Review: Michael Gallagher’s Body and Blood

There is a genre out there of kickass gun-toting Catholic Priests who fight both worldly and supernatural enemies of the Church. I’m honestly not that well-versed in the genre, but I’m aware of it because a number of our friends have either dipped their toes into the genre or made names for themselves with some of their series. Doug Ernst’s Soulfinder comic series aside, this is actually the first book in this subgenre of adventure fiction I’ve read, and I’ve got to say: it was a lot of fun!

An older hard-drinking Irish(?) priest, Fr. James Keenan, and his younger [and swole] protege, Fr. Akono Nwosu, have been having problems with break-ins recently. They come to find that a witch has put a bounty out on church paraphernalia, ranging from brochures and missals to the ultimate prize: the sanctified Body of Christ. Everyone from urchins and minor delinquents to hardcore gangbangers are going after churches all over the city for these items which will be used in unspeakable blasphemous rites.

The side of Good, however, has plenty of back-up, including a tough-as-nails outlaw biker gang and the Russian mob! Things turn into an all-out war as Keenan and Nwosu and their allies bring the fight to the witch and her acolytes who are planning a massive human sacrifice to unleash a demon into the world.

There’s a LOT going on in this book. It’s very action-driven, and a little dense; it crams of lot of stuff into a relatively short span of time within the novel itself. While this isn’t a bad thing, the amount of action is almost overwhelming, and I found myself wanting a bit more space for the characters to breathe. There are a lot of point of view characters on all sides of the conflict in this story, but they’re all very distinct and give a complete view of all the action without anyone ever blending together or feeling under-developed or seeming extraneous to the story. The only downside is that there are SO many characters in the short span of the books events that I would’ve liked to have spent more time with some of them and gotten to know them better. Also, there are a lot of good horror elements and potential for mystery, yet while the horror delivers, I think that the compressed events of the timeline necessitated sacrificing rising tension for the sake of pacing.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that this book is BRUTAL. A lot of gore, a lot of body horror, and a lot of good people dying pretty nasty deaths. So, I’d say it’s not for the faint of heart.

Another interesting element is the near-future cyberpunk dystopian setting. In some places, it’s almost blink-and-you’ll miss it. In other places, the sci-tech elements are critical to the story. For the most part, though, it’s a nice excuse for the Priests and their comrades to have some serious ordnance.

All-in-all, Body and Blood is an excellent debut novel from Michael Gallagher. It’s a high-octane thriller with an explicitly Christian bent. Maybe I should check out more of those “Priests with guns fighting demons and witches” books? If those are your thing, you should absolutely check this one out.

Michael Gallagher sent us an ARC of Body and Blood. His cyber-noir thriller The Nighthawk will be appearing in the Winter issue of Cirsova Magazine.

Cirsova Summer 2022 Issue Out Today!

Or, well, it’s supposed to be…

The eBook is available from Amazon.

Amazon STILL hasn’t dropped the price down to where we told them to, so hold off on buying it from them.

Instead, if you want a softcover, or even a hardcover, you can get it from Lulu [on nicer paper] right now and save 15% with promo code WELCOME15.

Vran, the Chaos-Warped (Book 1)

By D.M. RITZLIN

Vran the Chaos-Warped has sworn that the wizard Foad Misjak must die for his debaucheries! Vran’s strange nature due to a sorcerous accident, however, twists with unpredictable results all magic around him… and strands both on another world!

Orphan of the Shadowy Moons (Part 2)

By MICHAEL TIERNEY

The Black Assassins have slaughtered all the children of the Worldlord except Strazis, the strange golden child he adopted as his heir! Strazis’s escape strands him on a mysterious isle as the Worldlord goes to war to secure the fragile empire!

Death and Renewal

By JIM BREYFOGLE

The Prince of Alomar has won a slave from the Bursa… Kat and Mangos must ensure the slave’s silence at all cost, but on one condition: they cannot kill him!

What Price the Stars

By JEFF STONER

Jørgen Pangloss offers the promise of the unthinkable: faster-than-light travel! To what lengths will potential investors go to win Jørgen monopoly… and its fetters!?

