Sunday, August 31, 2014

Book Review – "Shadows Over Somerset" by Bob Freeman

This book review is provided as part of the Shadows Over Somerset blog tour, however, the standards and scrutiny applied to this review are no less than those given to any other work presented through the views of The Rage Circus Vs. The Soulless Void, your blog for all things horror!

What kind of story would you expect from a writer who has interacted with the supernatural?  With such a vast wealth of knowledge at his disposal that he lectures as an expert in the occult and the paranormal, what kind of tale could Bob Freeman tell?  It could be that as a regular lecturer, his writing could quickly deteriorate into an encyclopedia entry, too bogged down by facts to allow the reader to dive into the story.  It could also be that a lifetime of study would present some of the best of mythology to support a strong cast of characters and a fast-paced, exciting story.  While it may be a little convoluted at first, it quickly becomes apparent that this story will not be any lecture, but a thrill ride that you will not be able to put down.

Michael Somers is brought to Cairnwood, an isolated manor in rural Indiana, to sit at the deathbed of a grandfather he never knew existed. He soon finds himself drawn into a strange and esoteric world filled with werewolves, vampires, witches… and a family curse that dates back to fourteenth century Scotland.

In the sleepy little town of Somerset, an ancient evil awakens, hungering for blood and vengeance… and if Michael is to survive he must face his inner demons and embrace his family’s dark past.

From the very beginning the story is shrouded in mystery.  While all starts to be revealed and explained within the first quarter of the book, this does cause some initial issues for the reader.  With the large cast of characters and so much that had to be discovered, I found myself having some difficulty fully following what was happening and who each character was until the story started flowing.  However, once the players in the drama started to become clearer, I was instantly hooked and felt myself propelled through the story. 

This novel has something for every type of horror fan.  There is plenty of blood and action.  I can assure you that the vampires in this novel do NOT sparkle.  The werewolves are brutal and we get different types from humanoid creatures to full, run-on-all-fours wolves.  The witches are deadly and powerful, yet also very human.  Perhaps the most impressive aspect of all of this is that Freeman manages to make all of these fantastic creatures feel very natural within the context of the story.  Add to it that all of the creatures are not just ambiguous fiends, but well-thought-out characters with backstories and personalities beyond just their basic creature of the night. 

For me, the greatest strength of this novel was the amazing backstory given to the characters.  Each has a rich history that interlocks through the ages to the rest of the cast bringing them all to the present day encounter.  The Cairnwood family is given a legacy that carries down through the years and is presented to the reader without overwhelming the reader with detail or bogging down the story in unnecessary exposition.  The narrative is concise, but extremely descriptive and visual taking the reader from one moment of intense action to the next.  To avoid spoilers, I won’t go into any great detail, but I will say that Freeman manages a balance that will please both those who desire constant action in their reading materials as well as those who want a solidly constructed story and characters.

Shadows Over Somerset is a work that shows how fiction can benefit from intensive research and preparation prior to the author ever putting pen to paper.  While it is true that in this case, much of the folklore and mythology used by Freeman might have been among that which he already had in his vast repertoire, given his background as an investigator and researcher of the paranormal, but the reader directly receives the benefits of this knowledge in the form of a fantastic story.  What makes the story even better is knowing that Freeman plans on Shadows Over Somerset being just the first in a series of Cairnwood Manor tales, meaning we can look forward to further journeys into the realm of this amazing world that Freeman has set up for us.

So, let’s take a look at the Rage Circus breakdown:

Story Concept - 5/5
Story Execution - 4/5
Story Flow - 4/5
Character Development (give-a-damn factor) - 5/5
Gripping visuals/details - 5/5
Entertainment Value/Story Engagement - 5/5
Editing (including grammar and spelling) - 4/5

Overall – 4.57/5 – Journey into Cairnwood Manor and see what mysteries await!

Get your copy today:

About Bob Freeman:  Bob Freeman doesn’t just write and draw occult detectives, he’s also a card carrying paranormal adventurer who founded Nightstalkers of Indiana in 1983.
A lifelong student of witchcraft, magic, and religion, Bob’s studies are reflected in his art, both as an author and illustrator.

Bob lives in rural Indiana with his wife Kim and son Connor.

He can be found online at

Author Links:
Twitter: @OccultDetective

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Elise - The Things in the Darkness

A big thank you to the latest backer of The Things in the Darkness, Elise! Welcome to the darkness.

Mike Catron - The Things in the Darkness

A big thank you to the latest backer of The Things in the Darkness, Mike Catron!  Welcome to the darkness.

Complete cover art for "The Things in the Darkness"

As promised, the full cover art by the extremely talented Cindy Butor. You still have six days left to pledge. Join the darkness! 

Jim Hardison - The Things in the Darkness

A big thank you to the latest backer of The Things in the Darkness, Jim Hardison! Welcome to the darkness. As promised, the preview of the full cover art will be posted shortly!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Nigel Allen - The Things in the Darkness

Thank you to the latest backer of The Things in the Darkness, Nigel Allen! Welcome to the darkness Nigel. One more pledge and I will reveal the complete cover art (front, spine, and back) for the novel. 

Seven days...

No, it's not Samara from The Ring.  Only seven days remain to make your pledge to the darkness! In addition, I have received the final book art (front, spine, and back) from the very talented Cindy Butor. Backers will be receiving a preview of this via their e-mail shortly. If we can get two more backers, I will release the art work on Facebook, this blog,
and on the campaign site! I know we have some people holding out still that plan on pledging! It all ends Friday, September 5, at noon.

