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Worse Angels

Worse AngelsWorse Angels by Laird Barron
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

WORSE ANGELS is another exceptional novel in author Laird Barron’s Isaiah Coleridge series. Tasked with determining whether a death that was ruled a suicide might actually be a murder, Coleridge finds himself at odds with yet another shady corporation, the Redlick Group, and their secretive supercollider project that may have a darker purpose than scientific research.

In the course of his investigation, Coleridge runs up against Redlick’s spokesman/enforcer Tom Mandibole, who also happens to be a recurring devilish character in Barron’s horror fiction. (I last encountered Mandibole in the 2015 novella X’S FOR EYES.) It makes for a fun Easter egg, creating a link between Barron’s cosmic horror tales and his more mainstream Isaiah Coleridge novels, and positing, perhaps, that they exist in the same shared world.

I don’t know if more Isaiah Coleridge novels are on the way — as of this writing, I haven’t heard anything — but I eagerly await more. These novels are witty, brutally violent at times, brimming with a barely glimpsed darkness, and highly enjoyable.

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THE EC ARCHIVES: TALES FROM THE CRYPT, VOL. 1

The EC Archives: Tales from the Crypt Volume 1The EC Archives: Tales from the Crypt Volume 1 by Al Feldstein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As with my recent reading of THE EC ARCHIVES: THE HAUNT OF FEAR, VOL. 1, I found the stories in TALES FROM THE CRYPT, VOL. 1 to be utterly charming in a cheesy, nostalgic sort of way. Nothing here is going to get under the skin of a modern horror reader, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll love the stories anyway. They’re earnest, direct, and anything but subtle. Most of them are tales of supernatural comeuppance, although a few, like the vampire story “Blood Type V” and the body horror “Rx…Death!”, break the mold to offer a sting in the tail.

Something I never knew was that the first four issues of TALES FROM THE CRYPT were actually titled THE CRYPT OF TERROR (in keeping with the titles of its sister publications THE HAUNT OF FEAR and THE VAULT OF HORROR). What’s more, those initial issues, which are included here, focus on stories of crime and suspense rather than horror, perhaps as holdovers from when CRYPT was originally a crime comic called CRIME PATROL. In fact, it isn’t until the comic changes its name to the more familiar TALES FROM THE CRYPT that the stories become the supernatural tales we all know and love. (This is my sole reason for giving the volume 4 stars instead of 5.)

Interestingly, the first horror story in the first issue titled TALES FROM THE CRYPT, “The Thing from the Sea,” is an uncredited and I assume unauthorized adaptation of F. Marion Crawford’s “The Upper Berth.” I can only guess that Al Feldstein, the credited author, thought none of the comic’s young readers would notice! (He also changed the ending.)

The EC ARCHIVES series from Dark Horse is truly a joy. I look forward to getting my hands on more volumes!

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Black Mountain

Black MountainBlack Mountain by Laird Barron
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The second Isaiah Coleridge thriller builds admirably off the first. Freed from having telling an origin story, Barron gives us fully formed characters to follow as they face a compelling, impossible mystery. Two mobsters have been murdered by an unknown assailant, and every clue points to a legendary serial killer who died a long time ago. As Coleridge and his trusty but frequently self-destructive sidekick Lionel investigate, I was put in mind of Peter Straub’s magnum opus THE THROAT, which treads similar terrain, and beside which BLACK MOUNTAIN can proudly stand. I can think of no higher praise than that. With a nerve-shredding climax that wouldn’t be out of place in one of Barron’s horror short stories, BLACK MOUNTAIN delivers the goods.

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Have I Got a Cartoon For You!

Have I Got a Cartoon for You!: The Moment Magazine Book of Jewish CartoonsHave I Got a Cartoon for You!: The Moment Magazine Book of Jewish Cartoons by Robert Mankoff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The cartoons in this slim volume are funny, but they would be funnier if you called your mother more often.

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