Book Review: The Mud Ballad by Jo Quenell

mud ballad

Title: The Mud Ballad

Author: Jo Quenell

Release date: April 30, 2020

You ever read something that just makes you feel filthy? As though you need a shower and it’ll take steel wool to scrub away the dirt that squirmed its way into your skin?

‘The Mud Ballad’ by Jo Quenell did such a thing to me.

This is the second of three books that Sam at Weirdpunk Books sent for me to check out and the third book overall of their press that I’ve read (the other being the stunning upcoming release from Joanna Koch ‘Wingspan of Severed Hands) and I’m blown away. Stunned, truly with how amazing these releases are. I’m also stunned, and saddened to be honest, that I haven’t seen more people raving about ‘The Mud Ballad’ and the previous release I read ‘Seventeen Names for Skin.’

Considering this is Quenell’s debut release, this novella has the makings of an author I’ll be sure to follow.

**Now, I do want to add a quick caveat – I couldn’t find any social media links for Quenell, but judging from the author bio, I’ll use they/them pronouns. If this is incorrect, I’d greatly appreciate somebody reaching out and I can make the appropriate edits!**

What I liked: In a prologue fit for the darkest of black days, we open in a small town. The travelling circus has arrived and the conjoined twins are one of the many ‘freaks’ to be featured in the sideshow. But for one of the twins, it’s become too much and they take it into their own hands to kill their brother and slice him from their head.

From there, Quenell rolls out a narrative that is filled with rain, mud and a comedy of errors. We pick up some years later. Jonathan, our living twin, was exiled from the circus and remained in the town where they killed their brother. Dawes, the circus doctor has returned, looking for his former love after the circus itself has been retired.

Not content to turn this into a tale of a former freak and a disgraced physician trying to find a place in the world, Quenell deftly adds in a found grimoire and Jonathan’s hairbrained scheme to resurrect his twin and have Dawes surgically reunite them.

Throughout this story, Quenell delivers time and time again, some of the dirtiest and filthiest descriptions I’ve ever read. It always rains in this town. Animal fights and drinking are the local pastimes. Dawes and Jonathan both have jobs working two of the lowest positions in one of the lowest places on the planet. But, Quenell manages to do something really interesting here. They make you want to see these two succeed. Jonathan misses hearing that other voice in his head. Dawes just wants to help his buddy and see the boy smile again. It is an odd pairing but a pairing that works.

A lot of this story even gave me shades of some of the 80’s slapstick comedies. National Lampoon’s and John Candy stuff where a shovel is conveniently placed for a person to step on and get hit with it. Only, within this story, that isn’t a shovel. No, it’s a knife or a train.

Quenell has truly crafted a gem from start to finish here. A phenomenal piece of writing that had me riveted from page one.

What I didn’t like: The grimoire aspect was absolutely necessary for the plot and the ending reflected that. Saying that, I almost found some of the paranormal stuff that arrives later on a bit odd, considering the scope of the story before it. It does work, but it may be jarring for some readers.

As well, I typically can’t stand any sort of comedy in my horror/dark fiction reads, but wow did Quenell use it well when needed and for the majority of it, the ‘comedy’ was truly dark in nature.

Why you should buy this: Weirdpunk Books, over the course of only three books, has cemented itself as a MUST read press. I have one more book to check out, but from what I’ve read, I have no concerns I won’t enjoy it.

Quenell wrote a stunning debut novella, one that quickly and effortlessly has made them an author for me to watch. This book should be on so many ‘Best Of’ lists for 2020 (as well as Seventeen Names for Skin) so if you haven’t read it, there’s still time. The writing is crisp, bleak and filled with decay and Quenell never once let’s in a single slice of sunshine.

Fantastic stuff. Absolutely fantastic.


To buy direct from Weirdpress Books;

Amazon link;

Book Review: Seventeen Names for Skin by Roland Blackburn


Title: Seventeen Names for Skin

Author: Roland Blackburn

Release date: August 31st, 2020

A while back I read ‘To Wallow In Ash & Other Sorrows’ by Sam Richard. From reading this stunning collection, I ended up chatting with Sam and he asked if I’d be keen at all to review any of the other Weirdpunk Books releases. I wasn’t really familiar with the press, but one look at the three covers he sent me had me sold. That was before I’d even read the synopsis.

Through a random draw (in actuality it was whichever one was on my Kindle first!) I started off with ‘Seventeen Names for Skin’ by Roland Blackburn. This is a new to me author, but I believe he’ll be having a book arrive through Bloodshot Books at some point here in the future.

What I liked: The synopsis/plot behind this is absolutely bonkers and I was invested from page one. Snow works as a piercer at a local Tattoo shop. After some prodding, she goes to get a check-up at the doctor. While there, they find an advanced/aggressive brain tumor, which has left her with only weeks or even days left to live. So, she does what anyone would do. She hires a hitman on the dark web to kill her so that her retired, disabled father can get the insurance money.


From here, Blackburn injects a surprising twist, one that causes Snow to spontaneously transform into all forms of beasts. And as things escalate, we get a couple of really great additional story lines, plot points that I wish I could share but due to the agreed upon universal BAN ON SPOILERS IN REVIEWS, I simply can’t.

Blackburn has a fantastic writing style. The story hummed along and with each incident with Snow, I wanted to know more and more. Snow also has a very kind and caring BFF in Raven and their interactions were great. He really nailed the banter and I loved how Raven was along for the ride, no matter what oddity arrived.

The ending on here was great. Really well done and I enjoyed watched Snow evolve with the continued changes as the story moved along.

What I didn’t like: Minor here, but earlier in the book, Snow goes to a anonymous group meeting for people who ‘change.’ Raven found it online so she gets Snow to attend and see if it helps here. The characters she meets there were a bit superficial in that I didn’t really remember their names and when they return later I was confused at first as to who the heck they were.

