Behold The Void–Nay, Behold Philip Fracassi.

https://www.amazon.com/Behold-Void-Philip-Fracassi-ebook/dp/B01N7WAWGG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1519578936&sr=8-1&keywords=behold+the+void

Buy. It. Now. $7.

Philip Fracassi is the next big name in horror. Get in on the ground floor and be a “horror hipster” who discovered him first–before he is so mainstream.

This short story collection renewed my faith in fiction as entertainment. Especially in the short fiction form.

Too many short story writers think we pay the price of admission for wispy tales, with depressed characters who stare out windows, and end on “subtle,” “ambiguous” notes.

*fart sound*

Behold The Void by Philip Fracassi delivers the goods–each story stands alone as a bolt of lighning. His characters and the plots they’re unfortunate enough to be in make you give a shit.

There isn’t a single bad story. Here are my top three (light spoilers):

  1. “Altar”
  2. “The Horse Thief”
  3. “Mandala,” the capstone novella

“Altar”

I read “Altar” on my Kindle in a cafe. People shot me dirty looks because I kept fidgeting in my seat and swearing in disbelief under my breath. That was only the second story in the book. I knew I was in the presence of a special horror genre talent—a master.

Fracassi handles three dynamic characters, a feat in itself in short fiction: a mother, her adolescent daughter, and her ten year old son. He captures their broken home, split fresh by divorce, and the swirling confusion of growing up/raising kids deftly, all while ratcheting up a tower of tension. The culmination–glorious, glorious cosmic horror!–where we literally see a community pool open up into a void, where a demon who eats children waits, mouth salivating.

Think H.P. Lovecraft without the social ineptitude and misanthropy, and you’ll appreciate how amazing this story (and Philip Fracassi, generally) is.

“The Horse Thief”

I have a special connection to this yarn. My favorite literary writer is Cormac McCarthy, author of Blood Meridian, arguably the greatest novel of all time. Many try and fail to imitate McCarthy’s mystical and effusive style and fall short at the man’s feet.

I haven’t a clue whether he was trying to evoke McCarthy in this story or not. But my God. Pitch wise and thematically and lyrically, it was close. The main character is a Mexican immigrant who steals horses, who gets roped in with a sadistic buyer, so content-wise, the shoe also fit.

I finished the story and thought to myself, if Philip Fracassi ever crosses paths with Cormac, that wise old imp is going to clap him on the back like an approving father.

“Mandala”

This novella is worth paying for as a stand-alone book. You know that tired-ass cliche people throw around about being grabbed by the throat? This novella leaves choke marks.

I can’t remember reading such taut, compelling prose. This story involving two families at their summer homes in Washington State, dealing with two intertwined tragedies, is harrowing. Literal connotation. What separates Fracassi from other writers (in any genre) is the artful way he develops his characters.

Here, the central tension is whether or not our main character Mike is going to drown. His friend leaves him handcuffed to a railing at the shoreline–when the tide comes in he must fight to keep his head above water.

In Fracassi’s hands, Mike is a real boy. We feel each excruciating physical and mental struggle that he goes through–it’s grueling. The act of reading almost leaves you to suffer the shortness of breath and the brutal sunburn that Mike does. I haven’t rooted for a character to survive as much as I did with Mike in “Mandala” since I first started reading fiction as a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed pup.

Buy Behold The Void

Philip Fracassi is brilliant. I’ve bought all his other work already, and intend on ripping through it like the characters in this collection hurtle headlong into the void.

Solomon Kane: A Dark Fantasy Thrill Ride Rooted In The Golden Age of Pulp Fiction

Solomon Kane is now available on Netflix in the US.

If you didn’t know who Solomon Kane was before now (like me), here’s a pitch:

A master swordsman/warship captain who’s soul has been damned to hell by the Devil’s Reaper, must prevent his soul being dragged to hell by battling witches and demons, and stumbles into the role of Puritan warrior, saving 17th century England from the upper demon Malachi’s hell minions!

How did we miss this one!?

I’m working on a short story about a nun who wants to summon an archangel warrior in order to usher in a period of apocalyptic judgement on unrighteous Americans. Like right now. So this 2009 film directed by Michael J. Basset was right up my alley.

But I’ve always been a fan of the dark fantasy/horror sub-genre of Christians doing battle with demonic evil.

The coolest part is that Solomon Kane’s literary oeuvre dates back to 1928, when Robert E. Howard, who also created the character Conan The Barbarian, penned him into existence, publishing most of the tales in the mythical pulp-era magazine Weird Tales.

The cover from Robert E. Howard's first Solomon Kane story in Weird Tales.
The cover from Robert E. Howard’s first Solomon Kane story in Weird Tales.

Other writers heap praise on the author of heroic fantasy: Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft, and Michael Moorcock among them. Horror legend Ramsey Campbell has even finished some of the story fragments of Solomon Kane’s world left by Howard.

If you want to look into Solomon Kane, I’d recommend the film that’s now up on Netflix.

Or you can also find the collected stories here.