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BOOK REVIEWS: February 2000
By Paula Guran

THE 37TH MANDALA
Mark Laidlaw
Leisure/ $4.99/ 368pp.
ISBN: 084394658X

book cover First published in hardcover by St. Martin's Press in 1996, THE 37TH MANDALA was one of the best novels of the year. Winner of an International Horror Guild award and a World Fantasy Award nominee, it did not -- in the absurd world that has become American publishing -- find immediate paperback publication. Finally out in mass market format as part of Leisure's singularly active horror line, this is one reprint that well worth reading. Marc Laidlaw writes from a classic back-to-the-roots-of-horror base, but with great originality. His wonderfully vile character, Derek Crowe, is a cynical advertising writer who discovers profitability in penning occult books for the crystal and channeling set. An exploiter of the spiritual needy, the charlatan winds up releasing very real, very scary monsters. THE 37TH MANDALA not only chills, but it is an intelligent and sardonic examination of contemporary spiritual fatigue, a wickedly visionary tale of New Age mentality and sheer evil. If you missed it before don't miss it this time!

WALTZES AND WHISPERS
Jay Russell
Pumpkin Books/ £16.99/ 305p.
ISBN: ISBN 1-901914-16-X

book cover Jay Russell (as Michael Marshall Smith and Kim Newman remark in their respective foreword and afterword to this volume) writes stories with a "voice"...or rather a variety of voices. Russell also writes with an individual and identifiable writerly voice and such, unfortunately, seem to be rarely heard these days in commercial fiction. Bland-to-bad formulaic vociferation is far more rewarded than unique talents like Russell's. His first collection, WALTZES AND WHISPERS, may be difficult to get hold of, but it's more than worth discovering.* Russell is probably best know for his character Marty Burns -- an acerbic detective ace, ex-child star and noir moderne protagonist of CELESTIAL DOGS and BURNING BRIGHT, two of Russell's five genre-crossing novels. Marty turns up in WALTZES AND WHISPERS in short story form, but so do Dracula, Lou Gehrig, happy little bluebirds, zombies and others in varying styles of straight-ahead solid fiction, semi- cyberpunk, pseudo-postmodernism and even some spots of splatter. Russell takes chances and still manages to deliver with a distinct (and often mildly demented) discernment that should delight most modern horror readers.

*(You can get the book in the U.S. through Mark V Ziesing Bookseller or other booksellers or contact pumpkinbooks@netcentral.co.uk direct. )

THE POKER CLUB
Ed Gorman
Originally published in two versions:
Limited Edition Hardcover-CD Publications/ $40/ 349p./ ISBN: 1-8814745-68-9 (sold out)
Mass Market Paperback-Leisure/ $5.99/ 393p./ ISBN 0-8439-4683-0

book cover When Ed Gorman is at his suspenseful best, there's none better and this new novel is top-flight Gorman. Confronting the reader with completely believable modern fears written in crisp, well-crafted prose, Gorman subtly adds social horror to make THE POKER CLUB more than just a well-paced thriller. Ordinary folks -- four members of the modern urban gentry who have gathered for a poker game -- are thrust into extraordinary circumstances. An intruder breaks in, is captured and accidentally killed. They decide to cover up the death. But the burglar is not the last to die as violence and paranoia whirl into a deadly vortex that begins to consume them all. Based on a previously-published novella, THE POKER CLUB uses the expanded length to further explore the darkness within us all. Gorman has the rare ability to tell a story of substance in an entertaining and emotionally evocative style. THE POKER CLUB is all aces.


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