the armed men are defending. A messenger sent to summon police returns with the news that the Japanese have invaded China. The peasants and the riflemen begin killing each other for whatever food they can carry. The next morning there is an exodus of ten million people from the Henen Province who will go west in search of food. Why west? It is a traditionally lucky path to take in dire times. Only on this trek over three million of them will die: from starvation, strafing and bombing from Japanese planes, murder, and cannibalism.

The horror the movie captured all too well, but this pic is real 1942

The refugees were starving. A pet cat that would not be left behind becomes food, and even the young girl whom the father tries to console needlessly declares, "I'm going to eat it too." Two thieves lose the mule they stole and one of the thieves tries to find the beast in the pitch black of a Henen night; he heads to a camp fire in the distance where Chinese soldiers are bayoneting the mule into size-able chunks for the huge pot of boiling water. He demands a piece of the animal only to fall into the boiling pot head-first, which instantly kills him. From days to months these people without food find themselves doing what no civilized person would do to survive. It is more humane to strangle a new-born baby girl than to watch it die of starvation.

Meanwhile, the Japanese planes just won't go away. In movie time the attacks span about fifteen to twenty minutes apart. The mass of refugees have nowhere to run or hide. They are ripped apart by high-powered bullet-fire. A tottler crying for her mother is blown in two by a nearby bomb. The visceral assault is non-stop. Your emotions are not spared. And we're not one third through the movie yet. There is much more suffering to come. But the reasons must be explored by the film-maker.

The blame is placed by the camera on the corrupt Chinese government. And the honest politicians are impotent to help. The Japanese on the ground get about fifteen minutes of blame toward the end when the Chinese pass their Henen refugee problem to their military enemy. The reporter played by Adrien Brody has been taking pictures of atrocities on the road from Hennen and has reported his findings to the highest Chinese official, who upon learning of the cannibalism, and seeing pictures of dogs eating human carcasses, worries more about how China will appear in the Time magazine article than about addressing the problems with the Hennen refugees. When 100 million tons of grain arrive, it dwindles as local government officials skim so much that nothing reaches the refugees. From horror to the horrible and back and forth the audience sways emotionally.

I was grateful that I fell into this movie. It was a great lesson in history, and after having just posted my article on History and Horror in fiction, it was quite the coincidence to follow the same subject in nonfiction. I was the first to stand and applaud the movie as the final credits began to roll. The crowd joined me with whistles and shouts of the director's name. I think I walked into an event of some magnitude. It was not a perfect movie. It was a perfect experience. Nothing like real horror to remind one what fictional horror emulates, and nothing like a good book or film to kindle that memory. It made The Collection look like a G-rated film.

Go see 1942. Let's show the Chinese how to remember. They already know how to forget.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

History and Horror: From Natural to Supernatural
Anthony Servante

The Servante of Darkness

Welcome, dear readers, to the latest discussion on Horror in literature today. This month we analyze the juxtaposition of history as a backdrop to supernatural stories by six authors. I organized them chronologically, that is, from earliest date to latter. We review the tales with an eye on historical context and the horror element woven into the period. So, grab a hot cup of Mocha Java or a cold import brew and turn on the reading light for the darkness is about to begin.


Clio is the muse of history. She has often inspired authors to reinvent the past in imaginative ways. For our purposes, this reinvention incorporates the elements of horror, thus we are looking for supernatural qualities melded into an historical account. Set against a dark time, each author shines a light on their own time by use of horror and the supernatural. William Shakespeare added witches and ghosts to the history of the real King Macbeth of Scotland, reflecting the paranoia the people had of losing their king and turning their lands into unholy realms, turning a story of a monarch into a supernatural tale of regicide and madness. Billie Sue Mosiman adds demonic possession to the pre-Columbus era of Haiti in Banished. Tonia Brown adds zombies to Manifest Destiny in her work Skin Trade. Ed Erdelac adds mysticism to the end of the Reconstruction era when a period was placed on slavery in Merkabah Rider. Glen Krisch adds immortality to the Depression Era in his novel Where Darkness Dwells. Stephen Mark Rainey adds Lovecraftian elements to World War II in his short story The Children of Burma, from his collection Legends of the Night.

