LISTENER

Mark P.

  • 4
  • reviews
  • 4
  • helpful votes
  • 49
  • ratings
  • The Amulet

  • By: Michael McDowell
  • Narrated by: Julia Whelan
  • Length: 10 hrs and 41 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 177
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 163
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 161

When a rifle range accident leaves Dean Howell disfigured and in a vegetative state, his wife Sarah finds her dreary life in Pine Cone, Alabama made even worse. After long and tedious days on the assembly line, she returns home to care for her corpse-like husband while enduring her loathsome and hateful mother-in-law, Jo. Jo blames the entire town for her son's mishap, and when she gives a strange piece of jewelry to the man she believes most responsible, a series of gruesome deaths is set in motion.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Just as good 38 years later.

  • By Jon Weimer on 12-11-17

All McDowell is good!

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-24-18

I believe this was McDowell's first novel of southern gothic horror, a genre that this man did better than anyone else. This is probably McDowell at his trashiest and most violent. The story revolves around an amulet that's passed around to various people in the small town of Pine Cone, Alabama. As you can imagine, anyone who possesses the amulet gets killed in some horrifying fashion, and the deaths get more violent and more ridiculous as the book progresses. It's not quite as refined as it would be in his next few works, but McDowell also introduces the bickering southern families that would become a staple of his work. The relationship between Sarah Howell and her angry, mean-spirited, manipulative mother-in-law Jo Howell (you will love to hate her) really sets the stage for his next few books, all of which are even better than this one even if some of them aren't quite as fun. This is like one of your favorite horror B-movies in novel form. Check this one out!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Happy Man

  • A Tale of Horror
  • By: Eric C. Higgs
  • Narrated by: Matt Godfrey
  • Length: 5 hrs and 20 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 21
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 20
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 20

Charles Ripley has a good job as an engineer, a pretty wife, and an expensive house in a fashionable San Diego suburb. But it isn't until Ruskin Marsh moves in next door that Ripley realizes how passionless his life really is. Marsh, a connoisseur of the arts, high-powered lawyer, model husband and father, and effortless seducer of women, is so supremely alive that Ripley finds himself irresistibly drawn to him. But after Marsh's arrival, local girls begin to vanish, marriages end violently, and horribly mutilated corpses are found.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • a neighborhood friend telling you a crazy story

  • By AudioBook Reviewer on 04-15-18

De Sade meets '80s yuppie culture

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-23-18

This is a quick listen, so as you can imagine it doesn't waste any time. Within the first few minutes, we find out that an entire family has been killed, and our narrator murders another person within minutes of this happening. The rest of the book explains how we got there.

Charles is living a perfectly normal southern Californian suburban life, in a town that is only a few miles away from the Mexican border (this is important later in the book). He has a successful career and a well-paying job, and lives around people who are similarly successful. His wife lost a baby a few years prior, but they have moved on and live a seemingly happy life. Enter Ruskin Marsh and his family, a new neighbor that seems to be the same type of person as everyone else in this neighborhood, but it quickly becomes apparent that he has a wild side that is very contagious. At first he may remind you of that one crazy friend we all have, where the simple act of going out to dinner with them results in a million crazy adventures.

Pretty soon he's dragging Charles out to bars to pick up women, who they see die in a flaming car crash during an intoxicated drive to their place, and it doesn't even seem weird the next morning. Within weeks of the Marshes moving to the neighborhood, we're seeing crazy swinging parties where everyone gets wasted and naked, and some people have nervous breakdowns after Ruskin has a conversation with them about their failing company. He gives Charles a rare private press copy of the Marquis de Sade's Juliette, and then we really start to see the sinister side to Ruskin's free spirited life. You can probably guess where this goes by looking at the cover.

Charles is a great example of a normal guy whose life gets completely turned upside down, until it gets so crazy that there just isn't any going back. His usage of terms like "marijuana cigarette" to emphasize his squareness was a stroke of genius on the part of Higgs, a writer who I know very little about. This one works both as a satire of the 1980s yuppie lifestyle, and also as an enthralling horror tale of the "sinister suburban life" genre (is that a thing?). I see that one of the only other things Higgs has published was a screenplay for a proposed film version of this, and I must say that this would make a pretty sweet indie horror film. In case you can't tell by the rating, this audiobook is fantastic and gets a huge recommendation from me.

