Book Review: Cold Cuts

Cold CutsCold Cuts by Robert Payne Cabeen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Possibly radioactive mutated penguins? Hell yeah!

Enter the tale of Ozzy and Ben. Two researchers in Antarctica on an expedition. The two friends soon encounter a world trying to kill them as they are attack by a mysterious organization and mutated creatures which seem bent on killing anything and everything in their path. The main problem? There are just so many of the damn things; there is no way they could ever hope to win out. Or can they?

“Cold Cuts”, by Robert Payne Cabeen, is a fun read. You have to be into the gory end of horror to appreciate the truly masterful way he wrote the story, but if you are this book is for you. World building in such detail to carry the story, he relies on the character dialogue to move the story along and that is the mark of a good author in my humble opinion.

In reality, there are some sections I thought were completely over the top, but maybe that is the point. Sometimes over the top is what you are looking for in a good read. This book, for me, falls into the category of a good airplane read. One that you bring on a plane and enjoy the heck out of it.

The one small critical comment, and this is a small one, I simply didn’t fall in love with the characters to the point that when something horrible happened to them (or good) it had much of an impact on me. Still, it is a small thing for me as a reader and you may have a completely different take on them.

I can recommend “Cold Cuts” to those who don’t mind a good amount of blood with their reading. And, by the way, the ending is completely over the top, but that’s alright. It is fun in an absurd sort of way to make it entertaining.

-Bryan the Writer

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A Date With . . . Bryan Nowak

I had an opportunity to be interviewed by the wonderful Mr. Frank Parker. An excellent opportunity and I had a great time answering his questions. Did you ever want to know more about me? Check out the interview and get an unique look at Bryan the Writer.

Frank Parker's author site

My date this week is with a man who resides in Virginia, USA, a refugee from what he describes as “incomprehensibly cold” winters in his native Minnesota.

“Most people have no idea what the winters are like in Minnesota. As I point out to my family and friends back in Minnesota, there is a reason I don’t come back. Everything you have heard about Minnesota winters is absolutely true. It is cold, and I mean incomprehensibly. Every year at least one person is found dead by the side of the road frozen because their car broke down and they tried to hike to the next town. This is an ill-advised move as the temps will kill you with alarming speed. Don’t get me wrong, it was beautiful. However, the older I get the more I prefer the more amicable weather of the mid-Atlantic.

When I was 18 years old one…

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Review: The Final Winter

The Final WinterThe Final Winter by Iain Rob Wright

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What do you do when the end of the world is upon you? Grab a beer of course. The Final Winter centers around a bar of people stranded during what appears to be the apocalypse. Ian Rob Wright masterfully portrays this group of characters making you, at times, love and detest each of them.

The Final Winter is very character driven and not a ton of time wasted on world building. He is so good at ensuring the dialogue moves the story line along, there is little world building necessary. Most of the story takes place in a traditional English pub providing most of the setting.

While I hate spoilers in reviews, suffice it to say the characters have to figure out what is going on and not is all that it seems in a world gone mad. Their small assemblage is complicated by the appearance of a serial killer, a movie crazed teen, a drunken murderer, a war vet who loves to be as drunk as possible, and a few other people… and non-people. This whole situation is complicated by the sudden appearance of a few others threatening to end them all.

My one criticism, and it is minor, is that I did figure out the major plot twist early on. That in no way changed my level of enjoyment, and to be fair I usually figure out the major plot twists early.

I can highly recommend The Final Writer by Ian Rob Wright. It is a gripping dark tale, guaranteed to suck you in!

-Bryan the Writer

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Review: The Big Get-Even

The Big Get-EvenThe Big Get-Even by Paul Di Filippo

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There is little I love more in the literary world than a truly bad protagonist and an even worse antagonist! Enter Glen, a recent ex-con who is trying to figure out what to do with his post prison life. Bad decisions leaves him trying to figure out his next move when onto the scene stumbles Stan, another ex-con who Glen saves the life of one night on his way home. From there, things get interesting quick with the addition of a cast of strange and fun characters.

The two hatch a plan, based on the hatred of a man who had a hand in ruining many of people’s lives.

The Big Get-Even by Paul Di Filipo is one of those books I read in three sittings (a quick read). The story is engaging, characters loveable in an unlikable kind of way. I could not put it down and actually woke up early one morning just to read.

I am a firm believer that not all books need to be so in depth that it buries you in detail after detail until your head is swimming. This is just a fun ride and a great story. The story is well executed and everything I would expect in pulp fiction.

My only complaint, and it is minor, is that I figured out the ending before I got there. However, I want to impress upon the gentle reader of this review that it in no way detracted from the fun ride that I had reading this book.

If you are looking for a good read for a vacation or waiting around the doctor’s office, I can highly suggest The Big Get-Even by Paul Di Filippo. You will love the world of Glen, Stan, and the others.

-Bryan the Writer

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Review: Serial Killers and Psychopaths

Serial Killers & PsychopathsSerial Killers & Psychopaths by Nigel Cawthorne

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Serial Killers and Psychopaths” really sums up well what you get in the book by Greig and Marlowe. As I study serial kills for my own writing, I thought it an interesting title. First thing you need to know is that this a non-fiction work and is really a collection of the world’s worst the world has to offer.

I give them a great deal of credit for this book, it is well written, seemingly well researched, and well organized. I picked up a copy of mine at a bookstore and worked my way through it. It is long, but broken up well in smaller vignettes on each of the cases.

