It was a Small Affair

A Review by Joey Madia

It has been my pleasure over the past six years or so to review Ken Hart’s science fiction novels. This will be my third. My previous reviews were of Behind the Gem and The Eyes Behold Tomorrow.

Hart brings a lot of heart to his sci-fi. His previous two novels deal with family and reproductive issues and his stories explore what happens when distinct binary groups—be they male–female, human–nonhuman, or past–present—interact.

His latest novel, It was a Small Affair, focuses on the third binary—past–present.

The past is the confrontation at the Alamo in 1836 between the Mexican general Santa Anna (whose derisive remarks after the battle provide the novel’s title) and Travis, Houston, Bowie, Crockett, and Co. Texas’s independence from Mexico was at stake, and the Texans were badly outnumbered.

There is a great deal of romanticism and myth that surrounds the Alamo. It has been the subject of many books (fiction and nonfiction), films, and TV mini-series. Continue reading

The Black Diary: M.I.B., Women in Black, Black-Eyed Children and Dangerous Books

A review by Joey Madia

Embedded in the upper righthand cover of this book is a red and white warning label: “Just picking up this book invites them in.”

Given the publishing industry’s penchant for sexy marketing strategies, it might be easy to dismiss this warning label as more of the same—a clever ploy on the part of the publisher to grab your attention and get you to buy the book.

But I know better.

And that’s what this review is about.

First of all, Nick Redfern is one of the most respected and published authorities on the subject of the paranormal, and the enigmatic (Wo)men in Black. I have read several of his books, and, having spent the past nine years studying and experiencing the paranormal, I have no reason to question anything he reports in them. He mixes field experience, interviews, and extensive research into his work, in the kind of self-checking triangulation that many investigators could learn from.

Second, and even more important, I know several of the people whose stories are quoted at length in the pages of The Black Diary. I also know them to be solid, honest folk with a genuine interest in the paranormal. I have been privileged to do field investigations with some of them.

Third, and most important, I have experienced many of the phenomena discussed in this book. Continue reading

Locker Arms

Horror with a Heart

A review by Joey Madia

In Danse Macabre, Stephen King postulates that great horror has at its core a collection of dark tropes gleaned from our reptilian brains and deepest primordial fears. In other words, it is all about character. Following the journey of an interesting, relatable (which is different than likeable) character as he or she crosses the threshold into a subterranean (literal or metaphorical) world of monsters to be battled and souls to be saved is the essence of well-constructed horror.

Applying this idea, the debut novel by Zakar McGaha, Locker Arms, is a success. Set in modern times but with a strong ‘80s feel (think Stranger Things meets Heathers meets Teachers), this splatter-fest of a tale centers around two sets of characters—one the students of your typical suburban high school and the other their teachers. The latter are joined by Henry, one of the (anti-)heroes of Locker Arms—a washed-up, aging never-was who had big dreams of making it in music after he left this very same high school decades before the story begins.

Henry’s return has almost everything to do with the unsolved mystery of a girl who disappeared into a locker when he was a student. In Henry’s mind—where we spend a good bit of time—if he solves the mystery, he just might solve his life. Continue reading

Emily Dickinson: A Medicine Woman for Our Times

A Powerful Vision of the Human Future!

A review by Douglas M. Gillette, MARS, M-Div

In his brilliant and urgently prophetic new book, Emily Dickinson: A Medicine Woman for Our Times, Steven Herrmann, using extraordinarily acute literary critical techniques along with powerfully insightful depth psychological tools, plumbs the depths and scales the heights of yet another great 19th Century American author. Herrmann’s deep dive into what can be recovered as well as surmised about the inner life of Emily Dickinson reveals a complex “volcanic” and at the same time perhaps painfully introverted “medicine woman,” or shaman, on a mission to reveal not only to her fellow-Americans but also to the entire world her vision of what authentic human wholeness entails. In Herrmann’s interpretation, that includes what he terms a “bi-erotic” and “spiritually democratic” embracing of one’s own post-religious, post-gender conflicted “cosmic” core, which ultimately and immediately both resonates with and finally is identical not only to the totality of humankind in its fullness, but also the entirely of what is. Herrmann’s optimism that a new era of bi-erotic spiritual democracy is on the verge of becoming abundantly manifest within all human societies throughout the world is contagious!

TITLE: Emily Dickinson: A Medicine Woman for Our Times
AUTHOR: Steven Herrmann
PUBLISHER: Fisher King Press
ISBN: 9781771690416

The Van Meter Visitor: A True & Mysterious Encounter with the Unknown

“An Investigator’s How-To Handbook”

A Review by Joey Madia

Thanks in large part to horror films and cable “reality” paranormal shows, the immense amount of time and effort legitimate paranormal investigators spend in libraries and historical societies chasing down leads is largely ignored. Most people are only interested in the “sexy” aspects of the haunting or cryptid visitation—who got chased, frightened, possessed, or injured? What dark menace is lurking in the corner? Are there “jump scares” as the investigators walk insane asylum hallways in the green glow of night-vision technology? Viewers don’t realize that paranormal investigators are in large part journalists and historians, tracking down the history that provides the context for the paranormal phenomena at play.

One of the world’s best known paranormal investigators was John Keel, of Mothman fame. He was also a journalist. So was his counterpart in the film The Mothman Prophecies. It is the journalist’s instincts for finding the hidden facts buried beneath or adjacent to the known ones that drive the good paranormal investigator. Christopher O’Brien’s Stalking the Herd, about cattle mutilations, is a thick, exhaustive testament to the value of mining newspaper clippings, police reports, and other firsthand accounts. Continue reading