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||Sam's Dot Publishing
||Feb. 12, 2010
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Hellfire & Damnation
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Each story in "Hellfire & Damnation" is unified by its illustration of one of the sins represented by the 9 Circles of Hell in Dante's "Inferno."
"A unique concept binds the 15 tales in Connie Wilson's debut short story collection Hellfire & Damnation, with an Introduction by William F. Nolan and blurbs by Scott Edleman, Gary Braunbeck, and Lisa Mannetti. Unified by the theme of Dante's "Inferno" and its 9 Circles of Hell, each story corresponds to the sin represented by the circle in which it appears, and each takes readers deeper into the bowels of Hell. A terrifying collection, guaranteed to keep you awake at night.'
Konerak quivered. Beast come back. No more! No more cut Konerak!
The cold tile of the bathroom wall. Blood inside the tub. Konerak's blood.
The tall blonde man opened the bathroom door, approached Konerak.
"This won't hurt. Prince Philip of Orange had it done seventeen times by his surgeon. Nearly everyone lives. Well, 70%, anyway. It won't hurt...too much. There aren't that many nerves in your skull. After I bore the hole, I'll put in a nice soothing medicine. You'll heal up and be as good as new."
Jeffrey busied himself sharpening the ancient instrument, one used in Hippocrates' time. "One French doc...he drilled 52 holes in a patient's head in just 2 months. The guy lived. So, don't worry. This will hellp you to accept your new life. I'm not such a bad guy. When you tried to get away and ran out into the street that was stupid. Don't do that again or I WILL kill you. I told those cops we were lovers. We will be lovers. You will stay with me."
Hellfire & Damnation Review by Adam Groves on www.Fright.com
In horror fiction, as in most any other sort, true originality is an increasingly rare commodity. But it does exist, as proven by Connie Wilson’s HELLFIRE AND DAMNATION, an anthology that is genuinely, blazingly original.
The collection is rigorously structured around the nine circles of Hell as laid out in Dante’s INFERNO, yet the contents couldn’t be more varied in subject matter. What unites them is the unerringly rational, straightforward prose, which is unlike anything else in horror fiction (usually typified by subjective "you-are-there" descriptions). Stylistically it’s not unlike Wilson’s previous book GHOSTLY TALES OF ROUTE 66, a journalistic compendium of American folklore that was likewise distinguished by its novelty. HELLFIRE AND DAMNATION, however, far outpaces the earlier volume in every respect.
"Hotter Than Hell," categorized under the Gates of Hell, starts things off. Inspired by the final words of real death row inmates, it’s a gritty and depressing account of prison life.
From there we move into the first circle of Hell, where Pagan souls reside. Illustrating this is "Rachel and David," set in Webster Groves, Missouri, and apparently based on folklore from that region. It’s about a young couple and their fateful meeting with two odd kids.
In Circle Two, Lust, we have three stories. The first, "Love Never Dies," is a strange little number set in ancient Rome and headlined by an undead prostitute! "Konerak" takes a real-life incident, of the man who almost escaped the clutches of the late Jeffrey Dahmer, and spins a wild tale of Oriental sorcery emerging from the Hmong of Laos, who fought for the United States against the Viet Cong (obviously this is the only place you’ll find Eastern mysticism, Jeffrey Dahmer and the Vietnam War combined). "Effie, We hardly Knew Ye!" is another folklore-based tale, this one of an Oklahoma City hotel haunted by the spirit of its founder’s wronged mistress.
Circle Three is Gluttony, as represented by "Amazing Andy, the Wonder Chicken." In this tale a chicken gets its head cut off and still lives--and I’ll leave you to discover the rest of it on your own.
From there it’s on to the circle of Hoarders and Wasters, with "The Lemp Mansion Curse," a jaunty account of a family curse, and "Queen Bee," about an all-too appropriate revenge taken on a woman whose personality and social standing are accurately encompassed by the title.
Circle Five is the Wrathful. It contains "The Ghost Girl of Howard "Pappy" Litch Park," set along the author’s favorite highway, Route 66. Here, in what may or may not be a fact-based tale, a father’s wrath causes his young daughter to be whisked away... but glimpses of the girl can of course still be seen in the area.