Why you should buy this: Weirdpunk Books is a publisher on the rise. I loved this book and already dove into the second of the three Sam emailed over. This one crackled with the excited energy of somebody at their first heavy metal concert. When the lights dimmed and the band took the stage, Blackburn had me eating out of the palm of his hand. This was a really great read and one that I hope more people discover.

Easy 5/5

Book Review: Dusk: Stories by Eddie Generous


Title: Dusk: Stories

Author: Eddie Generous

Release date: November 30th, 2020

Big thanks to Eddie for sending me a digital ARC to give this a read. If you’ve followed along, you’ll know I’m a fan of Eddie and his writing. A lot of people say I write and release at an impressive volume, but I can’t hold a candle to Eddie and his work.

For those unfamiliar with Eddie, not only is he a writer, but he’s also the man behind Unnerving – Unnerving books, magazine and podcast and also hosts the Books North podcast.

He is a busy man, but also finds the time to churn out amazing stories.

Eddie opens the collection off with an introspective piece where he shares how he got into writing and how writing saved him. Within the piece he described his discovery of Stephen King (which he also expanded on recently in the Stephen King-inspired edition of Unnerving Magazine) and how King’s gift with prose had him look at his own writing.

Recently, I’ve also seen Eddie tweet frequently about ‘writing for America’ and ‘American-izing’ the adjectives and locations. Personally, I just want to state here that I love Eddie’s Canadiana that seeps into the stories.

What I liked: ‘Dusk: Stories’ opens with one of my all-time favorite stories ‘Flying the Mercury.’ I very sweet story of two young boys attempting to jump the family vehicle. I loved this story when I first read it in a prior collection and found I loved it just as much when I re-read it here.

From that starting point, Generous takes us on a weaving adventure where we get his takes on pretty much ever horror/dark fiction trope out there. There are numerous highlights throughout and when I was all said and done, it hit me as to why I love Generous’ writing so much. It is that familiar voice. The Canadian shared voice. The reason why Andrew Pyper’s ‘Kiss Me’ is a collection that every author should read.

Up here (and some of my friends around the world may have seen it) we had a show that ran for a number of seasons, called Corner Gas. A show about a small town Gas Station and the inhabitants in the community. This show worked on so many levels because of the shared experiences. We all knew neighbors like the folks who popped in and out of each episode. We all had experienced the various story lines at one time or another.

Generous has the ability to capture that emotion and atmosphere and share it with the readers. Just stunning work.

What I didn’t like: This collection had almost 30 short stories of varying lengths (28 to be exact), which can be a slog for some readers. This would be a collection I’d suggest you dive in and out of between longer reads, even as it attempts to suck you in and keep you wanting to read the next one.

Why you should buy this: Eddie has long been an author to showcase some stunning talent. Just look at Unnerving’s ‘Rewind or Die’ series. His work has been featured in a number of publications and he has written some truly stunning longer reads. Just look at ‘Plantation Pan.’ With this collection, Eddie has gathered the best of his best and this will be a perfect place for new fans to discover his work and old fans to dive back in.

I’ve read a lot of collections and anthologies this year, but this was easily one of the best.


You can preorder this now – out November 30, 2020!

Book Review: The Children of Red Peak by Craig DiLouie


Title: The Children of Red Peak

Author: Craig DiLouie

Release date: November 17, 2020

First off, huge thanks to Netgalley, Redhook the publisher and Craig DiLouie for approving me for a digital ARC of ‘The Children of Red Peak.’ I would’ve had this read and reviewed by release date, but I didn’t find this until late last week after seeing Michael Patrick Hicks post that he was reading it. I hit request, believing whole-heartedly I wouldn’t get approved with the release date looming, but thank you for the approval.


I absolutely loved this book and absolutely hated this book. I blame you MPH, you SOB! haha!

In July of this year, I came across a complete paperback set of The Dark Tower series on Facebook Marketplace. I immediately went to pick it up and while chatting with the man (aka capitalbookreview on Instagram) we shared some books we’d read that were page turners. He asked if I’d read ‘Suffer the Children’ by DiLouie and I was pretty sure I had. Turns out – I hadn’t. Turns out – I didn’t even own it. So, I snagged the Kindle version and was going to start it last week… until this approval!

What I liked: ‘The Children of Red Peak’ follows a group of child hood friends, now grown up, trying to come to terms with the events in their burgeoning teens. While they were all 14 and 15, their parents moved them to a religious group in search of the Holy Spirit. While here, their enigmatic leader, Jeremiah, hears of a miracle at the top of Red Peak.

DiLouie puts forth that the Family of the Living Spirit is a cult and as such treats it as one, but for the most part, I found it sounded a lot like devoted religious people who have turned their backs of society. Of course, with the promise of ascension and eternal life, we fall more into Heaven’s Gate cult territory, but for the first 75% of the book, it’s fairly mundane worship stuff.

I loved the small snippets of flashbacks and even the memories shared of the final night. DiLouie does have a very easy way of writing and I found I was feverishly turning the pages, even if I was growing frustrated at times. I just simply wanted to know what happened, which I think at the heart of any phenomenal writer and any stunning book, is the biggest key to unlock that door for the reader. The draw, the pull, the intrigue.

Along the way we get to learn more and more about the fall out from the survivors shared horrors and more pointedly, just what happened in the weeks leading up to and then the final night itself.

DiLouie has woven such a stunning story within the story that this was truly what wrapped around my readers brain and pulled me through the rest of the book.


What I didn’t like: At its heart ‘The Children of Red Peak’ is a philosophical look at life and religion. While this can work well, for me it took up far too much property. Time and time again, we’d get small snippets of back story and then chapter after chapter of what was happening now. The entire premise of the story was the survivors returning to Red Peak 15 years later and seriously – this doesn’t even occur until about the 80% mark.