For Walter Pater, Victorian critic and historical novelist himself: “The historical novel strives to reflect on the present time by pointing to a former time” (my paraphrase). In essence, the parallels invite comparisons that find a commonality to man in any age. Let’s follow this train of thought as we delve into the horrors in our works at hand.

Shakespeare 1607

"We begin with Macbeth by William Shakespeare. He was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in April 1564, and his birth is traditionally celebrated on April 23. The facts of his life, known from surviving documents, are sparse. He was one of eight children born to John Shakespeare, a merchant of some standing in his community. William probably went to the King's New School in Stratford, but he had no university education. 

The real Macbeth was a righteous king, albeit, by literature’s standards, a boring one. “Mac Bethad mac Findlaích (Modern Gaelic: MacBheatha mac Fhionnlaigh,[1] anglicised as Macbeth, and nicknamed Deircc, "the Red King";[2] died 15 August 1057) was King of the Scots (also known as the King of Alba, and earlier as King of Moray and King of Fortriu) from 1040 until his death” (Wiki).

“When England emerged from the collapse of the Roman Empire, the economy was in tatters and many of the towns abandoned. After several centuries of Germanic immigration, new identities and cultures began to emerge, developing into predatory kingdoms that competed for power. With the real Macbeth, England stabilized. Despite repeated crises of succession and a Danish seizure of power at the start of the 11th century, by the 1060s England was a powerful, centralised state with a strong military and successful economy” (Wiki). In 1607 or so, Shakespeare reworked the story of Mac Bethad to dramatize the former era of ‘predatory’ times in the theatrical play of a regicidal power-hungry killer set loose in a time of flux, where the dark ages were ending and our real king Macbeth represented the light at the end of the darkness. Shakespeare paints his tragic hero as a king who returns the country to darkness rather than toward the light.

The real Macbeth

“Set in Scotland, the play dramatizes the corroding psychological and political effects produced when its protagonist, the Scottish lord Macbeth, chooses evil as the way to fulfill his ambition for power. He commits regicide to become king and then furthers his moral descent with a reign of murderous terror to stay in power, eventually plunging the country into civil war. In the end, he loses everything that gives meaning and purpose to his life before losing his life itself” (Wiki). The writer then takes this story and adds a path to a demise initialized by the supernatural.

The Three Witches

This is an important element in Shakespeare’s time as nature was tied to God and the supernatural tied to the Devil, but they are of the same binding. The road to hell and all that. When man interacts with unnatural forces, he is at odds with himself as a creature of nature. Thus killing a king, regicide, can unbalance the gentle twine of said binds, unleashing new supernatural terrors while exacerbating the ones already existing in harmony with nature. In the 1600s, it was a common belief that the King was two rungs below God, one under the angels.

Ghost of Banquo

The terrors in Macbeth include three witches who mislead Macbeth with prophesies of power, and ghosts who embody the new king’s guilt. So, for Shakespeare, man must have balance within himself to keep nature and the supernatural in balance as well. He took the real story of King Macbeth and unbalanced it to educate the theater-goers of the dangers of tweaking the twine that maintains the balance.

Which brings us to Banished by Billie Sue Mosiman.

Billie Sue Mosiman

Mosiman: “I am a thriller, suspense, and horror novelist, a short fiction writer, and a lover of words. In a diary when I was thirteen years old I wrote, "I want to grow up to be a writer." It seems that was always my course. My books have been published since 1984 and two of them received an Edgar Award Nomination for best novel and a Bram Stoker Award Nomination for most superior novel.”

