Andrew Chumbley’s Golden Toad

ONE: The Grimoire of the Golden Toad – Andrew Chumbley
Xoanon – 2000

The first bit of this book tells how to kill a toad and let his body rot a certain way so that you can find the magical bone within that will allow you to summon Satan in the form of a horse. If you get on pony Satan’s back, he can carry you around the world in seconds.

The next part is a bunch of hokey poems. I understand that language can change people’s perceptions and that it can set the tone for magic, but this stuff sounds pretty silly when you’re reading it off a computer screen before going to bed on a Monday night. There was one cool line, “For the Devil’s Master am I, am I; the Devil’s Master am I” Parts in this section suggest that the practitioner is actually seeking control over humans rather than animals. I think the intention is actually just to gain self control. This reads as if it was co-authored by Severus Snape and Jordan Peterson.

The poetry section is followed by a weird fantasy story that was unbearable to read. My patience for this kind of crap is non existent at this point.

Magical bones from a toad? I wonder how many poor little toads were killed by the freaks who are into this crap. Chumbley wrote another, I think more academic, book about this topic that is probably far more interesting. I’m not going to read shit like this anymore.

The Unfortunate Fursey, The Return of Fursey, and the unfortunate audiobook

I left Ireland in my early 20s and have lived abroad ever since. I miss it greatly. I miss the people, the places, the humour and the tea. I read a lot of the classics of Irish literature when I was in college in Dublin. I read the others after I moved away. I’ve been on a horror kick since I started this blog in 2015, and I’m always excited when I find a horror novel set in Ireland. Unfortunately, some of the “Irish” horror novels I’ve come across are real crap.

When I first heard of The Unfortunate Fursey, I was intrigued. Here was an obscure book by an Irish writer about a monk who is tormented by the Devil. Not only that, but the book was being republished by Valancourt Books, a publisher I held in the highest regard.

The Unfortunate Fursey and The Return of Fursey – Valancourt Books 2017

Mervyn Wall’s The Unfortunate Fursey was published in 1946, and it was followed by The Return of Fursey 2 years later. They’re pretty much 2 halves of the same story, so I’m going to treat them as one work rather than 2.

First of all, I want to make it clear that although it contains vampires, witches, demons and Satan, this is not a horror novel. This is farcical fantasy/historical fiction.

Fursey, the dumbest monk in Clonmacnoise, is kicked out of the monastery for unwittingly harboring demons in his cell. After his expulsion, he is forced to marry a witch who curses him with the gift of sorcery. Things go from bad to worse, and he ends up turning to a life of unmitigated evil. Fursey is basically a medieval Father Dougal, and both of the novels about his adventures are really, really funny. Wall obviously did a bit of research on witchcraft and sorcery too. He knows what he’s writing about.

I don’t understand how these books aren’t better known. I mean, they tick all of my personal boxes, but every review I have read of them has been positive too. Everyone who reads these books seems to love them. Apparently Gerald Gardner, the guy responsible for popularising Wicca, was a big fan. If you suspect that your tastes are at all similar to mine, I demand that you read these books. I promise that you’ll like them. I’m already planning to read them again in the future. I’m going to try to track down Mervyn Wall’s other books too.

That was the good side baby

Here comes the bad side…

Jimi Hendrix

I listened to audiobook versions of these two books. I’ve got through quite a few audiobooks from Valancourt, and they’re generally of an excellent quality. I love being able to take in a book as I cook dinner or clean the house, but there’s one thing about audiobooks that bothers me. I hate when audiobook narrators put on accents when they’re reading. I don’t mind if they’re voicing a character in the book. That can get pretty silly, but it totally makes sense. No, it only really annoys me when they put on an accent for the voice of the narrator. Of course, I don’t know any audiobook narrators or where they are from, so this actually only annoys me when they do a poor job of it. Personally, I think it’s pretty dorky to put on an accent just to read a story, but if your accent is good enough for me not to know it’s fake, then I guess it’s ok.

Alright, so far, I’m just discussing my personal tastes. You can roll your eyes and claim that I’m a cantankerous jerk if you want. I wouldn’t argue with you.

Unfortunately for everyone though, the narrator for the second Fursey audiobook doesn’t just put on an accent. He puts on an Irish accent. I don’t know why, but Irish accents seem difficult for people who weren’t born in Ireland. (I’ve discussed this before.) The guy reading this book is no exception. I could tell within a few seconds of him speaking that the accent was put on. Worse still, I could tell that he was English.