Dead Planet Drifter

By J.D. COWAN

Galactic Enforcer Ronan Renfield finds himself prisoner of a death-worshiping cult! Can the whispers from his past aid him in his battle against the cannibals?!

The Last Khazar

By REV. JOE KELLY

Two men, one a Polish Jew, the other a Prussian Nazi, are bound by dreams and bound by destiny to confront one another, both in the present and in the past!

Melkart and the Crocodile God

By MARK MELLON

An evil and sorcerous monster plagues the land of Kush! Can Melkart stop the crocodile-headed man-beast Sosostris from enslaving the people of Meroë!?

My Name is John Carter (Part 12)

By JAMES HUTCHINGS

Reviews

By J. COMER

Review of They’ll Get You, by Mark Pellegrini

I’m sure most of you are familiar by now with Mark Pellegrini as writer of the smash hit comic series Kamen America. But we also hope that you’re familiar with him as a Cirsova contributor and horror writer of Don’t Open the Door and She Saw it Creeping Up the Stairs [and tomorrow, Channel 121 After Midnight.]

In addition to his comic accolades, Mark Pellegrini may well be the rising King of Gen Y Horror.

Gen Y was a narrow band that spent its early childhood in a largely analog world. There were video games, sure, but they were not ubiquitous. Few families had computers, and the internet was some weird thing you read about in scifi books [where it was usually called the Interweb] and maybe saw on TV, but nobody you knew had or used it. We played outside, because cable only gave you 50 or channels to watch.

This was the world that people Mark’s and my age grew up in, and he captures it fantastically in his horror writing, down to the decade-old shag carpets and wood paneling you see in those “ackshually, if you grew in up the 80s” memes.

Mark’s horror takes you back to that time when you were young, the world around you was uncanny and on the verge of changing in ways you could not possibly comprehend–inevitable; inescapable.

And there is no story that captures that more than his They’ll Get You.

Kevin lives with his mom in a suburban neighborhood, goes to a “good” school, has a handful of friends, and is living a fairly normal lifestyle for a kid in the early-mid-90s. But all is not as it seems. Those strange things we sometimes fancied and hyperfocused on as children–those monsters in the drain pipes, the weird houses that didn’t seem quite right, the school janitors who seemed off, and the “big kids” who were such jerks they might as well not even be human–well, for Kevin, these may be more than just the hyperactive imagination of a child.

They’ll Get You has amazing detail and presence of place–it’s so easy to not only visualize but grasp the entire world in which Kevin lives, and is trapped. It’s an incredibly visceral horror story that will resonate with anyone who lived through those times, and hopefully give people who didn’t an idea of the kind of nightmares we had as kids in a pre-digital world.

They’ll Get You is a touch on the long side, but it is surprising how well Mark is able to keep up the tension across so many scenarios as the story builds towards its endgame. There’s not a lot to criticize, and my few qualms [aside from formatting; bro, justify both sides of the text!] would include spoilers which I really would not want to give away…

But speaking of give away, tomorrow we’ll be doing a give-away of a copy of They’ll Get You on Twitter!

The Strange Recollections of Martha Klemm: Sara Was Judith is Out Now!

Kinda… The eBook is out tomorrow; we weren’t able to time things exactly right with the print edition, which we expected to be a little late, actually.

But be sure to check out this incredible weird tale by Julian Hawthorne, son of famed American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne!

Movie Review – The Convent [Run Phee / Senior]

So, my girlfriend picked up The Convent [Run Phee/Senior] on DVD from the library recently, and we just now had a chance to watch it.

I think that there was a really good supernatural murder mystery flick here buried under the worst commercially released dub I’ve ever encountered. Remember the episode of Bob’s Burgers where they dub the Hawk & Chick movie? It’s worse than that.

Not only that, the DVD release did not contain the original Thai audio with subtitles. Imagine releasing an Asian horror movie on DVD in the Year of Our Lord 2022 without original audio and subs!