Banished spans a 600 year period (1200 to 1800 mainly) where supernatural beliefs were held firmly. The story begins with a witchdoctor whose practice is raising the dead; he has only reanimated small animals but because of his love/lust for a deceased young girl decides to bring his future mate back to life. Mosiman teases us with the limited necromancy skills of a witchdoctor and escalates its portent by inviting the demon Angelique who channels unnaturally unlimited powers.

In context of the Thirteenth Century, such practitioners of the dark arts were believed to be commonplace. From Banished: “The instant the potion was massaged down her throat so that it slid into her belly, the magic began to work. The potion mixed with the contents of her stomach, permeated the cells of the stomach wall, drifted into the silent blood stream. Like a horde of marauding ants, the potion properties invaded the cells. Those cells twinkled to life and began to move, invading the cells next to them. Within an hour all the cells of the child’s body had been changed, replaced, even down into the marrow of her bones. Human cells still, yes, but the DNA had been tweaked into something beyond human and life now was not like any life existing on the planet earth. After waiting the proper amount of time, Mujai said a wild prayer beneath his breath and began to pound on the child’s chest. He must get the heart moving again. This is what he had done with the animals. With each mild thump he whispered wilder and more desperate prayers to the gods, asking for this miracle, this one if no other ever again. Somewhere in the center of him where his man spirit resided, he felt what he was doing was against all nature. Already he had broken the very rules of the world by raising animals, but to raise a human being was…well, it was a bad business. He knew that, sensed it, even though he could not stop from trying to do it.” His meanderings with nature (that death is the end) unleash the unnatural and lead to the supernatural’s (Angelique, Queen of the Fallen Angels) rise.

Typical Witchdoctor

Although we’d expect witchdoctors to practice their craft in such times, we see here exemplified that man is a creature of curiosity, seeking beyond nature to find answers about life, but it is not uncommon for greedy explorers to transverse the dark side of the natural world and unleash something new to an old world. Just as the demon invades the natural world, the Europeans invaded the New World. The times reflect the exploration period of the Vatican Church after the dark ages lent the way to such ventures.

On Columbus’s ships in 1492, the sailors commonly believed both in monsters and a god that created such sea beasts, so historically Banished does parallel the ying and yang of nature vs supernatural by pitting man against demon in a real historical backdrop. The book by Billie Sue Mosiman is a strong voice in the historical horror genre, and she carries on the tradition of this literature with an entertaining depiction of a world out of balance.

Aside: I was looking for a book that covered our theme that incorporated the pre-Columbus time to the New World era and found Banished through an interview with the author. It was the missing piece that finished the puzzle to finally making this article happen.

The next phase in history to be covered by our authors is Manifest Destiny 1819 to 1870. It is man’s nature to live off of nature and her abundant resources for shelter, food and weapons. But sometimes man goes too far and uses natural things for unnatural ends, and unnatural things for natural ends. In the sinister words, “Go west, young man,” the murderous path the Easterners would take into the “wild frontier” to gain “free land” on a first come, first served basis led to the near genocide of the Native Americans and the stealing of land once known as Mexico from the Louisiana Purchase to California.

Which brings us to Skin Trade by Tonia Brown.

Tonia Brown

Tonia Brown is a southern author with a penchant for Victorian dead things. She lives in the backwoods of North Carolina with her genius husband and an ever fluctuating number of cats. She likes fudgesicles and coffee, though not always together. When not writing she raises unicorns and fights crime with her husband under the code names Dr. Weird and his sexy sidekick Butternut.
You can learn more about her at:

“The Great Undead Uprising of 1870 devastated the western frontier and destroyed the Indian Nations. Though the Army was able to contain the menace before it could devour the entire country, the United States lost claim to her western territories as the survivors fled to the relative safety of the east coast. Samantha Martin is among the rare folks traveling west, seeking asylum within the infected territories. Running from a past that threatens to consume her, the young Sam dons the mantle of a male and hides in an all boys’ workhouse that borders these Badlands. From there she is thrust into the service of the skin trade; the terrible deed of trapping and skinning zombies for profit. The work is grueling and perilous, but along the way she finds out what it takes to be a man, why she misses being a woman, but most of all she learns what it means to be human. Can Sam keep her masquerade up long enough to flee the Badlands, or will the outlaws that rule the western frontier find out she’s female before she can escape?” (Paperback description).