I don’t know how much my readers know about the history of Ireland, but a lot of what has happened there in the last thousand years has revolved around the English coming over and making things shit for us. The English did their best to colonize Ireland. They still have one of the parts that they stole. To hear an English man put on a silly Irish accent and read an Irish book about Irish culture is not something I ever want to do. If it was an American it would be annoying, but the fact that it’s a Brit is sincerely insulting. To be honest, I’m surprised and very disappointed that Valancourt Books gave this project the go ahead. I’m not going to hold it against the narrator. He’s a Brit; how would he know any better?

I don’t want to draw direct comparisons here, but I think it’s fair to label this as a case of audio-greenface. I genuinely struggle to see how this kind of thing was acceptable as recently as 2018. Unfortunate indeed. The whole thing is made more annoying by the fact that the first Fursey audiobook is beautifully narrated by an Irish person.

Buy copies of the two books, and get the first audiobook, but avoid the audiobook of The Return of Fursey at all costs.

Duncan Ralston’s WOOM

Woom – Duncan Ralston
Shadow Work – 2016


When I was reading about Matthew Stokoes Cows a few days ago, I came across a comparison to this book. I had downloaded an audiobook version of WOOM a few months back, and seeing that it was very short, I decided to give it a go.

A weird lad invites a prostitute to a hotel room and tells her gross stories while he tries to stretch out her vagina. Some of the stories are pretty nasty, but nothing in here really surprised me. This is the second book in a row that I’ve finished that contains a scene where somebody kills themselves by a self-administered abortion. I assumed that the narrator was working himself up to some horrible climax where he would do something really nasty to the woman he is talking to, and I was quite disappointed to find that my assumption was entirely correct.

This book proudly claims to be extreme horror on the cover. I understand that extreme horror often contains rape scenes. Detailed descriptions of fictional rapes don’t really bother me, but I am sometimes bothered by how rape is used in transgressive fiction. This book, while well written and plotted out, is essentially the story of a man raping a prostitute. He rapes her in a particularly unpleasant manner, but the specifics of his actions didn’t disappoint me. It was the fact that the whole book is essentially just a lead up to a rape.

Again, I don’t mind authors using rape in their stories. There’s loads of ways that rape could be used in an extreme horror story. Using it as the punchline seems lazy.

Some might say that the horrible ending to the book is to make some profound statement on the unpleasantness of existence. Let’s Go Play at The Adams’ uses rape to effectively convey this message. I don’t think that WOOM is operating on that level though. It’s not that sophisticated. One of the chapters in here is about an exploding bumhole.

I actually did enjoy reading the book, and I think Ralston is a capable writer. The plotting here is quite impressive. I just really disliked the ending. I’d be willing to give Ralston another go.

The Ingoldsby Legends – A Review in the Spirit of the Work

The Ingoldbsy Legends – Richard Harris Barham
J.M. Dent & Co – 1898 (Originally published 1840)

Waded through some poems in The Ingoldsby Legends before dinnertime, & that was punishment enough.

T.E.D. Klein, The Ceremonies

Ted Klein wrote a novel called The Ceremonies
that mentions some other horror ficciones
(that’s Spanish for stories), and I, being me,
decided to seek out these tales with great glee,
for Klein’s a respected horror critic and author,
and taking his recommendations I oughta.
I’d already read Stoker and  Machen and Poe,
but some of the books in there I didn’t know,
so I set out to find them, though it might be a slog,
and vowed to review each of them on my blog.

Now Klein’s protagonist reads these dark tales
but encountering one, he verily fails
to finish, for it is too boring by far,
so he picks up instead a book about stars.
I promised myself I’d succeed where he failed,
so I opened the book and I slowly inhaled
to ready myself for some archaic prose
about witches and jackdaws and old spooky ghosts,
but soon my face puckered like I’d sucked on a lime,
for The Ingoldsby Legends is written in rhyme.

It popularized supernatural tales,
but to provide any frightening scenes it quite fails.
I pushed to get through it,  made several tries,
but this kind of writing, I truly despise;
it’s boring and British and repulsively twee.
It might feature spirits, but it isn’t for me.

Let this be a lesson, learn from my mistake,
and leave Ingoldsby’s Legends alone, for God’s sake.
Use your copy for toilet paper, don’t you think twice,
and please listen closely to these words of advice:
When writing ghost stories and tales (and reviews),
poetry isn’t the form you should use.