I also want to mention the 15 year anniversary idea. We get a lot of present day story. About David being a cult exit counsellor, and Beth being a psychologist and Deak being a rock star (with far too much time dedicated to his concept album, his shows) etc, but the entire time I read this I was picturing them all as 40 somethings, not recently having turned 30. The age was jarring and at times had thrown me for a loop.

And lastly (I mean there’s other things but I won’t spoil everything!) the climax. The finale. A few pages for each person, a few pages of finale. I was pissed off. I wanted to throw my Kindle. I immediately messaged Michael to complain about how I wanted so much more. GODDDDDD! I’m still furious haha! DAMN YOU DILOUIE! You had me chasing that carrot all the way up the friggin’ hillside only to learn nothing. Maybe that was part of it? Maybe that was a thematic door jam. Popped in there to work metaphorically about the nature of faith and blind following? You die and then it’s over? The book definitely had me thinking, but at the same time, I’m still angry about how it played out.

Why you should buy this: DiLouie is an absolutely beast of a writer. I’m ashamed to not have read ‘Suffer the Children’ now and even more ashamed that I had no idea he was only three hours south in Calgary.

‘The Children of Red Peak’ will be one of those books where you either love it or hate it. Either way, it is a fast-paced read that will have you thinking and while it didn’t answer the questions I wanted answered, it may for you. I’m sticking with my initial assessment here – I absolutely loved this book and absolutely hated it. Which for many folks would indicate DiLouie did his job perfectly.


Book Review: Devil’s Night by Curtis M. Lawson

devils night

Title: Devil’s Night

Author: Curtis M. Lawson

Release date: September 20, 2020

Huge thanks to Curtis for arranging for a digital copy to head my way to review. Look at that cover!! ‘Devil’s Night’ is Curtis’ latest collection and is available as a signed/limited hardcover only, as of writing this review. Judging from the photos I’ve seen online and the gorgeous illustrations within, if you are a fan of Lawson’s work and love collecting stunning releases, this one is right up your alley.

This is my second experience reading Lawson’s work. I read his co-authored novella ‘Those Who Go Forth into the Empty Place of Gods’ which was actually a bit of a miss for me. But, in my brain, there was a germ of a story teller I wanted to explore more. I do have ‘Black Heart Boys’ Choir’ on my Kindle and after reading this, I’m going to need to get to that ASAP.

What I liked: ‘Devil’s Night’ is a collection exactly about that. Devil’s Night is a night of vandalism and arson that occurs on October 30th. Historically associated with Detroit, Michigan. Curtis decided (smartly, I might add) to take that idea and pair it with the legend of the Nain Rouge. The Nain Rouge is a red-dwarf like creature, often assumed to be or associated with the devil. Within, we get some truly stunning stories, and even an appearance by the famed Hobo Pig Lady of Michigan lore.

The fourteen stories opens with the fantastic ‘Trash-Fire Stories,’ which was also my favorite of the group. The story is centered around a teen boy who is doing street art in an industrial area when three kids from his school stumble upon him as he works. They share their own experiences with the Nain Rouge. This story was creepy-personified and the ended was spot on.

This laid some great ground-work for what was to come. The next story ‘D20’ was a great fantasy/horror blend between two brothers playing a board game while the real world howls at their window. This one was even a bit sweet in places.

Other stand outs for me were ‘No One Leaves the Butcher Shop,’ ‘Fire Sermon,’ ‘Rashaam the Unholy’ and ‘The Exorcism of Detroit, Michigan.’

You really can’t go wrong here as Curtis has crafted a collection that will become a classic release, especially for Halloween lovers as the years go by.

What I didn’t like: With any collection there is an ebb and flow with each story and a few of them suffered from the normal ‘I wish this story was a longer’ and ‘I wish this story was shorter’ thoughts that populate a readers brain. Overall, each story is rock solid, which made it easy to overlook those tendencies.

Why you should buy this: As I said in the opening, if you love Lawson’s work or love collecting gorgeous books, this is one you’ll need on your shelf. Coupled with the top notch story telling and the phenomenal imagery Curtis conjures in here, this one’s should be a must read for lovers of dark fiction and people who devour Halloween infused horror.


You can buy Devil’s Night here;

Devil’s Night

Book Review: Mr. Cables by Ronald Malfi


Title: Mr. Cables

Author: Ronald Malfi

Release date: Nov 6, 2020


Thoroughly, thoroughly engrossing.

Absolutely captivating.

Shamefully, this was my first experience reading Mr. Malfi. Crazy right? I have a number of his books sitting in my TBR, and when JournalStone announced this, I immediately snagged the Kindle version. But then, like a decent chunk of my books, it languished for a few weeks. Until I saw Jeremy Hepler post or tweet that he’d really enjoyed this book and I slapped myself.

So, last night, I was just going to read 25%. I have four other books on the go, all fantastic reads, so I was just going to read 25% and then finish off The Messy Man by Chris Sorensen.

But then this friggin’ book was so friggin’ enthralling, I read it in one sitting.

What I liked: NYT Bestselling Author Wil Paventeau is at a book signing when an older lady comes up to him, tells him his book is the scariest she’s ever read and then flops down a tattered hardcover of ‘Mr. Cables.’ The book has his name on it, his author photo and an almost accurate bio, but the only problem is – he never wrote it.

From there, Malfi delivers a full-force creep attack of something peering in the window, pages that read differently for different readers and the growing sense that the ‘meta-ness’ of the book is all too real. That Paventeau himself is/is not the same author who wrote the book.

I couldn’t stop reading this. Whether the book gripped its talons into my brain like our Mr. Cables did for the readers, or Malfi just writes with such a a casual inviting prose, I just couldn’t bring my self to close the Kindle.

This was superb. Think Stephen King familiarity of writing. Growing dread on each and every page. And an utterly fantastic ending.

