The Eyes of Madness presents “Simple reviews from a simple reader…”
Zakk reviews Things We Fear, part of the collection Where Nightmares Begin, by Glenn Rolfe. TWF 98 pages, WNB 219 pages, published by Samhain Publishing LTD (Samhain Horror).
“He’d been too clumsy, too out of his element with the Orono girl, and, admittedly, too cocky and aggressive last night with the bartender from Patrick’s, but he would be more focused with this one. Emily Young would be his Everest. There would be no need for alibis and secret graves.”
Summer has just begun, and fear is in season.
School’s out, and the faculty at Fairington Elementary School are free for the summer. Emily Young can’t deny her attraction to Aaron Jackson, the Ed Tech from her classroom, but she’s afraid of being hurt again. Meanwhile, Aaron is determined not to let his phobia of drowning prevent him from enjoying the sun and the sand of Maine’s best beach town.
But they’re about to learn real fear. Fairington is home to a monster. Phys Ed teacher Matt Holmes has more to offer the ladies than a perfect smile. He’s a killer and he’s got his sights set on Emily. Who at Fairington will conquer their fears? And who will fall to a psychopath’s hellbent rage.
“Something grasped his wrist. A murky light traced a path like a flashlight’s beam through the darkness. Particles of dirt spit up from the river’s bottom floated by his stinging eyes. A hand held his wrist. Bobby. He looked into Bobby’s pale and lifeless face. Bobby’s eyes were black marbles. Aaron tried to shake the boy’s hand free and saw that Bobby’s body was missing below his ribs. The particles floating by his eyes were not dirt—they were shredded pieces of his best friend. The light moved. He didn’t want to follow it, but he didn’t want to be left in the black of the water again.”
Do you know a Matt? I think everyone knows a Matt at some point in their lives. You know, that guy (it’s usually a guy) the lurker. He’s never there, until he is, then he’s everywhere, anytime. Raising your hackle, sure he’s smiling but that smile makes your skin crawl. Everyone knows a Matt, sometimes YOU are Matt…
Things We Fear is a solid, fun read. A sitting in the sunshine sipping on an iced tea (or cold brew) romp. It’s the most recent shocker from Glenn Rolfe, an exciting writer who has a lot to offer the genre, to offer the reader. Of the new brat-pack of horror writers I’d consider him a favorite. He brings the mayhem, he brings the chills, but most importantly he brings an old-school style the resonates with me. It’s a vibe that reminds me of how I felt when I was getting into horror. The first time I delved into a King title, the first Simmons & McCammon reads, I feel the same kind of energy when I crack the digital spine of the a Rolfe joint. Things We Fear is no different.
This is a character driven piece, a “man is the real monster” type of read. The cast inhabiting this world are charming and flawed, but identifiable flaws, bringing a real world feel. And although I’d love to get to know these people better, they do a fine job and propelling the story. Then there’s Matt, he’s a slimy bastard. Unsettling and creepy, you feel trapped every moment he’s on the page. Which compliments a deftly euphoric sense of summertime freedom, just before picking away at your inner torments.
Oh yeah, then there’s the violent brutality. Plenty of that. The narrative breezes through at a brisk pace and shanks to the left when you think you might know where it going. I would have liked to spend more time with these characters. To get a better feel for them and their world. Especially Matt, I’d love to know more about his youth.
All in all Things We Fear is a really good read.
“Emily’s hand went to her mouth. The tears began to fall like stars from a sky that’s lost its light.”
Overall score: 4/ 5
Where Nightmares Begin-
“When I was alive, I used to come here, to this bridge. I liked to listen to the water run. I always imagined what that would be like. To be free and on the run. Always going somewhere.”
Monsters can hide anywhere. Under a bridge, below the earth…or behind a smile.
When Lil Ron realizes the beautiful girl he met under Abram’s Bridge is a ghost, he sets out to make things right for Sweet Kate. His quest leads him into a tangle of small-town secrets as he uncovers a story of heartbreak, violence…and fear.
Thirty years after a notorious UFO encounter, the town of Eckert, Wisconsin, is besieged by mysterious rumbles from deep in the earth. As the earthly tremors grow stronger, two pre-teens discover a dislodged pipe spewing a strange, bubbling ooze. Their curiosity unleashes an afternoon of unbridled terror for the entire town.