Shoved Down Your Throat and Shat Out Your Arse – Matthew Stokoe’s Cows

Cows – Matthew Stokoe
Creation Books – 1998

Happy Halloween! Here is one of the least Halloweeny horror novels I have ever read. I had this book on my to-read list for several years before getting around to it. I don’t really remember where or how I first heard of it, but I must have read a summary of it years ago because when I started it, I recognized some plot elements. That being said, I was actually quite unprepared for the extremity of this book. I really didn’t know it was going to be so gross.

It’s about a dude who lives with his abusive mother and crippled dog. This guy gets a job in a slaughterhouse, and everything goes to Hell. I enjoyed the first few chapters. The nastiness is so extreme from the beginning that it’s difficult to absorb. I know that the world is filled with sickos and abusive parents, but the book starts off so unpleasant that nothing ever feels real. The beginning feels nightmarish, but when the violence ramps up, the whole thing starts to feel silly.

The point at which I stopped enjoying the book was when the workers in the slaughterhouse ganged up and started fucking the wounds on a cow they were killing. This scene reminded me of pictures my friends and I would draw in business studies classes when we were 15. Pretty soon after this scene, the cows start to talk and I lost interest. I did finish the book, but I didn’t enjoy much of the last half.

There is few drawn out poo-eating scenes in here. One of these made me feel a bit ill. I’ve read more books about poo-eaters in 2021 than any sensible person should.

When I was done with the book, I googled it and discovered that Cows is a widely blogged about novel. I read a few reviews, and it turns out that a lot of people talk a whole lot of rubbish about this book. It’s not really though provoking or insightful. It’s puerile crap about a pair of poo-eaters. When it come to artistic statements about slaughterhouses and shitty arses, there’s only one that matters:

Fun Halloween Book Recommendations

I’m a big fan of horror fiction. A quick browse through this blog will show you that I don’t really limit myself to any specific subgenres. Halloween and horror are inextricable, but I feel like certain types of horror are more Halloweeny than others. It’s just my personal opinion, but I feel like Halloweeny horror should contain an element of fun. The following is not a list of the scariest books I’ve read. It’s a list of horror novels that both trick and treat, books that will make excellent reading while you’re stuffing your face with the candy that you didn’t give out on the evening of the 31st. These are my recommendations for a good Halloween read.

Al Sarrantonio has written several books about Halloween, but I haven’t read those yet. I read 4 of his other books last year, and Moonbane and The Worms were the most enjoyable. They’re quick, fun reads, perfect for Halloween. One is about werewolves, and the other is about… worms. Even thinking about these makes me want to read more Sarrantonio.

I’m going to take it for granted that my readers are all familiar with H.P. Lovecraft. I read quite a lot of the extended Cthulu Mythos over the last 2 years, and aside from Howard’s own stories, I think my favourite Lovecraftian pastiche is Frank Belknap Long’s The Horror from the Hills. You wouldn’t need to be big into Lovecraft to enjoy this on its own either. It’s imaginative, exciting and a lot of fun. I’m pairing this with T.E.D. Klein’s Dark Gods as that contains a short story called ‘The Black Man with a Horn’ that features Long as its protagonist and parralels The Horror from the Hills in interesting ways. The other stories in Dark Gods are top notch horror writing. So, so good. (Klein’s The Ceremonies is phenomenal too, but it’s set in summer, so doesn’t really fit in with these Halloweeny vibes.)

I read quite a few Joe R. Lansdale books this year, and my favourite was definitely The Nightrunners. This is a horrible, violent story, but Lansdale’s style of writing is so easy to read that the book feels like fun. Lansdale’s The Drive-In books are fun too, but not quite spooky enough to recommend here.

These William W. Johnstone novels are not good books, but the horror elements at play within these novels are so over the top that I found them rather enjoyable. These are definitely “Paperbacks from Hell”, and if you’re into ridiculous horror B-movies, you might enjoy these. They’re utterly mental though. Seriously. Imagine an x-rated episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark directed by a Ted Nugent who’s high on crack and you might get an idea of what these books are like.

I know he’s an obvious choice, but let’s be real. Stephen King. You understand. I reckon Salem’s Lot and his short stories would be the best for this time of year. It’s probably that I’ve been conditioned to think this since childhood, but Stephen King’s fiction is exactly the kind of thing that I want to read at Halloween. Gross, creepy fun. Perfect.