What I didn’t like: I’d call it a minor thing, because I really, really did love this book, but there’s a few moments where we kind of need to suspend belief to believe Parenteau forgot some truly key moments in his life. Moments that I’m not sure most people would forget. Places and people. It’s minor but that may put some folks off.

Why you should buy this: There’s a handful of books for me lately that were so engrossing I simply couldn’t put them down. ‘The Ritual’ by Nevill. ‘Night Train’ by Quantick. ‘All Hail the House Gods’ by Stone. ‘Armageddon House’ by Griffin. ‘The Killing Circle’ by Pyper. This easily slots into that array of books that zoomed by and I had to question whether I even breathed.

My introduction to Malfi may have come far later than it should’ve, but holy hell, what a gem this was and I’m beyond excited to dive into this.

Color me a fan.


JournalStone direct link;

Amazon link:

Book Review: Unnerving Magazine #14 – Another Stephen King-Inspired Extended Edition


Title: Unnerving Magazine #14 – Another Stephen King-Inspired Extended Edition

Publisher: Unnerving

Release Date: October 25, 2020

Recently I did my first movie review here on the site, for the wonderful film ‘The Place of No Words.’ Now, I’m doing another first – a magazine review. It probably won’t become a habit, but when Eddie Generous announced they were doing another King-inspired edition, I was intrigued. But in all honestly, it was three pieces here that REALLY intrigued me the most. When I saw that Andrew Pyper was sharing a bit about King, I was sold. Add in Richard Chizmar discussing King in the slush pile and Charles Ardai talking about how King released ‘The Colorado Kid’ through Hard Case Crime – sold.

But Unnerving Magazine is so much more.

What I liked: Truthfully, I ‘m not 100% sure how to review a magazine issue. I’ve become so mentally focused on ‘book reviewing’ or at least how I review books, that the flow and layout of a magazine is very different.

It begins with an editor’s note (as most magazines do) from Eddie, sharing the ‘why’ of releasing a second King edition. This was a fantastic bit and really showed how King has touched so many people’s lives in ways they never realized.

The fiction in here was fantastic. Bev Vincent, William Meikle and Karron Warren had some phenomenal stories, but the absolute highlight for me was Stephen Graham Jones piece ‘The Spindly Man.’ Holy hell that was a frightening piece, one that both showed why SGJ is a stunning writer but also played homage to King.

The anecdote pieces that were interspersed throughout were great, sharing authors first experience with King. (This was where I found the Pyper bit placed, for those wondering!)

Chizmar’s sharing of having a story from King sitting in his slush pile in his closet was fantastic. For die-hard King fans, this article is a must read bit. Made me laugh thinking that the story was in a file folder.

The absolute gem of this edition was easily Charles Ardai discussing how King came to be a member of the Hard Case Crime family and the effect it’s had on that series and Ardai himself. I wished this article was twenty times longer, it was fantastic. And for those waiting to see the release of King’s next story through them, ‘Later,’ Charles does add some insight into it.

The two features of revisiting King, Cassie and Tracey’s were really well done. Thorough, and definitely topical books that seem to be some of the best King’s ever released, in terms of standing the test of time.

Danger’s Failed Film Pitches were hilarious. I’m a fan of Danger Slater and was always curious about these pieces. I truthfully thought, going in, that these were real movies he’d written screenplays for, but the hilarity of these were fun.

What I didn’t like: I mean, crap. This is usually where I share something that I think might discourage a reader or annoy a reader about a book. A magazine is a completely different beast. So, I’ll treat it like an anthology or collection – not every reader will enjoy every short story. Does that work? Ha! I enjoyed them all… so… moving on.

Why you should buy this: Unnerving always puts out top-notch releases and it’s no secret I’m a big fan of Eddie Generous and his writing. The Unnerving ‘Rewind or Die’ series has been stunning and I’m glad I finally dove into one of the Magazine releases. I think if you’re a big fan of Stephen King, you’ll find something in here that’ll make you smile or inspire you, or in the case of ‘The Spindly Man,’ creep you the hell out.


Snow On A Clear Night

‘Snow On a Clear Night’ was originally hosted on Kendall Reviews on April 13th, 2020. This was part of Gavin’s ‘Isolation Tales’ series, giving some free reads for those as the pandemic started to ramp up.

I’m sharing it here today, for those who missed it, those who enjoyed it and want to revisit it and for those who just want something sweet to take their minds off of the strangeness of the world.

Mason McDonald created a fantastic cover for this story.



Snow on a Clear Night.


Simon was dead.

Sitting on the front step of his parent’s house, he waited for his best friend, Mike to get home from school.

Mike lived across the street and didn’t mind that Simon wore a sheet over his body. Two eyeholes cut into the thin piece of material showcased Simon’s black eyes. Mike found that even without seeing his friends face anymore, the eyes divulged how Simon was feeling just as well as any facial expression ever could.

This was Simon’s favorite time of the year.


The leaves had changed colors, people started to decorate and put out blow up’s of zombies, vampires and scary clowns. Neighbors raked their yards, kids and dogs alike running and jumping in the piles. The coats were thicker, gloves keeping hands warm.

The summer was Simon’s least favorite season because Mike went away on vacation.

During the summer months, Simon would bide his time.  Hour after hour on the front step, longing for school to return, for August to end.

It had been four years since Simon died.

Since that day, Mike had grown older and taller, but he still played with Simon, still considered him his best friend.

Seeing the school bus pull up, Simon smiled under the white cloth, waving excitedly at his friend as he hopped off the bus.

“Hey, Simon,” Mike yelled out, jogging over to the smaller kid.

“Hello, how was school?”

“Fantastic! I have some homework to do. After dinner, how about I come over and tell you about it?”

“I’d love that,” Simon said, watching as his friend went to his house, back pack weighed down from the heavy school books.