Things We Fear
Emily Young can’t deny her attraction to Aaron Jackson, the Ed Tech from her Fairington Elementary classroom, but fears she’ll be hurt again. Aaron is determined to overcome his drowning phobia and enjoy the sun and the sand of Maine’s best beach town.
But real fear lurks closer than they think. Fairington harbors a psychopath seething with hell-bent rage—and he’s got his sights set on Emily.
“You see this gorgeous day. The sun, brilliant and warm; the creek, chirping with life and rushing along, carefree. The air even tastes sweeter, like it’s filled with the promise of something even better to come, but then you step into reality, into the truth. It’s cold. The cold is still there, waiting. It’s like a natural illusion, ya know?”
Including the afore mentioned Things We Fear, Where Nightmares Begin contains Glenn’s early novellas Abram’s Bridge & Boom Town.
In Abram’s Bridge, Glenn Rolfe gives us, his readers, a solid, tense and borderline heart breaking tale. With a dash of paranormal ghost story, a pinch of small town mystery and a second helping of suspense, Mr. Rolfe’s delivers a winner for his first release through Samhain Horror Publishing, a go-to publishing company for horror.
Glenn has a knack for writing entertaining and likable (and fun to dislike) characters. And the dramatis personae in Abram’s Bridge is no exception. There’s a lot of grey area for this cast to play around in, flowing in and out of the murk, as you the reader try to get a feel for what’s going on.
I dug our main character, Lil’ Ron, quite a bit, as I am a big fan of the “terror through the eyes of children/ youths” brand of storytelling. And the dynamic with his alcoholic father and grandmother was pretty spot-on, authentic and quite relatable. I saw a lot of myself in Ron as a lot of his family dysfunction mirrors my own youth. I felt connected to him and concerned for his well being.
And it’s not the only strong dynamic in the book. All of the characters here are connected by a highly taut thread, just one pull is all it takes to start the fray. And once the fray starts the lines begin to snap.
At the end of the day Abram’s Bridge delivers a top notch coming-of-age yarn, heart felt from page one and culminating in a tense and powerful climax.
“‘Did the UFO over Hollers Hill procure something from us, or was something bestowed upon us?’ Dr. Eto claims the quakes affecting Eckert more than three decades later are proof of the latter.”
Boom Town is quick and highly entertaining read that harkens back to the 1980’s brand of small town (or intimate invasion) alien pieces. Like a readers digest version of Late Night Horror Television presentations (every region had one, for me it was Fright Night Theatre) of Invaders From Mars, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Night of the Creeps or Xtro. Making it easy to picture these characters as a Jason Lively, a Tom Atkins, a James Karen, a Donald Sutherland or a Hunter Carson. It oozes an old school vibe that I love.
It immediately brought back the nostalgic horror of being left home alone as a young lad, (six, maybe seven) watching a sci-fi/ horror flick on TV. My caregiver was only gone for a short while but long enough for me to be terrified by the scene of a woman giving cesarean birth on her kitchen floor to a full grown man (much later I tracked the title down, Xtro). My aunt returned home to find me sitting on my knees in front of the TV white-knuckled grasping a fireplace poker. That scene haunts me to this day, and I have been a fan of horror (and sci-fi/ horror) ever since.
I’m also a big fan of “through the eyes of the children/ young adults” horror. Adult tales of kids caught in the crosshairs and carrying the burden as the adults succumb to the terrors (and become the terror). With said evil unfurling around these youthful characters while they are blossoming, searching for their own place in this world and finding themselves enveloping into the world of others. Such as Dan Simmons’ Summer of Night & Stephen King’s The Body
And Boom Town has that youthful exploration vibe in spades. Growing up, early friendships becoming burgeoning love and overwhelming loss. Weather or not you’ve planned the time for it, Boom Town will be a one sitting read.
“Lyle Everson stared down at the thing that used to be a pretty nineteen-year-old girl. Her perfect skin and nubile body sat deteriorating before his eyes, all of her youth shriveled like a dried-up cornhusk, encased in the blue slime that covered everything in his house and whispered to him.”