Anyway, the murder mystery is actually really cool:

  • A Thai princess has been murdered
  • There’s a will that’s been tampered with by her doctor and her lawyer [both men are married]
  • The doctor is having an affair with the princess; the lawyer is having an affair with his secretary
  • The princess is intensely jealous of the doctor’s wife
  • There’s a little girl who is adopted by the princess as a “niece” who should have been the heir and disappears a few years after what turns out to be three murders all within a short span of time

So, an orphan girl living at a convent school who can “smell” ghosts is approached by a the ghost of a young man who is related to the old groundskeeper who he claims was framed for the murder and executed by firing squad. He wants her help solving the murder so his relative’s ghost can rest in peace; of course, he was also murdered for investigating the mystery, so solving it would also free his spirit.

Some of the effects are pretty cheesy, but the story–particularly the complex and tragic mystery of the princess’s death and disappearance of the young girl she adopted–is actually pretty brilliant. But it’s just so marred by the trashfire english dub that scenes that would’ve otherwise had some real emotional weight are absolutely ruined.

If you can tolerate the bad dub, I think it’s still worth it to watch this. It was easily one of the most interesting Asian horror stories I’ve come across in recent years, never wallowing or at least relishing certain levels of incomprehensibility, and it didn’t pull any weird dumb twist at the end that would undermine the success of the protagonist as so many horror movies [regardless of country of origin] enjoy tacking on after the denouement.

Anyway….

Be sure to subscribe for notification when we launch the Wild Stars Kickstarter!

Winter Issue Out Now!

The Cirsova Winter 2021 Issue is Live Now!

Ebook

Lulu Paperback

Lulu Hardcover

For We Are Many

By PAUL LUCAS

Infinite universes are filled with myriad worlds of infinite possibilities—and infinite selves! One man hunts and is hunted across the multiverse, seeking absolution!

The Wreck of the Cassada

By JIM BREYFOGLE

The Mongoose and Meerkat have been hired to lay claim to the salvage of a wrecked ship… and will be partnered with none other than the Hand of Bursa!

Wychyrst Tower

By MATTHEW PUNGITORE

A strange find on a Caribbean expedition haunts the atavistic Dulf Abbandonato… Why would the family name of an old New England friend appear in the West Indies!?

She Saw It Creeping Up the Stairs

By MARK PELLEGRINI

Lisa and her mother have moved in with her grandmother! Grandmother is wheel-chair-bound, and Mom is in the other room… So who is walking around upstairs?!

Fail Early, Fail Well

By W.L. EMERY

Some projects are doomed to failure… Sometimes, it’s better they fail sooner than later! It is Vinellius’s job to ensure the worst of these projects fail just right!

Thorwynn Stapledon and “The Mellifluous Phoenix”

By SU-RA-U

It was supposed to be a drug-fueled science fiction anthology alleging to recreate the human brain! But what was the sinister truth behind The Mellifluous Phoenix?!

Harmonious Unity Burns

By Jed Del Rosario

The most diverse city in the Federated Alliance is burning! Riots and upheaval have necessitated the intervention of elite mercenaries—who is behind the chaos?!

My Name Is John Carter (Part 10)

By JAMES HUTCHINGS

[Editor’s Note: Continued from Cirsova Vol 2. #6]

Stealing the Alchemist Stone

By RICHARD RUBIN

Burke Fletcher and his wife Llana have just absconded with an Alchemist Stone! But the baron they stole it from is not the only one who desires its arcane powers!

To the Sound of a Silent Harp

By WILLIAM HUGGINS

Harp, a deadly and addictive vidliq, will possess you forever—much like Cavan, the magnate who built his fortune on it! Ciaon, Cavan’s errand boy, finds himself caught in a deadly web of deception—can he escape, or is he, too, a man possessed?!

Queen of the House

By J. MANFRED WEICHSEL

A door-to-door salesman promises a fantastic cleaning device that can get rid of anything and everything! But what can get rid of a salesman who won’t give up?!

The Creation of Science Fiction

By MICHAEL TIERNEY

Absolute Evil vs. Island of Ghosts

“Lovely day for a stroll, eh, Martha?”

[Warning, contains some spoilers for a 103 year-old story. Be sure to pre-order The Strange Recollections of Martha Klemm on Kickstarter!]