Moments like these reminded Simon of the blackness he had inside. He could feel the warmth of joy trying to worm its way back to the surface. That sensation made their relationship worth it.

Simon went inside their boarded up house, looking for his mom.

He found her crying in her room.

“Mom, sorry to interrupt. May I spend some time with Mike tonight?”

The night time was Simon’s preferred time to play with Mike. Nobody ever questioned them as they ran and laughed. The darkness was their camouflage. It was a love-hate relationship though. On school nights, Mike couldn’t stay out late.

She looked up at her son, smiling at the ghost before her.

“Yes, my boy. Of course.”

Simon left her to cry some more.

She’d mourned him every day since he’d stopped living. Her only pause had been after she’d bled out in the bathtub, the despair of losing her child too much to take. When her spirit returned to the house, she returned to crying. Her tears were for the memories she no longer had, the life she no longer lived.

Simon paused in the hallway.

Re-entering her room, he walked over to her and gave her a hug, wrapping his white clothed arms around her.

“Would you like to go for a walk, mom?”

“I would love that.”

He took her hand and led her outside, feeling the crisp bite of the air that only October weather can bring. The feeling of snow in the not-so-distant future made for crunchier leaves and greyer clouds. It was the seasonal change that hurried the elderly to warmer climates and the young to dream of costumes and candy, chased by snow forts and Santa.

They walked slowly down the block, stepping from the sidewalk to let the living pass. Some could sense their energy, but they didn’t want to intrude in their lives.

They chatted about what Mike was learning in school, Simon excited to hear about the new stuff later. These talks always made her stomach knot, knowing her boy would never get to have those experiences again. All of his friends had aged, moved on, most having already forgotten about her small boy.

“Do you think any of my friends remember me?”

“Oh, honey. I know they do.”

“I think most of them want to forget me. Forget what happened.”

She looked off into the distance, hoping her son wouldn’t see the emotions that crawled across her discolored skin. It occurred to her that while he still appeared to be an elementary child, his soul was growing older as time marched on.

“Whoa! Mom! Look at that,” he shouted, running ahead of her, transforming back into a kid.

The Larder’s at the corner had already put most of their Halloween decorations up and Simon was thrilled.

There was a grim reaper driving a carriage, the horse looking fierce at the front. There were pumpkins, zombies, scary cats and werewolves. They’d gone all out this year.

“I wish we could do something like this at home,” Simon mentioned, as they investigated everything. As they passed near Mr. Larder, he noticed the man shiver and look around.

“I know. But this is just down the street. I promise, every night, we’ll walk over here and spend some time enjoying it.”

They carried on, travelling the small loop that made up their block. By the time they’d returned home, the sun had long since set and the street lights were now on, illuminating the sidewalk. If someone looked just right, they’d still be able to see faded chalk where hopscotch lines had once been drawn.

“I’ll just wait out here for Mike, if that’s ok?”

“Yes, my love,” she said, kissing his head.

It wasn’t long before Mike came barreling out of his house, running over to Simon.

“Hey,” he shouted. When the two were close enough, Mike extended his hand and they shared a high-five. Simon had no idea why Mike could see him or have physical contact with him, but he was thankful for it. He suspected it was because Mike had been his one true friend. The only kid to always come to his birthday parties. The physical world of the living was moving on, Simon sensing the fleeting remnants of touch disappearing.

“It means a lot that you still visit me.”

“Simon, you sound like an old man! Of course I’d want to hang out with my best friend!”

The two then hurried into Simon’s back yard.

From the kitchen window, Simon’s mom watched them play. They chased each other, played in Simon’s old sand pit and then took turns on the tire swing. Seeing this was the highlight of her day. Her boy still had a friend; a living, breathing friend. In that moment, she knew Simon was the happiest kid on the planet.


Another school year sped by, as only they do when you’re young.

The last bell of the year sounded and the kids piled out of the classrooms, the happy clamor of freedom ringing throughout the halls of learning.

Mike stopped at the little plaque near the metal shop before he left.

He read the words twice, not wanting to forget them.

The memorial for Simon always made him sad, but for some reason he found this time was the saddest one yet.


Mike skipped off the bus and waved at Simon, sitting in his familiar spot.

“Hey, buddy!” He yelled, jogging over.


“You don’t sound very happy?”

“Sorry. It’s just… it’s gonna be summer time. You’ll be gone and I won’t see you for months again.”

“I know. I’m real sorry.”

Then Mike tapped his shoulder, told him he was it and dropped his back pack. He took off on a dead sprint and Simon followed, the white sheet flapping behind him. The two friends laughed and laughed as they played, knowing time wasn’t on their side. As the night grew dark and the hour late, Mike’s mom yelled for him to come in.

“Sorry, mom. Was just playing with Simon.”

His mom looked around wearily, before ushering her boy inside. She hoped this stage would be over soon.


The September long weekend was something Simon looked forward to.

He’d spent the last few months entertaining himself.

His mother had taken to spending more and more time in her room. It made for many lonely stretches for Simon.

But that was about to change.

His friend would be home soon.


Hearing the arrival of the family car, Simon hurried outside to watch them unpack their holiday gear.

Mike had told him years ago about how his parents owned a cabin on a lake and when they lived there, they’d spend the months fishing, swimming and having wiener roasts around the fire.

“If you were still alive, you’d be coming to visit me for sure! We’d sleep under the stars, go for hikes and we could sit on the edge of the dock, letting our feet dangle in the water,” Mike would say, not knowing just how deep that statement hurt Simon.

If I were alive, things would be so very different, he’d think. My mom would still be alive.

His dad would still be around.

After his mother took her life, his dad couldn’t continue to live in the house. All of his memories of his son, his family and that life were there. So, he packed up and moved to an apartment across town. Once a week, Simon would stand in the window and wave while his dad sat in their car, parked in the driveway. For the first few years, he would be crying. Simon wished so desperately to be able to go out, talk to him, hug him. He’d tell his dad how much he missed him and that he loved him. How mom was with him and they were still in the house. Mostly, he wished his dad could see him standing there.