The best parallel to the Great Undead Uprising is the slaughter of the buffalo on the great plains of the western lands raped by the Eastern emigrants. The Native Indians found harmony with the migration of the “tatonka” (bison) across their lands seasonally. They ate from their flesh, clothed themselves with their pelts, fashioned tools and medicine from their organs, horns and hooves. But there were rules to their living off the herds that roamed their homes, rules designed to maintain the natural balance of the buffalo population so that the source of Indian game would survive from generation to generation. The “white man” upset that balance, and in Brown’s finely written allegory, the tatonka are replaced by the living dead.

The scalping metaphor reversed

Although Skin Trade is the coming of age story of Sam, its backdrop against the aftermath of the Monroe Doctrine, which opened the Western territories for annexation by Americans, under the Doctrine, any non-Americans on these lands were subject to death or deportation (Florida was the first territory to fall; an army told the Spaniards that they could return home or be buried there—they left). Just as Sam skins the undead, the white man ignored the balance of man and beast and proceeded to wipe out the bison mainly for their pelts, the buffalos’ carcasses left rotting in the sun. Sam discusses the trip into the west with Pete:

“I thought only outlaws went west,” I said.
“Sure, the west is filled with outlaws,” Pete assured me. “Well, those and the exiles.”
The exiles. Ah, yes. I had all but forgotten about them. It was a touchy subject for the American people, this barbaric practice of forceful expulsion. Not everyone agreed with it, yet it found its way into widespread use. Most states found it easier to banish repeat offenders rather than deal with the expense of prisoner upkeep. Times were hard enough for law-abiding citizens without having to worry about how to feed the mouths of common criminals.
“How will we cross the border if it’s against the law?” I asked.
“It’s not against any law to cross the border,” Pete said.
“It’s not?”
“Heck no. The trouble is in coming back. It’s against the law to cross west to east, you see. You can go west; you just can’t come back. Unless you got a hunting permit. My dad tried to get on the skin-trade route for years, but they wouldn’t let him, because he had too much family depending on him at home. The government doesn’t let just anyone work in the trade. Officially, I mean.”

With Sam, it is the carcasses that are skinned and the imbalance lies between the living and the dead. Note even the term “uprising” was commonly used by politicians and Calvary to describe the Indians killing innocent men and women for settling the lands; now it is the undead that have up-risen. And it is the East that faces extinction.

Manifest Destiny leads to bloodshed

As historical novelist, Tonia Brown elevates the living dead to metaphor for excursions by the unwelcomed into Indian lands. The balance between Native Americans and American Colonists teetered off the scale as nature was painted red with blood as greedy land-grabbers displaced entire tribes and hastened the extinction of the buffalo. Brown captures the horrors of Manifest Destiny through the eyes of her heroine. It is a story that works on multiple levels, and I’m glad to say I read it twice. Read it as many times as you like, but at least read it once.

Reconstruction commenced in 1865, after the Civil War, and ended 1877, after the southern presidential candidate Tilden won the popular vote but the western candidate Hayes won the electoral vote (shades of Gore vs Bush 2000). To quell the anger of the south, Reconstruction was ended; however, between those years, it was a very unnatural time. Let’s first discuss this era before approaching our next historical horror book.

As the Civil War neared its end, Abraham Lincoln and the Congress prepared a plan to allow the southern states to rejoin the Union; however, the president and the senators and representatives disagreed on how much leeway could be given to the rebel states. The president wanted the south to hold elections and vote for new Congress members to represent them as Union states; he also expected the former Confederates to police the votes and quell any talk of Secession from the Union. Congress wanted to place Union soldiers in the south to police them and appoint representatives to the states rather than allow them to have open elections. There was very little discussion on how this reconstruction of the south and the north would transpire for Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. The Congress was swift in their retribution. They appointed former slaves to the position of congress members representing the south; they ordered black troops to police the confederate states. It was the ultimate vengeance by Congress. The slave was now the master over the south. This account of history is captured in the movie Birth of a Nation, directed by D.W. Griffith, and to this day is considered a racist depiction of blacks during Reconstruction. The answer the southerners had to this black occupation was the birth of the Ku Klux Klan.