Heretics populate the Sixth Circle, containing the quietly unnerving "Hell to Pay." It combines a look into Amish life with an intriguing speculation on the origins of schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis. Also in the Heretics circle is "On Eagles’ Wings," concerning a weird cultist, a young girl and an unhealthy obsession with birds.
Circle Number Seven is reserved for The Violent. It begins with "Going Through Hell," about a serial killer and his woman police officer victim, and continues with "Living in Hell," about a young boy who visualizes a serial killer’s crimes in nightmares. This tale is particularly shivery: the concept isn’t terribly original, but the nasty subject matter and clinical prose make for a skin-crawling read.
Circle Eight consists of The Fraudulent, represented by "Confessions of an Apotemnophile." That word refers to an person desiring to amputate his own limbs, in this case a man who’s harbored an all-consuming desire to lose his legs ever since conversing with a like-minded individual as a child.
Circle Nine is the final circle, featuring "An American Girl," the collection’s creepiest story. Its subject is the factual murder of a teenage girl in snowy Illinois, with the bulk of the tale taken up with a methodical depiction of the pubescent killers’ attempts at disposing of the corpse.
You won’t find another collection like this one. Some readers, I’m sure, will be put off by its oddness, yet it fulfills most every expectation one might have for a horror anthology, being readable, entertaining and deeply unsettling in a manner unique to itself.
Fright.com Review of Hellfire and Damnation
A unique concept binds the tales in Connie Corcoran Wilson’s debut short story collection, Hellfire & Damnation. Unified by the theme of Dante’s Inferno and its Nine Circles of Hell, each story corresponds to the sin represented by the circle in which it appears and each takes readers deeper into the bowels of Hell.
‘The Gates of Hell’ swing open with the actual words of condemned prisoners awaiting execution on Death Row in Wilson’s ‘Hotter than Hell.’ The journey then continues down through each ever-darkening level to the icy core of Hades itself.
In Circle One: Limbo, where the souls of children who die in original sin are said to reside, we find ‘Rachael & David’ in an unforgettably haunting story of two youngsters from the Edgewood Children’s Center for emotionally disturbed children.
Other outstanding stories include ‘Love Never Dies,’ a completely fresh and original take on the zombie theme and one of the best the book has to offer. ‘Hell to Pay’ concerns the lengths an Amish father goes to for his daughter and ‘On Eagles’ Wings’ is the story of a ten-year-old girl abducted by a cult leader and indoctrinated into a bizarre religion. ‘Going through Hell’ involves a serial killer who operates beneath a roller-skating rink and the final desperate actions of his latest victim. The final story, ‘An American Girl’ is the cold blooded and horrifying account of a true teen murder in Moline, Illinois.
Subjects of many of the tales in the collection seemed ripped straight from the headlines, and Wilson’s cool and matter-of-fact style serve only to make the stories more disturbing.
Connie Corcoran Wilson has published seven books, including three books of ‘true’ ghost stories (Ghostly Tales of Route 66, Vols. I, II, and III, Quixote Press). Three of the stories, among them the chilling ‘Rachael & David,’ were taken from accounts related to the author by residents along Route 66 that appeared in the stories in Ghostly Tales ofRoute 66 (Vol. I). However, three-fourths of the stories in this collection are brand new.
With an Introduction by William F. Nolan ( Logan’s Run, Nightworlds) and fifteen potent and nightmarish tales, Hellfire & Damnation is a terrifying collection, guaranteed to keep you awake at night.
More information is available on the author’s website, www.ConnieCWilson.com, on her own website www.weeklywilson.com, and on the upcoming www.HellfireandDamnationthebook.com website. Other websites for Connie’s previous books include that for the Lachesis novel Out of Time (www.outoftimethenovel.com) and for her trilogy of Route 66 ghost stories, the third volume of which is due out in 2010. (www.GhostlyTalesofRoute66.com).
“Dark Scribe” magazine reviewer M.J. Turner, Feb., 2010
Hellfire & Damnation by William F. Nolan (
“Let me start right off by saying that Connie Wilson presents what I call ‘matter-of-fact’ horror. She writes solid, declarative sentences rife with dark undertones. No fancy description for Connie. No sentimental musings. No soft emotionalism. Just hard-edged documentary-style storytelling. Jolting objective sentences made all the more disturbing by their cool directness. Frankly---and I consider myself well read in the shock genre---I have never encountered a style such as she displays here in story after story. Connie Wilson’s dark talent is unique, and readers will stagger away from her icy tales, stunned and groggy.
