Kealan Patrick Burke

Crime, horror, thrillers, drama, anything that takes my fancy!

Horns

Horns - Joe Hill An unusual, highly original, and darkly funny treatment of good versus evil. Loved it.

The Beauty Queen of Leenane and Other Plays

The Beauty Queen of Leenane and Other Plays - Martin McDonagh I'm a big fan of Martin McDonagh's movies (IN BRUGES, SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS), but didn't realize he was a playwright until someone pointed me to this book. After reading it, I'm now just as big a fan of his plays as I am of his films. The three plays featured in TBQOL are interconnected and focus on the locals in the titular town. What appear on the surface to be funny slices of life turn out to be a whole lot more and, as he does in his movies, McDonagh steers the comedy into dark, violent territory. I loved each one of these plays equally and will certainly be seeking out more of his work, whatever the medium.

In the Tall Grass

In the Tall Grass - Stephen Lang, Joe Hill, Stephen King A good short story by the Clan McKing that reads like something King would have written circa Skeleton Crew. The included excerpts from King's forthcoming The Shining sequel Doctor Sleep and son Hill's NOS482 are worth the price of admission by themselves.

The Waste Lands

The Waste Lands - Stephen King, Ned Dameron A solid and enjoyable entry in the DARK TOWER series, though I rank it one star less than the previous volume solely for some prolonged lulls in the story.

Prayers for Rain

Prayers for Rain - Dennis Lehane Another solid entry in the Kenzie/Gennaro series (the only weak spot being MOONLIGHT MILE). This one sees our PI duo pitted against an insidious enemy who prefers to manipulate the ruin of his victims over time rather than destroying them outright. Solidly written with the usual sharp-as-a-tack dialogue and twisty turny plot, PRAYING FOR RAIN is another winner from Lehane.

The Black Dahlia

The Black Dahlia - James Ellroy I don't give many books a full five stars, which should tell you all you need to know about my feelings on THE BLACK DAHLIA. Based on one of Hollywood's most brutal and baffling murder cases, Ellroy's novel is painstakingly researched, beautifully written, and believable. The atmosphere of a turbulent Los Angeles in the '40s drips from the pages, the characters all but walk off the page, and the intricate plot is masterfully handled. Dark, complex, with a sting like fine bourbon, THE BLACK DAHLIA is required reading.

Cross

Cross - Ken Bruen As always with Bruen's work, a darkly funny, brutal read.

He Is Legend: An Anthology Celebrating Richard Matheson

He Is Legend: An Anthology Celebrating Richard Matheson - William F. Nolan, Ed Gorman, John Shirley, Gary A. Braunbeck, Richard Matheson, Thomas F. Monteleone, F. Paul Wilson, Joe R. Lansdale, Whitley Strieber, Nancy A. Collins, Joe Hill, Michael A. Arnzen, Mick Garris, John Maclay, Christopher Conlon, Barry Hoffman, Stephen Ki An uneven anthology that is nevertheless worth picking up based on the strength of a few gems, most notably the King/Hill collaboration "Throttle", F. Paul Wilson's "Recalled", "Comeback" by Ed Gorman, and "Return to Hell House" by Nancy Collins.

Moonlight Mile

Moonlight Mile - Dennis Lehane While Lehane's narrative voice remains as appealing as always, it's the story that suffers in MOONLIGHT MILE. Lacking the layered, twisty and original plots that marked his previous efforts, this one seems more like a stretched-out novella, and one Lehane did not particularly enjoy writing. It seems lazy and cliched, with paper-thin characters and tired dialogue, which comes as a great disappointmen, considering none of those words can usually be applied to a Lehane novel.

The Intruders

The Intruders - Michael Marshall Like John Connolly, Michael Marshall (Smith) is the go-to author for supernatural fiction wrapped up in a crime noir shell, and few do it better than they. This tale, of missing persons, and quite possibly possession, is a welcome follow-up to Marshall's incredible Straw Men trilogy. His pacing is impeccable, his dialogue razor-sharp and occasionally very funny, and his control over the narrative outstanding. He has over the years moved up to become one of my favorite writers, and each book is an automatic purchase for me. Highly recommended.