The South rises again

Reconstruction ended when the election of 1876 had the western candidate, Rutherford B. Hayes, winning the Electoral vote but losing the popular vote. The south, with the KKK as their new wings of military threat, poised themselves to re-engage the north in war. But Hayes defused the threat by ordering all troops removed from the south and new elections be held to appoint new representatives in Congress. The south was quelled. And the revenge began. In 1877, with the troops gone, the former slaves who mastered over the south were now helpless. The lucky ones managed to escape to the West, but the rest were victimized by the angry Southerners. There were mass lynchings, death, and segregation lasting nearly 100 years, till Martin Luther King fought for the Civil Rights Movement, helping to enact civil change that is still evolving today.

Against this backdrop, Merkabah Rider by Ed Erdelac rides into the post Reconstruction period, facing horrors of nature and the supernatural.  

Edward Erdelac

Edward Michael Erdelac was born in Indiana, educated in Chicago, and now lives in the Los Angeles area with his family. In addition to his novels and short stories, he is an independent filmmaker, an award winning screenwriter, and has contributed fiction to Lucasfilm's
“The last of an ancient order of Jewish mystics capable of extraplanar travel, The Merkabah Rider roams the demon haunted American West of 1879 in search of the renegade teacher who betrayed his enclave. But as the trail grows fresher, shadows gather, and The Hour Of The Incursion draws near... Four novella episodes in one book.

In a town hungry for blood, the Rider encounters a cult of Molech worshippers bent on human sacrifice ('The Blood Libel'). A murderous, possessed gunman descends upon a mountain town, and only the Rider stands in his way ('Hell's Hired Gun'). A powerful ju ju man with powers rivalling the Rider's own holds a fledgling Mexican boomtown in his sway ('The Dust Devils'). Finally the Rider faces the Queen of Demons and a bordello full of antedelluvian succubi ('The Nightjar Women').”

The “Jew” stands in for the new target of racism in this historical story of horror, replacing the black man. The unnatural element the Rider brings is mysticism to the troubled lands, troubled by supernatural villains who replace the southerners in their newly acquired homes, the territories given to them by a vengeful Congress after Lincoln’s assassination. “Whispers carried words he’d heard a hundred times before in towns better than this. Questions both bemused (What do you make of that?) and pregnant with fear-born threat (Who does he think he is?). Speculations (Some kinda Mennonite? A Mormon? A Mexican-Mormon?). Then, probably from some drummer who had been out of the valley once or twice—maybe as far as Tombstone or Bisbee he heard another; Jew.
That was all it took to tip the murmurs spilling. They came gushing over curled lips like the salivation of wagging dogs smelling a kill.”
“The words meant nothing to The Rider. They were just more words.
Christ-Killer. Heeb. Dirty Jew.

The stereotypic words had become inconsequencial to the Jewish rider, for his quest was beyond this inconvenience: “He knew what he was to them, in his strange black garb and his long, blue-black beard and curled payos. He knew they looked on the four white fringes of his prayer tallit with nervous hatred.”

His whiskers were like John Brown’s, an allusion to the infamous preacher and his sons who invaded the South in its heyday and attacked plantations, freeing the slaves. The Rider’s garb is basic black, as is his hair. But the clearest distinction made between the differences between the two races (in this case “religions”) is described as follows: “Strapped to the Jew’s waist, as brazen as if it were a standing challenge to all Christian men, was a pistol.” Christians accept God; Jews killed the son of God. He is seen as out of place in the West: “A real Jew, such as Burly had seen in his youth back east, though he had never known them to go around heeled.”