I knew some of the cases, but not all. In the ones that I already knew, I found them to be good summaries. Although the re-tellings are a bit wave-top in that they don’t really have time to go into great detail, they do a nice job. There are a couple of notable characters missing, but those cases I know are huge and likely are not really re-countable easily. The case of the BTK killer, Dennis Rader, comes to mind as a notable gap in the collection. Charles Manson is also ignored for some reason.

Certainly, there is enough to sink your teeth into to send you to the internet to look up more information on a particular person, or persons. This is really more of a quick reference guide and something good to have on hand if you are looking for information on a particular person as a starting point.

This is a bit of a time investment, but worth it if the topic of how horrible human beings can be to one another interests you.

-Your Humble Servant,


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Review: Eyes Without a Face

Eyes Without A FaceEyes Without A Face by Betsy Ashton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

People who like horror novels typically like the plummet into the darkness that comes along with that kind of reading. I love horror for where it can take me. It is important to note that sometimes gives you those deeply conflicted thoughts some people actually relish. Enter, Eyes Without a Face.

Author Betsy Ashton gives us a wonderful book that is not only smartly written, but well-paced. You get to see the story unfold through the eyes of the serial killer. She, yes a female serial killer, indulges in her hobby while studying to become a brilliant pathologist.

What makes the main character interesting is that she is leading a seemingly normal life, with the exception of her serial killing tendencies. We see the interactions of her life through her lens and understand how she sees the world. You see her friends and ultimately her husband and you get to truly like these characters.

I will warn the gentle reader that this is not for the faint of heart. It is intense sometimes. Moreover, if you like nice tidy endings, you probably won’t like this book. But if you do enjoy a good twist and turn at the end, you will not be disappointed.

There were a few situations the main character was in where a good crime lab team might have collected some trace evidence where she could have been caught, but overall most of the situations were plausible and aren’t so complex as to be unbelievable. I don’t like it when the murders are over-engineered and Betsy was careful to avoid doing that. I also have a law enforcement background so I tend to think about what a crime scene team would do on scene. Yes, I am terrible to watch CSI with.

At any rate, I can highly recommend Eyes Without a Face to horror fans out there. You will genuinely enjoy this well written novel. It will leave you feeling satisfied if you are looking for an ending which sneaks up behind you and pushes you to the ground.

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Channeling you inner Trump and Pelosi

For those of you who were intrigued enough to click on this because you figured you would read a political rant from yours truly, Bryan the Writer, I apologize. I am not about to extol the virtues of either the Republican or the Democratic Party. Quite to the contrary, I want to take you to a part of your own personality you desperately would like to avoid. Somewhere that deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties you’d rather not discuss. 🙂

I was thinking about writing and how authors very often have to write characters that we generally don’t like. In many ways, writers are essentially above the fray as far as political discourse is concerned. Ours is not to participate in politics, but more to the point is that we are there to interpret what we are seeing.

For those of you who read my book, Riapoke, you will remember that one of the characters specifically references the presidential election. He doesn’t really voice support for one side or the other. He mainly points to the absurdity of both candidates. He’s essentially telling everyone that he has a responsibility to protect the people that he loves, even when the rest of the world appears to be going to hell in a hand basket.

Me, chillin’ with my darker self (Plague Doctor)

I was thinking it might be fun to have a bunch of authors in a room who identify with a political party and ask them to write a sympathetic story about the politician they hate the most. Essentially forces them to examine the people and the ideals that they are steadfastly against. Those of you who have known me for any length of time know I’m a conservative, so for me that would be like writing a sympathetic piece about Nancy Pelosi. I have close friends who span the liberal spectrum from center-left to socialists. I would want them to write about President Trump.

I know you find this hard to believe, but I don’t especially like serial killers. But this doesn’t stop me from doing research on them and trying to delve into the darker parts of myself that inform me on what their motivations might be. I truly believe that no one ever wakes up and is magically crazy. Hollywood has popularize the myth that someone can just wake up one day and be criminally insane. Psychologists have proven this is essentially impossible. People’s personalities just don’t shift that quickly. So by studying serial killers, I can better understand the motivation behind them. When I couple what I learn with the darker places in my own personality, I can come up with a composite of what a serial killer might look like given a set of drivers in a storyline.

For example, Rigby, in The Dramatic Dead, goes crazy because he loses someone he loves. It’s not enough that he just loves this person, but he loves her to the point where she makes up a whole other side of his identity. When he loses that part of himself, it drives him insane. As a matter of fact, it drives him so insane that his subconscious mind looks for a way to reconcile the situation. And that is where the marionettes come in.

By the way, I chose marionettes on purpose. I don’t care who you are, the idea of puppets coming to life is terrifying. It’s the same concept that comes into sharp focus in the movie, Poltergeist. Almost everybody remembers the scene where the little boy is laying in his bed and the clown doll comes to life. While watching the movie with my son recently, I was reminded of how terrifying that scene truly is.

I’m not saying you necessarily have to go into great detail as an author into those people you hate. However, if you’re going to write them, and make them believable, you do have to dig into a place in your mind where you at least understand them. I’m not suggesting you sympathize with them, only empathize with them. Understand their point of view and maybe where they’re coming from. It will make your character stronger, and your story appear more genuine to the reader.

No, going into the dark parts of your own personality is not fun, but it’s necessary if you want to truly understand the characters you are writing about. After all, there is a reason you’re writing about them in the first place. Those characters come from you … a deep, dark part of your own psyche.

Yes, we all have dark places in our soul. The trick is to better understand those parts and then to better understand ourselves.

-Yours Truly,