As time went on, his dad boarded up the place, wanting to make sure no one ever moved in.

If Simon were still alive, the house would still be filled with life.

Now, he sat at his spot, watching with excitement as Mike and his parents made multiple trips from the car into their house, carrying in all of the stuff they’d brought with them that summer.

Soon. Soon he’ll be done and come see me, Simon thought, growing giddier as the day progressed.

As dinner time came and went and the night descended on the residents of the town, Simon remained, patiently waiting for his friend.

He was playing with a stick he’d found, pushing some rocks around, when a noise from across the street grabbed his attention. He looked up and beamed, seeing Mike leaving the house. Then Mike got on his bike and peddled away.

His mom popped out, yelling after him; “Be home before nine, please!”

Mike just gave her a wave and kept on riding, never looking over at the small, forgotten ghost.


The greens turned to oranges, the warmth to cool.

Still, Simon sat and waited.

Maybe today he’ll come say hello, he’d think as those days turned to weeks.

He practically felt alive each time the school bus pulled up. Then Mike would get off and walk directly home. Simon felt like he was stabbed in the chest, his friend not even stealing a glance at the costume pleading for some acknowledgement.

Simon had never felt so isolated. His mom no longer spoke any words, now spending all of her days sobbing in the corner of her room.

The black mold and frayed wallpaper of the house indicated that things were changing, that the living were leaving them behind. Simon couldn’t even remember the last time his dad had stopped to visit.

How can I go on without a friend? He wondered one night, as the tire swing slowly turned him in circles.

Above him, even the man on the moon felt his sorrow.


The first day it snowed that year, a knocking sound brought Simon to the front door.

He’d long since given up believing that it was going to be Mike, asking if he’d like to play.

When he went outside he found a group of city workers hammering a sign on the door.

CONDEMNED, it read.


Simon understood the impact of those words. He ran inside to tell his mom, but couldn’t find her anywhere.


He searched high and low, thinking maybe that she was teasing him. He hoped that her sobs would give away her hiding place. Maybe she is playing a game with me, he thought.

After looking everywhere, the truth hit Simon.

He was completely and utterly alone.

A small, scared child, now dead five years. Alone.

No family and now no friends.

He walked back to his mom’s abandoned room and crawled onto her bed. He could still smell her under the mildew and the dust.


The night before the machines were to destroy the remainder of Simon’s world, he sat on the front steps one last time.

He longed to go for one last walk, immerse himself in familiar sights, as more and more Christmas lights were put up. He wasn’t sure what would become of him once the house was knocked down. A part of him was worried that if he did go for a walk, the house wouldn’t be there when he got back. Maybe, it would up and leave like his mom?

His costume fluttered as the snow begun to fall. Being dead provided the benefit of never getting cold, but he could still feel the attack of the wind as it whipped up and howled.

Across the way, he watched Mike and his family laughing at their kitchen table, an act that appeared foreign to Simon.

Did we do that? When we had dinner, did my parents laugh?

Above him, the dark sky began to sparkle and dance as the stars appeared.

How Simon ached to have a connection.

He hung his head, lost in his thoughts as his shoe worked the snow, making little graves.

He was so focused that he never heard Mike, until his friend was standing there.

“Hey,” Mike said, startling Simon.

His head snapped up, not believing that Mike was talking to him.

“Hello.” He replied, trying to keep his excitement in check.

“I’m sorry I haven’t been to visit.”

Mike sat beside the ghost, joining him on the step.

“That’s ok. I’m not that much fun these days.”

Mike nodded, not sure what to say.

“My mom’s gone,” Simon finally said.

“She is? Where?”

“Don’t know.”

“Awe, buddy I’m so sorry,” Mike replied, putting his arm around the boy and giving him a hug.

“How has school been?”

“Really good. They’ve made a bigger plaque for you.”

They sat silently, Mike starting to shiver.

“Simon. I’m… I’m really sorry for what those kids did to you.”

Simon looked to his friend, seeing that the waver he heard in Mike’s voice matched the wetness in his eyes.

“Thanks, Mike.”

“The bullying should’ve stopped. You should’ve told me. I would’ve been there for you.”

Simon returned the gesture, giving his distraught friend a hug.

“I know.”

Mike wiped his face, his sleeves covered with snot.

“Simon, my parents have told me I’m too old to believe in ghosts.”

Simon understood.  Mike had come to say goodbye.

“I guess they’re right. It’s probably not healthy for you to be hanging out with the spirit of a kid who killed himself?”

Quiet reflection returned as they watched the flakes grow in size, some as large as quarters dropping from above.

“I never understood how it can snow when the sky is clear,” Mike finally spoke, breaking the stillness.

“You told me once, after you learned about it in school.  The year after I returned.”

“I did?”


Simon sensed their time was growing to a close.

“I wish we could be friends forever,” he said, looking at Mike.

Mike returned his gaze, eyes finding the two black pupils behind the sheet.

“We will be. I’ll never forget you. I just can’t visit with you anymore.”

From across the street, they heard Mike’s mom yell that he should think about coming in soon.

“Hey, Mike?”


“You think you can push me on the tire swing, one last time?”


So, the ghost and his friend made their way through the layer of snow now starting to cover the grass, around the condemned house to the old tree in the back yard.

Simon climbed onto the tire, legs wrapping around the rope that was fixed to the thick branch above.

And for the next hour, long after Mike’s mom had made her way over to tell him that it was time to get ready for bed, Mike pushed his departed friend.

The sound of children’s laughter echoed across the fields and houses nearby. The glee and joy shared between the two friends was infectious enough that even the boarded up house groaned on its weary foundation as their love seeped in.

He never did visit Simon again, after that night. Nor did he ever see him.

