So earlier this week I discovered Ravenous Shadows, a new horror/mystery/thriller imprint that launched earlier in the year. Editor John Skipp says of these genres that "they play fast, and they play rough". What we are looking at is novellas/short novels that are unafraid to go full dark and can be read in a couple of sittings.
Do they deliver? Let's take a look.
I downloaded four samples of Ravenous Shadows books to my Kindle and out of that group, bought three. (Side note: Nothing against that fourth book and I actually plan on buying and reading the other published books. So far so good.)
Out of the three that I bought I've already read two of them. So yes, these are quick reads that can be read in a couple of sittings.
The first one that I read was The Devoted by Eric Shapiro. The Devoted is about the final day and remaining nine members of a suicide cult. There is a mix of first person and third person narratives. The first person POV is of the number two man in the cult and the third person portions are a mix of other media: diary entries, television interviews, family members, excerpts from books on cults, etc. The alternating POV's do a great job of getting into the other members of the cult and the history of the cult.
In addition to expertly setting the stage Shapiro does a great job with a couple of other things. The first is that he masterfully, and constantly keeps applying pressure, increasing tension and ratcheting the pressure ever tighter. This ties in to the second thing that he does really well, he keeps the reader guessing as to how the end will play out until the very end.
One other aspect that deserves to be mentioned is the psychological aspects. You really get into the mind and motivations of the main character, who becomes quite compelling, and dare I say sympathetic. In doing so he creates a book that will appeal to the basement noir crazies, their mothers, and everyone in between. The Devoted is a ticking time bomb of a book with an explosive ending that delivers on it's narrative promises. Highly Recommended.
The second book that I read was Die, You Bastard! Die! by Jan Kozlowski.
Die! takes us into the life of a paramedic who suffered horrible sexual abuse as a child at the hands of her father. After being away for 20 years she's called back home to care for him. Things don't go as planned.
Die, You Bastard! Die! is a full dark, grindhouse, rape revenge thriller that maintains an unbearable level of tension and throws in enough twists and turns to keep you on your toes.
Die! may not be for everybody but those that read it will be rewarded. While there are scenes of explicit violence portrayed in the book Kozlowski does not linger on them or glamorize them. But you will cringe. This is another Highly Recommended book.
One of the definitions of noir that gets passed around is that things start off bad and get worse. Both of these books fit the bill.
There have been a few books over the last couple of years that have not popped up on many crime fiction readers radar screens because they have been either marketed as horror or have been put out by a horror or horror associated press (Crimson Orgy and People Still Live in Cashtown Corners come to mind). I don't want to see the same thing to happen here. Skipp says that Ravenous Shadows will publish 30-40 titles per year. So far they've published five and at least three of them are solid mystery/crime/thriller titles.
Ravenous Shadows is one to keep an eye on and have quickly become one of my favorites. I hope to continue to see high quality titles from them.