11/22/63

11/22/63 - Stephen King Review coming soon...but for now, this was King's best book in years. Astonishing.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? - Edward Albee Lives up to its reputation as a classic. A veritable masterclass in how to write dialogue.

The Orchard

The Orchard - Charles L. Grant As always with Charles L. Grant's work, the poetic cadence to his words paints a picture that draws you in and keeps you held firm while he weaves around you a chiaroscuro of horror that is inimitable. This series of four novellas, linked by the titular venue, is an astoundingly creepy work, and reads more coherently than many novels. A definite highlight in the late and lamented author's underrated career.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Invasion of the Body Snatchers - Jack Finney Creepy, classic science fiction/horror from one of the masters.

Sacred

Sacred - Dennis Lehane As I have come to expect from Lehane, another excellent entry in the MacKenzie/Gennaro series.

Mile 81

Mile 81 - Stephen King Stephen King’s novelette, MILE 81, released today in digital format, tells the story of an abandoned rest stop, or rather the peculiar car that chooses to park there, and what that car does when the curious get too close.

Ten year old Pete Simmons, brushed off by his older brother and his gang and looking for something to do, decides to investigate a nearby rest area, which, once a popular stop for hungry and weary travelers on the I-95 stretch of highway, is now little more than a dilapidated hangout for local teens looking for somewhere safe to get high and get lucky. Once there, Pete finds a bottle of vodka and samples it, which proves enough to knock him out for a few hours. While he sleeps, a mud-coated Station Wagon “of indeterminate make and vintage” shows up and parks outside. The door swings open, and nobody steps out.

I won’t say much more about the plot, because the story is too short for that, something I wish the publishers had kept in mind when coming up with the sales copy. Because unfortunately, if you’ve read the synopsis of the book, you know 75% of the story already, which, like movie trailers that give away major plot points, is annoying. One could argue that the “deaths” were mentioned in the publisher’s synopsis because there’s a lot more to the story. The problem, though, is that there isn’t. We get a nice setup, which reads like it would for a novel, in which Pete is introduced and sets off looking for mischief or adventure, whichever comes first. Then we get the car and the ensuing creepiness, and then (and this is my main beef with the story), we get a hurried, unsatisfying ending.

Which is unfortunate, because for the majority of MILE 81, I felt like I was a teenager again, reading CHRISTINE for the first time. The style is vintage, good-old fashioned King, and MILE 81 will inevitably draw comparisons to that novel, although it probably has more in common with FROM A BUICK 8 (both feature cars with questionable appetites), with a dash of the slow, creeping death of “The Float” (from SKELETON CREW) thrown in for good measure. And as is typical of King’s work, the characters are handled with the author’s trademark skill. Within the space of a page, we know them, which makes us care about what happens to them. And while I had issues with some of the children’s dialogue (both internal and external) not ringing true at times, I was willing to forgive it because in my experience, such minor issues are quickly forgotten in a King story by the time the real fun starts.

But sadly, the fun is all too brief in MILE 81, and in the end I felt as if I had read the opening chapter to an abandoned novel, or perhaps a FROM A BUICK 8 prologue that was abandoned in favor of not making the car so obviously homicidal. There are some great scenes here (one involving a tire is delightfully creepy, and the death scenes are pretty clever), but while I agree with the author’s contention that the novella is the perfect length for horror fiction (and FULL DARK, NO STARS is proof of his own mastery of that format), here it feels constricting, as if King had someone standing over his shoulder reminding him of the word count restrictions when he wanted to write a novel. It’s jarring, because everything to that point promises more of a payoff, which doubles the let-down when it doesn’t come.

Still, I recommend reading it, particularly if, like me, anything King writes is an automatic purchase for you. You’ll enjoy the ride, even if it doesn’t handle as well as the overenthusiastic salesman promised, but when it stops abruptly enough to give you whiplash, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Currently reading

The Silent Land by Graham Joyce
The Power of the Dog by Don Winslow