Where Simon ended up he didn’t know, but he always wondered.

The next day the house was demolished and a duplex was built in its place, the tire swing never replaced.

At the end of every school year, until he finally graduated, Mike made sure to stop and read the plaque put up to remember Simon. He’d leave some flowers or a note for his friend.

Sometimes a single memory will last long after a friendship has ended.

For Mike, that memory was of getting off the school bus and waving at the little ghost sitting patiently, waiting for his best friend.

He’d often think of that whenever he’d find himself watching the first flakes of snow dance in the air, under the starlit sky.


My Andrew Pyper Collection

Pyper shelf with plaque

Pyper shelf

If you follow me on any of my social media accounts, you’ve undoubtedly discovered my love of Andrew Pyper’s books. In fact, you may have even discovered this love through my two celebrations of Andrew’s work, which I dubbed PYPER-MAY-NIA and did a bunch of posts around his work the last two May’s. Andrew was even kind enough to let me interview him three times for those celebrations and participated in a signed book giveaway.

So, why are we here, today, with this post. A few reasons really. I recently was able to get my hands on the final ARC (advanced reader’s copy) that I needed to have a complete collection. Through this, some folks have asked about what books I have and which ones are signed.

For me, as well, I just have a passion for books and while my love of Pyper’s work may annoy some (looking at my wife, and probably a bunch of Twitter folks!) it brings me great joy day in and day out. How books should be.

I know that I’m not the best photographer of books, so Andrew and the book community/bookstagram world, I do apologize, but please find my collection below.


30 books

9 Hardcovers

10 Arcs

14 personalized/inscribed

9 flat signed

23 total signed

I’m actually working on this, knowing in a few hours I’ll be watching Andrew chat about The Residence as part of the Blue Heron Book Event!

Kiss Me – released January 1st, 1996 by The Porcupine’s Quill.

Kiss Me Cover

Andrew’s first release and only collection thus far, ‘Kiss Me’ features a group of stories that are very far from the horror/thriller author we know of today. These were a fantastic mix. Loved this.

I was lucky enough to get this one signed by Andrew. I have to say, the paper used for this release is amazing.

Kiss Me Inscribed

This book was released without any ARC’s or Hardcover versions, hence my singular copy.

Lost Girls – released April 13th, 2000 

Lost Girls Covers

Of the three, the paperback was my first version in my collection. I actually ordered that and the paperback of The Damned at the same time from Coles in Seven Oaks Mall in Abbotsford when I lived there. It’s amazing how books (and music) can transport you to a specific time and place.

I was lucky enough to get the paperback signed by Andrew.

Lost Girls Paperback

Lost Girls inscribed

The Hardcover is gorgeous. When I ordered it, I had no idea it was already flat signed (in silver sharpie!) and came in a protective sleeve.

Lost Girls hardcover

Lost Girls flatsigned

Lastly is the ARC. This one is really neat, because it came with the feedback card still tucked into it!

Lost Girls ARC

Lost Girls ARC card

Of the three covers, my personal favorite is the paperback one. With how the story unfolds, the girl floating in the water is both a gorgeous cover but ominous.

The Trade Mission – released September 1st, 2002

Trade Mission Covers

Of all of Andrews books, I think this one has had the most amount of cover variations. I might be wrong, but my Kindle version is completely different, as well as I’ve seen two other paperback variations.

It was also released as ‘Dark Descent’ in paperback form.

The Hardcover version was actually my first one of these, followed by the ‘Dark Descent’ paperback and then the ARC. I have both the Hardcover and paperback signed.

Trade Mission hardcover

Trade Mission hardcover inscribed

Dark Descent paperback

Dark Descent Inscribed

Trade Mission ARC

Of all of Andrew’s work, I think this survival story is the most overlooked. Sure, Kiss Me may not be in most readers minds, but it’s a different beast altogether. The Trade Mission was a dark read, showing the lengths people go to survive. Definitely one I wish more people would read.

Of all the covers that have came out, I still love the Hardcover/ARC variation with the shadowed jungle as the focus.

The Wildfire Season – released January 1st, 2005

Wildfire season covers

I remember finishing off The Wildfire Season and immediately messaging Andrew on Twitter. I try not to be a bother, but The Wildfire Season felt like he’d created this book just for me. It was fantastic.

The paperback was one I got for Christmas a few years back, which amazingly Andrew inscribed for me!

wildfire season paperback

wildfire season paperback inscribed

Much to my surprise, both the Hardcover and ARC that I tracked down came flat signed!

wildfire season hardcover

wildfire season hardcover flatsigned

wildfire season arc

wildfire season arc flatsigned

Of the three covers, I personally think the Hardcover one is my favorite. I love that raven soaring through the burning forest. It perfectly sums up the experience in Ross River.

The Killing Circle – released January 1st, 2008

My favorite book of all time.

killing circle covers

What Andrew Pyper crafted here is absolutely phenomenal and it boggles my mind that this was released way back in 2008. Shamefully, this was also the last Pyper book I read. I saved it until the end, worried I might not like it, like a total schmuck.

I love the paperback cover variation between these two. A single edge of a circle bleeding out onto the page. Stunning. 

killing circle paperback

killing circle paperback inscribed

The ARC was one that was sent to me by mistake. I was trying to track down The Only Child ARC and the shipper said they had that and sent this out. Not only was it incorrect (which I was fine with!) but it was flat signed!

killing circle arc

killing circle arc flatsigned

killing circle hardcover

The Guardians – released February 1st, 2011

the guardians covers

The Guardians might very well be the best Canadian coming-of-age/haunted house story ever written. Pyper has such a way with crafting characters and environments, that this one floored me when I read it. 