Absolute Evil is one of the few Hawthorne stories that is not only extant but oft-reprinted. While Cirsova Classics is a project primarily focused on pulp stories that have never been collected or reprinted, we opted to include it for completion’s sake so that we would be releasing all of Hawthorne’s All-Story Weekly fiction together. 

Not only has Absolute Evil been collected in a recent horror anthology [American Fantastic Tales: Terror and the Uncanny from Poe to the Pulps, 2009], following its publication in All-Story Weekly, it was reprinted in a British periodical, The Premier Magazine, in June 1919 as “The Island of Ghosts” with a handful of changes. Indeed, it is this version that has seen print more than the original [Island of Ghosts appears in both The Ash Tree Press Annual Macabre 2000 and Stark House’s Strange Island Stories anthology(2018)].

Most of the changes are superficial and the vast majority of the text remains the same. The only notable change of any significance is that throughout the text, the villain, the Reverend Nathaniel Tyler, an eloquent and fierce-preaching Calvinist pastor and theologian, is transformed into merely Professor Nathaniel Tyler. Some of the more blasphemous details described in the method by which a man engaged in diablerie might be granted powers to transform and work evil are omitted to tone down some of the imagery. Additionally, though of somewhat less consequence, Martha merely supposes by tradition her ancestry from the Salem witches rather than asserts it. 

To an extent, it ruins this excellent line from the original:

“I was interested in original sin, and had dabbled in esoteric philosophy; my remote ancestors had been Salem witches. So, on these grounds at least, I was ready to meet Nat Tyler half-way.”

While I personally think that the changes made to the revised version weaken the themes and horrific nature of the tale [sure, we could all see a College Professor renouncing Christ and committing blasphemies to be granted Satanic powers to terrorize the New England coast, but a well-respected New England minister? Why that pops monocles even today!], I do think it is worth checking out both versions of the story for comparison sake.

Comic Review: Otis Stein

Recently, I was sent a review copy of Matthew “Skinny” Vealey’s indie horror comic, Otis Stein.

Otis, a strapping young redneck, is the husband of Mary, a reformed cultist. Their daughter tragically died of cancer, and her medical expenses have left them ruined.

They’re about to be foreclosed on, Otis blows himself up in a moonshining accident, and Mary’s old “associates” come looking for her!

Mary’s attempt to use her occult arts to resurrect her husband is interrupted as the cultists close in. The cultists have their own designs on Otis to use him as a host for dark supernatural powers! Will the evil forces hold sway or will love triumph?

Otis Stein is a book that I appreciated more on subsequent reads. At first, it seems rather rough and simple, but there’s actually some nice depth and nuance that you’ll catch reading it more than once. The art is ugly, but in a way that is suited for the genre and story; “grotesque” may be a more accurate term. It gives the book a throwback vibe to some of the more obscure black & white indies of the 80s. The art does what it needs to for the story, and it does it well enough.

The pacing of the book is a steady launch ramp, starting with a slow burn setup, but never really wasting time getting where it’s going. The turns from mundane to macabre to monstrous in the three acts of the book are nicely done and reminiscent of Swamp Thing’s origin in House of Secrets [though much more grisly]. Much of the last section of the book is pure grisly action-horror, where the art style really has a chance to shine.

To be honest, at first I wasn’t impressed by Otis Stein, but I think I just didn’t know what to expect and failed to appreciate it on its own terms. I think it’s easy to read a single issue comic and not really appreciate it on the first read and then toss it aside and forget about it. But with Otis Stein, the more I come back to it, the more I find that I really do like it and the more it grows in my esteem.

If you enjoy horror comics or gore comics or even romance comics, you might consider picking this one up.

https://www.etsy.com/shop/SkinnysComics

Also, if you haven’t already, there’s still time to back The Cosmic Courtship on Kickstarter!

Talking Are You Afraid of the Dark with Mark Pellegrini

Last night, I got to hang out with Mark Pellegrini on Bunderdome, where we talked about our top 5 favorite episodes and our top 5 cringe episodes of Are You Afraid of the Dark!

Mark is a Cirsova contributor, with his short horror story “Just Don’t Open the Door” appearing in our Summer 2019 Special.

Kamen America 2, his latest comic with Tim Lim, is still available for pre-order for a limited time.