Abrams Bridge and Boom Town (especially BT) have stayed with me since first reading them, eventually giving each a second read, which is something I rarely do (I’d live to but lack of time and all that). I think I feel stronger about them now than when I first reviewed the pair. I wonder if Things We Fear will have the same calling, to be reread. Will it have the same effect, strengthening over time. Who knows, what I do know is that Boom Town has a sequel in the works and I am very excited for that.
I’d label Glenn Rolfe fiction as required reading, it’s a blast.
“Well, fellas, I think I’m gonna run. I just stopped in to grab a quick drink and catch a smile from Stella. I got me some wrastlin’ tapes to watch.”
Overall score: 4.5/5
Zakk is a big dumb animal!
**Note: I received a review copy of Things We Fear from the publisher on the promise of an honest review. These are my unbiased feelings.
“Glenn Rolfe is an author, singer, songwriter and all around fun loving guy from the haunted woods of New England. He has studied Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University, and continues his education in the world of horror by devouring the novels of Stephen King and Richard Laymon.
He and his wife, Meghan, have three children, Ruby, Ramona, and Axl. He is grateful to be loved despite his weirdness.
He is the author the novellas, Abram’s Bridge, Boom Town, and his latest, Things We Fear (March, 2016), the short fiction collection, Slush, and the novels The Haunted Halls and Blood and Rain (October 2015). His first novella collection, Where Nightmares Begin, will also be released in March 2016. His next book, Chasing Ghosts, will be coming by 2017.
He is hard at work on many more. Stay tuned!
Praise for Things We Fear
“Things We Fear is a compulsively readable tale of obsession and dark suspense, with one of the creepiest villains I’ve encountered in recent years.” — Tim Waggoner, author of The Way of All Flesh
“Glenn Rolfe’s new thriller is addictive. A quick, compelling read. Rolfe creates tension with a minimal amount of words. His characters are so well-drawn they come alive (before they die).” — Duncan Ralston, author of Salvage
“Fast paced and tense, with one of the most interesting monsters I’ve read about in recent times.” — Patrick Lacey, author of A Debt to Be Paid
“Glenn Rolfe is quickly establishing a name for himself as one of a number of excellent new writers to ensure the horror genre is kept alive and well. His previous books – Abram’s Bridge, Boom Town and Blood and Rain – have also served to show the extensive breadth of his imagination and Things We Fear carries on that trend. Quite simply, each story is fresh, new, exciting, and unpredictable.” — Catherine Cavendish, author of Dark Avenging Angel
“In this frighteningly real look at true horror, Rolfe manages to up the ante of tension while balancing genuinely heartbreaking moments, while showcasing his talent for creating unforgettable characters placed in equally unforgettable moments.” — David, Beneath The Underground
“There is a definite old school feel about this novella. It isn’t an over the top gore fest. Instead, what we have is a tense, psychological thriller that builds steadily towards a fitting climax.” -Adrian Shotbolt, at Ginger Nuts of Horror
Praise for Abram’s Bridge (a novella within Where Nightmares Begin)
“This is a stellar debut from Glenn Rolfe, a tale that will give you chills as much as it will make you question the hardness in men’s hearts and the spirit of redemption.” -Hunter Shea, Author of The Montauk Monster and Island of the Forbidden
“If you’re looking for a page-turning who-done-it with a touch of the supernatural and a solid all around story that satisfies, then look no further.” -David Bernstein, author of Goblins and Unhinged
Praise for Boom Town (a novella within Where Nightmares Begin)
“Short and sharp, Glenn Rolfe’s BOOM TOWN packs in in for a novella. An excellent blend of horror and sci-fi, with way more character development than you usually see in a shorter work like this.” -Russell James, Author of Q Island
“Boom Town is a fun, fast-paced read packed with action, copious amounts of alien slime and an aura of creepiness that is sure to appeal to both horror and science fiction fans.” -Rich, The Horror Bookshelf
Purchase Things We Fear
Barnes & Noble
Purchase Where Nightmares Begin
Amazon (Kindle edition. Print link coming soon)
Barnes & Noble