Random Review Friday: Featuring Owl Goingback and John Wayne Comunale
Author Craig Brownlie joins us once more for Random Review Friday.
This week, he brings his reviews of TRIBAL SCREAMS by Owl Goingback and MAGE OF THE HELLMOUTH by John Wayne Comunale.
Come on in and sit by the fireplace and let’s trade stories. You may know it, but sometimes there’s nothing like hearing the human voice.
An author who can sit down beside you and speak in a recognizable voice is a rare skill. From Mark Twain to Joe Lansdale, we all recognize one way to do it, and I’ll talk about Mr. Lansdale next month in more detail. But what about those wonderful writers who write like they talk; speak like they scribble? Even the best don’t always hit the mark.
Consistency is hard because relaxing into the telling is so difficult. Imagine typing until inspiration dries and then returning days later and pounding away some more when you can’t possibly be the exact same person you were.
So, I’m here to tell you Owl Goingback and John Wayne Comunale have you covered if you need a comforting voice as the nights grow long and cold. Of course, they’ll make you pull the blanket tighter around your shoulders and sip your hot tea reflexively fast.
Goingback’s Tribal Screams is a collection of short stories rounded off with an excerpt from his novel Coyote Rage. Sealed with a Kiss, Spoils of War, and Animal Sounds brought me deeper into my chair as my head and heart listened. The trick is finding that wonderful place where horror and plot mix so well that the tale flows like a raft down a river. The humor arrives so smoothly that it propels you along instead of pulling you up short. These are stories of angry gods and terrible men. Often, these villains try to be too clever. The heart of the collection is the people left behind, the people trying not to drown, and the ones who find a way to survive with the hope of someday thriving.
Mage of the Hellmouth is a standalone novel from Comunale. His distinctive voice pours out a story dripping with pathos and disappointment (and dashes of well-dropped humor). When we meet Jake, he meanders through life unaware of the hidden hands at work in his world. The beauty is in the telling. Chapters end and you can feel Comunale pound out a ratta-tat-tat on the table as he suggests you buy the next round. The entire rhythm is a good night spent down at the pub in the corner where the shadows illustrate the heinous goings-on at Jack’s workplace, Fam-Mark ice cream.
Both Goingback and Comunale take us on journeys where the protagonist seeks to solve mysteries. Our guide is often someone too clever for their own good, even when forced on their path of discovery. Gator Bait from Goingback describes a similar arc to Comunale’s Mage. Both ask us to sympathize with not altogether sympathetic characters. The fascinating part is watching two skilled artists move our hearts to different conclusions. Goingback leaves us pitiless for the wretched protagonist while Comunale left me questioning the fate of a character who tried to find his way.
Highly recommended for all your holiday needs.
Craig's Bio: Find Craig on the usual social media and who knows where else? He's been busy submitting stories and books. Find a sampler on Godless and read his stories in Haunts Magazine (Nightshade Publications), Unspeakable Horrors 3: Dark Rainbow Rising, Jersey Devil Press, Lovecraftiana, Stranger With Friction, and the forthcoming Demons & Death Drops. Or talk to him at a convention. He hopes to be at Scares that Cares Authorcon III and IV in 2024.