Her frame for this collection is also unique: stories built around Dante’s nine circles of hell. A unifying concept that is classically fresh.
Many of these hellish tales are based on truth, amplified into fiction. Her four stories set along Route 66 from Missouri through California are all true ghost stories. The final statements of convicted prisoners on Death Row as they await execution provide their actual words in ‘Hotter than Hell.’
Connie’s settings and backgrounds are beautifully variant: ancient Pompeii with zombie prostitutes; the Hmong people during the Vietnamese Secret War in Laos; the Amish community in Iowa. And the author explores her own hometown area of the Quad Cities of Iowa/Illinois in the brutally shocking ‘An American Girl,’ which is factually based on the gruesome murder of a luckless teenager.
Once you’ve read this remarkably fresh collection, you’ll emerge with some twisted new thoughts about clowns, bats, birds, serial killers, zombies, sadistic dentists and headless chickens. And what about the good folks in ‘Confessions of an Apotemnophile,’ who yearn to have their legs amputated?
Believe me, Dear Reader, you’ve never encountered anything like Hellfire & Damnation.
I have a final word for it…WOW!”
(William F. Nolan. Logan’s Run, Nightworlds.)
Reviews for "Hellfire and Damnation"
|Reviewed by Connie Wilson
Hellfire and Damnation by Connie Corcoran Wilson
April 18th, 2010 | Author: Colin Leslie from "Tales from the Dark Abyss"
Hellfire and Damnation
by Connie Corcoran Wilson
Published by Sam’s Dot Publishing, 2010.
I have to be upfront and say I was a little suspicious of this book. It appeared to have some great reviews on the back from the likes of William F. Nolan, Scott Eddleman and Gary Braunbeck (and if anyone knows good horror its Gary Braunbeck). These seemed slightly at odds with the homespun production values and I have to say the slightly garish cover. Was this a case of excessive hyperbole?
In Hellfire and Damnation Connie Corcoran Wilson takes us on a trip through the nine circles of hell by creating a series of stories (or in some cases a single story) to illustrate each. Many of the stories are also based on true life tales of crime and horror adding a little extra spice to the mix.
Standouts for me were -
Hotter Than Hell – where we hear the tragic tale of Big Jim Bingham as he awaits his fate on death row. A series of tragic letters to his son reveal some deep and powerful truths behind both his and his sons actions. It’s typical of the book, having a King like sense of down home characterisation where real life just touches the boundaries of something darker.
Amazing Andy, The Wonder Chicken – This surreal, if not in fact completely bonkers, tale concerns a chicken who loses his head but goes on to become a star bringing all the pressures of fame down on his owners. At times humorous and at others stomach wrenching but always inventive and well written.
The Ghost Girl of Howard “Pappy” Litch Park – features strange goings on in the eponymous park when a father threatens a fellow visitor and things get out of hand. It bears all the tragic hallmarks of a real world tale but is told in an interesting and thoughtful voice.
We also get to meet ghost children (Rachel and David), the zombie prostitutes of Pompeii (Love Never Dies), serial killers (Going Through Hell) and fantastically creepy clown Pogo (Living In Hell).
A couple of weaker stories exist among the fifteen ( Queen Bee, Effie We Hardly Knew Ye!) but otherwise we are taken on a roller coaster trip with laughs (Hell to Pay features an amish mobile phone owner) and tears (On Eagle’s Wing’s a tragic tale of child abuse). Even the weaker stories are well enough written though and given the variety of styles at play here your personal favourites are likely to differ.
All in all a thoroughly enjoyable, well written anthology. Gary A. Braunbeck’s blurb on the back claims that, “never have the 9 circles of hell been so much fun”. As I said Mr Braunbeck knows his stuff, this is a journey into hell that will intrigue, disgust and excite you, often at the same time, excellent stuff. Just shows, don’t judge a book by its cover!
You can find out more here.
Rating 4 out of 5
Posted in Review, fiction, horror, short, story
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