Interview - Bob Freeman

It is always fascinating to read the work of someone, particularly in the horror genre, who truly believes in at least some of the facets of what they write.  Even better, but much more rare, is to find the chance to dive into the worlds created by people who not only believe, but have faced the supernatural head on.  This is the case with author Bob Freeman.  Bob Freeman’s fiction does not begin to scratch the surface of his credentials related to other worldly phenomena.  Bob is a respected lecturer and researcher on the occult and the paranormal.  He is a life-long student of mythology, folklore, religion, and magic.  He has written not only numerous works of fiction, but also many scholarly articles on the topics of the supernatural.  With such a pedigree, you can be sure that reading Bob’s fiction based on these subjects is always sure to be a truly unique experience as his gripping fiction is intertwined throughout with real-world occurrences.  I had the pleasure of getting the chance to talk to Bob about his work and some of the things he has faced in his life and now present it to you, my seekers of scare, here on The Rage Circus.

Ira Gansler:  What draws you to supernatural tales and the occult?

Bob Freeman:  It is something that has fascinated me since I was a small boy. I grew up on a small farm in rural Indiana and spent a lot time with my nose buried in books and comics and watching late night horror movies on a black and white tv with tinfoil wrapped around rabbit ears for better reception.

I also was captivated by folk tales and urban legends, of which there were many in my nape o’ the woods. There was this little cemetery just east of our house, surrounded by a supposedly haunted gate that I used to slip out to late at night, hoping to catch a glimpse of something from the other side.

I guess I was drawn to the supernatural pretty much out of the womb and I have remained interested because I am cursed with an innate curiosity about this world and the next, and the clockworks therein.

IG:  What was your earliest horror related memory?

BF:  One of my earliest memories, from before I was in school, is of me watching local horror host Sammy Terry’s presentation of Frankenstein from behind my dad’s recliner.

IG:  Are there any authors or stories that most influence your work?

BF:  I owe a tremendous debt to several authors, all of whom influenced and inspired me a thousand different ways, such as Robert E. Howard for his kinetic, visceral prose and H.P. Lovecraft for his atmosphere and mythos building.

IG:  As a paranormal adventurer, what has been your most exciting or terrifying experience with the paranormal?

BF:  I was asked to investigate a former Oddfellows Lodge in a small rural town. The owners were beginning to experience some unexplainable activity: phantom footsteps and objects disappearing only to be found somewhere else, mostly.

Entering a closet on the third floor I was confronted by an unseen force, a “dark presence” that assaulted me. It felt like a hand had penetrated my chest to clutch my heart in its preternatural grasp.
Calling upon arcane spirits, I was released by the entity, a shadow form manifesting in the space and fleeing the room.

I, and others, have tried to exorcise that spirit from the Lodge many times over the past eight years, but to no avail. It is entrenched there in that derelict grand hall.

IG:  What would you say are “must visit” sites for someone interested in paranormal occurrences?

BF:  Hm, off the top of my head, in the United States, I’d recommend: The Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California; Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Prospect Place in Trinway, Ohio; The Myrtle Plantation in New Orleans, Louisiana; The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado; Hex Hollow, aka Rehmeyer’s Hollow, in York County, Pennsylvania; and in my own backyard, if you happen to be in my nape o’ the woods, look me up and I’ll take you to some places you’ll never forget.

IG:  You recently posted about Gencon.  What are some games you would recommend for horror fans?

BF:  I’m quite fond of Fantasy Flight Games’ Elder Sign and Mansions of Madness, Betrayal at House on the Hill, and, of course, The Call of Cthulhu role-playing game from Chaosium.

IG:  How would you describe your game project, “The Occult Detective?”

BF:  The boardgame can be played competitively or cooperatively and is sort of a cross between Elder Sign, Clue, and Monopoly, with some rpg elements (if you choose). There are four occult detective archetypes — monster hunter, exorcist, magician, and investigator — whose job is to accumulate knowledge, equipment, and artifacts, while combating various preternatural entities, cultists, and cryptids, in a bid to stop the awakening of an unholy, cosmic terror randomly drawn from the Abyss.

Perfect for Family Game Night!

The RPG is a d20 campaign setting developed from my novels and short stories, though I hope to incorporate characters from the works of some of my writing chums as well.

IG:  Do you think the paranormal can still hold its own as an agent of terror amidst the rising trend of blood and gore shock horror (such as the torture porn trend)?

BF:  For me, subtle dread is still a more effective tool than the jump scare. The latter may make you squirm, but the former invades your psyche and breeds nightmares for years to come.

IG:  Are there any topics or themes you have wanted to take on that you have yet to attempt?

BF:  Plenty. There’s a veritable cornucopia of unearthly frights I’ve yet to pull into my sand box.

IG:  My final question is one that is posed to all those being interviewed on The Rage Circus.  In your opinion, what is horror? 

BF:  Horror is, at its core, an intense emotion. It defies genre, in that sense, as it can be a found within science fiction, fantasy, romance, literary fiction, and more. Horror is an intrinsic part of us. Here there be demons, and it is through our exploration of horror that we exorcise them.

So there it is, Ragers, an insight into the mind of an individual who has seen many of the things about which he writes.  Join me again on Sunday, when I review Bob Freeman's most recent tale of terror, Shadows Over Somerset.