Of the three covers I have, I think the paperback version is my favorite, which is also the one I have signed.

the guardians paperback

the guardians paperback inscribed

The ARC of The Guardians is gorgeous. It really is. Even if I was a proficient photographer, I don’t think justice could be done.

the guardians arc

the guardians hardcover

The colors on the Hardcover are fantastic in person. Again, my poor skills steal some of the beauty that inhabits these books.

The Demonologist – released March 5th, 2013

demonologist covers

The Demonologist is responsible for three things.

It was my gateway Pyper book. My first discovery and first experience. I’ve told the story a million times, but years ago I spotted the paperback copy of The Demonologist in Walmart in Abbotsford. I ended up buying it (along with The Troop by Nick Cutter) as part of Walmart’s 2 for $15 deals.

The second thing it was responsible for was my desire to collect Andrew’s books and ARC’s. The Demonologist ARC was my first Pyper ARC, and one surprisingly that I stumbled upon at Value Village here in Edmonton.

The third thing, really, is that the story within The Demonologist made me an instant fan and within days of finishing that book I’d ordered The Damned and Lost Girls. I’ve been hooked ever since.

Let’s start with the paperback first, which is signed and personalized.

demonologist paperback

demonologist paperback inscribed

Next, let’s take a little look at the ARC, which is also signed.

demonologist arc

demonologist arc artwork

I love the artwork that is in this book. The ARC has this inlay, while it’s also on the Hardcover.

demonologist interior art

demonologist arc inscribed

And now, let’s take a closer look at the Hardcover of The Demonologist. This is easily the most gorgeous book I own. Photos really don’t do this thing justice. As well, the texture of the dust jacket is sublime. 

demonologist hardcover

demonologist hardcover front art

demonologist back art

Just a stunning release. I find myself removing it from the shelf every few days to admire it and just feel it within my fingers.

The Damned – released January 1st, 2015

the damned covers

As I mentioned, The Damned was just the third Pyper book I owned. I grabbed the paperback, with the flames on the cover, along with Lost Girls shortly after finishing The Demonologist.

the damned paperback

the damned paperback inscribed

I really do love the cover art for the ARC and the Hardcover.

the damned arc

the damned hardcover

The Only Child – released May 23rd, 2017

the only child covers

The hardest one to get, of all my ARC’s was The Only Child. I’ll talk about The Homecoming ARC next, but The Only Child was an odd one. It just simply didn’t exist. I searched long and hard for this one, sending out almost 300 inquiries to try and track it down. I still can’t believe I managed to find a copy of it! I did deep dives on Google, Instagram and Twitter. Emailing, DMing and commenting whenever I found an image of it, knowing that someone had possessed the book! I’ll be forever indebted to Benoit for digging through his stored books and finding it in the last box! (And big thanks to Erin for connecting us!)

This book features my favorite opening line ever;

“She was awakened by the monster knocking at the door.”

The Hardcover is gorgeous. I love the raised lettering effect, but on The Only Child, it really does feel pristine.

the only child hardcover

The paperback is stunning, with a mild variation on the look of the image from the Hardcover. I’m also blessed to have my paperback inscribed.

the only child paperback

The ARC is just stunning. I love it so much and still can’t believe it’s on my shelf!

the only child arc

One thing I always joke about, but have yet to be told otherwise, is that I believe the man walking away on the cover is in fact Andrew Pyper. Even when I’ve casually brought it up in messages etc, it’s never been acknowledged or confirmed/denied…

The Homecoming – released February 26th, 2019

the homecoming covers

Ah, The Homecoming. The second hardest ARC to find. It took me over a year to find one, as I did another deep dive into it’s whereabouts.

Some folks might find it odd that I didn’t receive one, considering I did my first Pyper-May-Nia celebration only a few months after this came out, but the reality was, at that time, I wasn’t known by anyone or thought of by anyone as someone to receive it. I say that with no sense of arrogance or ego, I’m still not a known reviewer or author etc, to any large degree, but at the time of this release, I simply didn’t have any sort of hook ups or contacts to receive one.

It wasn’t until I connected with Dana recently, who found her copy and sent it out that I was able to add it to my collection!

Sadly, The Homecoming only came out in paperback format. I wish this had a Hardcover option because the cover art and colors are stunning.

the homecoming inscribed

The Residence – released September 1st, 2020

the residence covers

The Residence. A haunted White House.

My first official ARC.

I’d received hundreds of digital ARC’s for reviews before. Heck, I’d even received a digital ARC of ‘The Residence’ through Edelweiss. But this one is special. Why? Because Andrew sent it to me himself. Amazing.

I love the mild variation between the three. The Hardcover has a quote from Josh Malerman, while the paperback has a quote from Iain Reid.

I have the ARC and the Hardcover signed already!

the residence hardcover inscribed

the residence arc inscribed

the residence paperback

Other Pyper things;

I currently have two other Pyper collectables or ephemera, if you will. 

The first is my custom Pyper plaque. My super talented brother-in-law Devon made it for me in his wood shop. I was inspired to do something unique after seeing the love that my pal George has shown for his Paul Tremblay collection.

Pyper shelf with plaque

The second is the amazing gift that Andrew gave me, from our mutual friend Jennifer. It is a photo of Andrew’s own demon research bookshelf and he kindly signed it as well!



I actually have this sitting near me at work as inspiration for my own writing.

So, there we go. All of my collection in one tidy post. Phew. Amazing.

What’s next then?

A few things;

1 – I’m trying to track down the three Brazilian editions of Andrew’s work. They are stunning Hardcovers, but I’ve had difficulties with shipping from Brazil.

2 – I’m trying to figure out something cool to do with two of the books that didn’t have Hardcover releases.

3 – I’m planning on doing a reread of The Demonologist, The Damned and Lost Girls. It’s been a number of years since I’ve read them and want to experience them all over again!

4 – I’m trying to think of something neat to do for the third installment of Pyper-May-Nia!

Thank you for putting up with my love of these books. They really have made a profound impact on my life.