  • Childgrave

  • By: Ken Greenhall
  • Narrated by: Travis Baldree
  • Length: 10 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 31
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 30
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars 29

When photographer Jonathan Brewster’s four-year-old daughter, Joanne, tells him about her new invisible friends, he doesn’t think too much about it. But then he sees them for himself: weird and uncanny images of the dead appearing in his photographs. The apparitions seem to have some connection to Childgrave, a remote village in upstate New York with a deadly secret dating back three centuries. Jonathan and Joanne feel themselves oddly drawn to Childgrave, but will they survive the horrors that await them there?

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • I need more synonyms for *creepy*

  • By Sharon P on 01-17-18

Creepy quiet horror from an overlooked master

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-23-18

The first half of this book barely resembles horror at all, and for the first few hours I was wondering where it was going. Our narrator, Jonathan, is a fussy fine art photographer living a comfortable upper middle class Manhattan life with his four year old daughter, Joanne. We start to think that maybe Jonathan is something of an unreliable narrator when he begins to obsess over a beautiful harpist, Sara Coleridge, whose mere existence completely turns his own existence upside down. Not long after she makes her way into his family's life, his daughter starts seeing creepy imaginary friends, ghosts and angels start popping up in his photography work, and everything seems to be tied to a strange middle of nowhere New York town that has survived without electricity or telephones since colonial days.

This may sound like a bunch of horror tropes strung together, but Greenhall is a fantastic writer and the story goes in a direction that is both unexpected and extremely unsettling. We eventually find out exactly how much Jonathan is willing to sacrifice for Sara's love, which is something that most people would find to be horrifying and unthinkable.

For a few reasons, I can't say that this is as good as the other Greenhall book I've read, Hellhound, which I consider to be something of a masterpiece. As good of a writer as he was, he doesn't quite avoid the one thing that drives me crazy about a lot of horror fiction. Some of the reactions of characters to the goings-on in this book are just completely unrealistic and baffling! Why is almost no one as horrified as they should be by the ghosts in the pictures? Why don't Jonathan's friends and associates make more of an effort to stop him from going to Childgrave once they figure out what may be happening there? This doesn't really detract from the story, but it also doesn't go unnoticed.

Horror was an extremely popular genre when this book was published (early 80s), and horror paperbacks were selling so well that many hack writers jumped in the game to make a quick buck off of a genre that is ostensibly easier to write than most others. On the other hand, the genre was also filled with authors like Greenhall, outstanding writers who were probably never truly given a fair shake by critics because they happened to write horror. He was extremely underrated in his day, but fortunately he seems to be getting the rediscovery treatment, thanks to Valancourt and also writers/bloggers like Grady Hendrix and Will Erickson who have championed his work.

This one isn't quite as good as the other Greenhall I've read, Hellhound, which I consider to be something of a masterpiece. Having said that, it's still an extremely creepy and disturbing tale that fans of quiet horror will really appreciate. Travis Baldtree does an excellent job here, with a delivery that really nails the narrator's character of a square upper class guy ("I admire the person who refuses the second drink") whose life descends into madness, so this audiobook is highly recommended.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Brains of Rats

  • By: Michael Blumlein, Michael McDowell
  • Narrated by: Travis Baldree
  • Length: 7 hrs and 5 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 7
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 7
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 7

When Michael Blumlein's debut collection The Brains of Rats first appeared, it marked the arrival of a major new talent, earning widespread acclaim from mainstream critics as well as genre stalwarts Peter Straub, Harlan Ellison, Pat Cadigan and many others.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Odd Collection

  • By Big Cheese on 11-28-17

Harrowing medical horror and more

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-14-18

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I have already recommended this to friends of mine with similar taste. It's quite a diverse collection ranging from jaw dropping body horror to heart warming (and heart breaking) dark fantasy.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The narrator of the final story, "Bestseller", a writer who struggles to earn a living and feed his family (including a sick child), until he discovers a way to generate income that most people would find utterly unthinkable and horrifying. You can't help but sympathize with his plight, even if you're disgusted by the way he ends up.

Which scene was your favorite?

"Tissue Ablation" is one of the very best horror short stories I've read, and I've read many of them. A tale of a truly heinous surgical procedure, told in a detached, emotionless academic medical style. It's the most stomach turning story here, and also one that will draw you into the reality it creates and leave you completely dumbfounded when you realize what is happening."Keeping House" was another one I enjoyed, a Shirley Jackson-esque tale about a woman being driven to madness by a house. Great stuff.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

No idea. I just know that I would want it to be directed by David Cronenberg.

Any additional comments?

A fantastic collection. I didn't love every story as much as the ones I mentioned above, but everything here is well written. Blumlein has a knack for temporarily rearranging your reality and drawing you into the worlds he creates with his stories.