Mystic Planes circa 300 BC

However, there the parallels to history end. The supernatural element dominates the storyline.
“The goal of Merkabah mystics was to ascend to the divine throne, which they attempted to do by means of rituals and other mystical practices. Merkabah mysticism not only gave rise to later Kabbalism, it influenced Gnostic ideas of ascent to the realm of the hidden god, as well as similar ideas in Islamic mysticism. Elements of it even appear in the New Testament, where Paul writes of someone (maybe himself) who ascended to the "third heaven" (there were seven heavens in Merkabah) and heard and saw unutterable mysteries (II Corinthians 12:2-5). The prophet Muhammad's Midnight Ride to heaven on El-Buraq also owed a lot to the imagery of Merkabah Mysticism” (Wiki). As the Rider deals with the plane of man, he must also fare against the mystical plane on which his journeys lead. There are four tales here that make up the entire story, and should be read as such; each story is rich in details that tie the tales into one, and although they can be read as individual pieces, it’s best to put off any notions that these are four separate tales.

The Merkabah Rider by Ed Erdelac adds that religious twist to the weird western genre that parallels its time, when Reconstruction failed and the West was wary of people of color or faiths other than Christian. Although its history is brief, its story is well-written and its mystic layers well-presented. I look forward to further tales of the Rider.

The Industrial Era (1880s to 1910) gave way to workplace reforms when the industrial wealthy abused the rights of the working class. Theodore Roosevelt spoke softly and carried a big stick in favor of the workers and didn’t kowtow to the wealthy industrialists. But this unnatural age of metal and ore opened the door to World War I (1914-1918), where mechanical weapons in the hands of the Germans nearly wiped out Europe. For the first time in warfare, tanks, aircraft, submarines, flame-throwers, and various lethal gases were employed. History teaches us that the entrance of the Americans into the war helped bring it to an end, but scholarly research tells us that it wasn’t quite as cut and dried as that. The Roaring Twenties carried on the long celebration of the end of the war and this expensive party ended with a massive bill: The Great Depression.

Which brings us to Where Darkness Dwells by Glen Krisch.

 Glen Krisch
Glen Krisch has written three novels: The Nightmare Within, Where Darkness Dwells, and Nothing Lasting. His short fiction has appeared in publications across three continents for the last decade. Dog Horn Publishing (U.K.) will publish his story collection debut in 2012. He is also an editor for Morrigan Books. As a freelance editor, he has worked on books by Tim Lebbon and Lawrence Block, among others. He enjoys speaking with other readers & writers. Feel free to drop by:
“During a hot summer night in 1934, tragedy strikes when two local boys search for the truth behind a local legend. They stumble upon the Underground, a network of uncharted caverns just below the surface of Coal Hollow.

Time holds no sway in the Underground. People no longer age and their wounds heal as if by magic. By morning, one boy is murdered, while the other never returns home. The Underground is hidden for a reason. Certain locals want to keep their lair secret, no matter the cost.

Below a town struggling to survive both the Great Depression and the closing of the local coal mine, lives an immortal society built on the backs of slavery and pervasive immorality.”

At a time where poverty pervaded the majority of the population, people still dreamt the American Dream: A home, a car, a steady income. Where Darkness Dwells inverts the American Dream. Sure you can have your desires, but at what cost? By paralleling this inversion with the slave trade, Krisch describes man’s desperation to escape poverty in supernatural terms. He parallels the condition of the slaves from the Civil War period to the poverty of the Depression, 1934. To acquire what one wants, one must sacrifice his neighbor, just as the plantation owners treated people as property.

Ironic given that Coal Hollow would enslave these men

I enjoyed the contrast between the struggling small town businesses (barber shops, corner markets, etc.) and the Underground “business” of trafficking in forced labor—a nice nod for the darkness and light associated with Socrates’s Cave Metaphor, where the underworld represented ignorance and the sunlit world above ground represented knowledge. As such, people coming from the underground perpetuated the old way of slavery, the dark times, and the people going down into the darkness represented the greediness of some people who are willing to return to the days of ignorance for the sake of a profit in lean times. I’m stretching my Socrates a bit, but Krisch did not choose this underground scenario lightly (no pun intended), as if ignorance were trying to return man to the days of darkness (or slavery). Also, if one of the immortal undergrounders tried to leave the “cave”, they’d die. And yet to live in slavery meant immortality, as if ignorance lived forever, and enlightenment was constantly evolving but short lived.

Socrates Allegory of the Cave

Where Darkness Dwell tackles many issues, and these I mention are but a few. The Depression set the times back to the dark ages and Krisch explores the corruption inherent in these dark times, in terms of horror and the supernatural. As historical novel, I found the research well applied, though there were a few bumps that bothered me (comic books were often referred to as comic strips or just strips). There is much horror in the book, though it is more fantasy than supernatural (fountain of youth?), but this isn’t a criticism, just a clarification.

Historically, the Underground Railroad was a symbol for freedom, a method used to bring escaped slaves to the free North, a complaint the Southerners had against its Union neighbor. In Where Darkness Dwells, Krisch turns the Underground to a negative place, where slavery is the norm. He has inverted the natural order of history to present his case for nature out of balance. Here, too, there is everlasting life, another corruption of the natural order. The citizens of Coal Hollow represent the common man in an uncommon situation and there are diverse reactions as one would normally find in any given situation. It’s always a tad predictable to have all the characters react the same way to the same thing, which makes for a surprise-free reading. Krisch avoids this dilemma with a wealth of characters of all ilks, though some characters are around longer than others without details.

My kindle version was about 400 pages, though the Amazon description says 314 pages, so it is heavy but entertaining reading. I wouldn’t call it verbose, as every scene foreshadows the twists and turns in the plot. The main character Cooper is an interesting hero and does reflect well the romantic portrayal of a rail-hitcher of the era (think Sullivan’s Travels). This is my first Glen Krisch book, but not my last. He understands the historical horror story and I’ve added him to my list of authors to keep an eye on.

The Depression affected the world. Because America is an import/export giant, working closely with Eurpose, Asia, and virtually every County, when America suffers, the world suffers as well. Franklyn Delano Roosevelt’s answer to end the suffering was socialism: welfare, unemployment, and other government handouts. But at what cost?

Brought an end to the Depression with social assistance

Germany’s answer was also socialistic: note the National Socialist German Workers Party, or as it was better known, the NAZI Party. And its leader was Adolf Hitler.

Hitler and Mussolini

Benito Mussolini led Italy into a tyrannical version of the party, and the Emperor Hirohito brought Imperialistic rule to Japan. The people of the world rejoiced at the social assistance their governments brought to their economically depressed countries, and shed a blind eye to the darker side their leaders expressed early on in the implementation of the social party. Even as FDR took over the Congress (a crime against the US Constitution), the people cheered his bold moves. Similarly, the leaders of the future Axis counties (Japan, Italy, Germany) seized control of their government as a means to further the reach of the social reforms. While the nine Justices of the Supreme Court threatened FDR to take his hands off of the Congress or risk impeachment (The Nine Old Men take on the would be King Roosevelt*), Japan invaded China, Germany attacked Poland, and Italy moved its tank forces into Africa.

* "It was not surprising that the court-packing controversy would arouse the rage of the right, which already detested Roosevelt and the New Deal and believed the White House was building a dictatorship. More startling to the president was the outrage from within his own party — even among many staunch progressives — and the lukewarm loyalty he received even from those who agreed to support him. Many opponents of the proposal shared Roosevelt’s dismay at the court’s conservatism, but tampering with the institution seemed even to many liberals to represent excessive presidential power and a threat to the Constitution" (With Justices for All by Alan Brinkley).

Which brings us to The Children of Burma from Legends of the Night by Stephen Mark Rainey.

Stephen Mark Rainey

The writer is not the infamous Stephen King antihero Mort Rainey, but the far more nefarious author of the novels Dark Shadows: Dreams of the Dark (with Elizabeth Massie, HarperCollins, 1999), Balak (Wildside Books, 2000), The Lebo Coven (Thomson Gale/Five Star Books, 2004), The Nightmare Frontier (Sarob Press, 2006, and in e-book format by Crossroads Press, 2010), and Blue Devil Island (Thomson Gale/Five Star Books, 2007); three short story collections; and over 80 published works of short fiction (for a complete bibliography.

Legends of the Night is a collection of short stories by Mark Rainey. I selected The Children of Burma because it dealt with the historical time of World War II. It is 1942. Kenjiru Terusawa of the Imperial Japanese Army Engineering Corps, charged with the duty to renovate a capture British airfield in Burma to serve as a landing field for the Japanese forces surmounting their attacks in correspondence with their Axis brothers Italy and Germany. As countries fall victim to the Axis attacks, evil is spread and no nation is safe.

Japanese Socialist Imperialism on the move (not your stereotypic Japanese soldier, eh?)

But Rainey marks evil for evil. As the Japanese corps in Burma clears the island of possible threats, they inadvertently unleash a monster of Lovecraftian proportions. The story is fashioned as a found manuscript by Terusawa recounting the events as they happen. This manner of script allows for a more historically proper look at the war through the eyes of one of its principals; as such, Terusawa narrates, “I was charged with the responsibility of renovating a captured British airfield near the village of Myatauki, a tiny settlement of Burmese natives on the border of Thailand, about 200 miles southeast of Rangoon.

Here, the stereotypic Japanese war agressor

In the opening days of the new year, the army had begun its invasion of Burma, both to secure its valuable oilfields and to erect a bulwark against an advance by the British from India. Gen. Iida’s most immediate goal, however, was to sever and seize the Burma Road, the only means the Chinese had to supply their few strategic bases in the Yunnan Province, several hundred miles to the north.”

As Rainey strengthens the historical narrative, he sets up his reader to encounter the historical horror. By the time the natural and supernatural forces meet, one evil has replaced the other. One meets a monster that will not soon be forgotten. It attacks mind and body with equal wickedness. Thus, this narrative structure is a joy for the historical horror fan, who learns as he is entertained. We are immersed in 1942, not only in the middle of a war, but in the mind of an imperial soldier of said war, and we witness the horrors of the man, the army and ultimately the monster itself. Whereas other historical horror stories (many which I eliminated from this article) generalized the historical setting to merely tell a horror story, Stephen Mark Rainey establishes the structure writers of this genre should emulate or at least aspire to imitate. 

Throughout history, man has always strived to exceed his reach. Sometimes, however, that excess leads to bad eras and periods. In the literature of horror, this excess metamorphizes into the supernatural. Macbeth reached for the heavens and touched hell, Banished showed a primitive age unloosing a demon by toying with life and death and realizes the superstitions of pre-Columbus demons, Skin Trade switches humans with the buffalo in its allegorical coming-of-age tale, Merkabah Rider is an unwelcome “Jew” following the ghosts of the Reconstruction Period, Glen Krisch finds the supernatural darkness in the American depression and discovers the undead in the shadows of the Civil War, and Mark Rainey parallels Lovecraftian monsters with the Imperialistic annexing of other countries by the Japanese in World War II. As long as the history is sound, the supernatural element in the historical novel works as literature. With these great tales of the ancient times of man and nature, the literature of History and Horror blazes new trails that lead us fans toward some great reading and just the right amount of education to make the horrors believable.

Thank you, dear readers, for joining us today. And thank you, authors, for these wonderful pieces of historical horror. I look forward to further readings into the supernatural in olden days and promise to share my findings with my readership. Until next we meet for Fairy Tales and Horror, snuff a candle and light the darkness.