Ray Bradbury is another obvious choice. His books are less trashy than the others I’m discussing here, but they definitely have the fun element that is key to good Halloween fiction. Something Wicked This Way Comes is an all round awesome book, and it’s set at Halloween. His most famous collection of short horror fiction is called The October Country. These two books are absolutely mandatory Halloween reading. He also wrote a kids book called The Halloween Tree. Bradbury is great.

I’m not going to recommend Dracula or Frankenstein here for a couple of reasons. You already know they exist, but both are also quite serious books. Varney the Vampire, which predates Dracula by about 50 years, is not a serious book. It was serialized over the course of two years, and it’s absolute trash. Characters disappear and turn into different people, the chapters are out of order, and it’s so long that it contradicts itself on several plot points. Despite all this, I found it very enjoyable. It’s bloody long though, so you’d better get started soon if you want to finish by Halloween

Pretty much anything by Harry Adam Knight/Simon Ian Childer would be great for Halloween. Both Harry and Simon were pseudonyms used by John Brosnan and Leroy Kettle. The books they wrote together under these names are trashy, gross out horror novels that are supremely entertaining. I absolutely loved these books. Slimer and Worm were my favourites. Classic stuff.

Michael Slade’s Ghoul is a horror novel with a Lovecraftian tinge about a murderous hard rock band that lives under a graveyard. It’s pure trash. I loved it. I read Brian Keene’s Ghoul last year too. It’s also about a creep that lives under a graveyard, and it too would make for some fine reading on a chilly October’s eve.

A few years ago, I chose my October reading based on the amount of pumpkins the books had on their covers. This was an awful idea. (The only decent book I’ve read with a pumpkin on the cover was the original Halloween novelisation.) Pumpkins are good, but they’re not enough. A good Halloween novel should be fun to read. The books listed in this post are easily digestible, super entertaining horror fiction that do a good job of encapsulating the fun and fear that make an enjoyable Halloween. Hopefully this post will help some indecisive readers find something juicy for All Hallow’s Eve. If you have any recommendations on exciting horror fiction, please leave a comment and let me know.

Basil Crouch’s Fairy Gold

It’s been a long time since I’ve discussed the work of Basil Crouch. I heard recently that he died last year. He wrote one book that was a bit paedoey, but he was fairly amusing otherwise. The man was either a half-arsed swindler, a loony or both.

This week’s offering is an utterly ridiculous book of his called Fairy Gold. I don’t know when this was published or who published it. It looks like a DIY job. I’m just going to summarize this one.

Basil Crouch has a little pond in his back garden. 5 fairies and a frog live there.

The first chapter of the book is made up of accounts of people who do and don’t believe in fairies. The ones who don’t believe are all poor losers. The ones who do believe are rich success stories.

Part two is about the different kinds of fairies. Fairies are reincarnated good people. Bad people come back as frogs. This section also details where fairies live.

The third section is about how the Cottingley Fairy photos are real. The girls who took those photos admitted they were fake. There’s a funny bit in this part where Crouch tells how he went out to Cottingley to see if he could commune with the fairies but instead found a dead dog in a plastic bag. LOOOOL.

Part 4 is a conversation that Basil Crouch has with his cat. The 5 fairies that lived in his pond have gone missing, and his cat tells him that they were kidnapped by evil fairies.

Part 5 is instructions on how to make a model fairyland. This is essentially a shitty arts and crafts exercise involving plasticine, blue crepe paper and cardboard cut-out fairies stuck onto lollipop sticks.

The sixth and final section of the book is a ritual that Basil Crouch performed to set the fairies from his garden free. He seems to be suggesting that you perform the exact same ritual. I’m not sure why this would have any effect for somebody else though. Unless your cat has told you that your local fairies have been kidnapped by a goblin, this book will be utterly useless.

I haven’t exaggerated. This book is silly crap.

The Squirming Menace… Maggots – Edward Jarvis

Maggots – Edward Jarvis
Arrow – 1986

Imagine that you’re on holidays somewhere far away from where you live. The locals speak the same language as you in this place, but you are a tourist here and know nothing about local events and politics. You’re bored, so you turn on the TV, but the only thing on is a satirical sketch show about current events in the town you’re staying in. Not only are you unfamiliar with the targets of the satire, but the brand of humour is bizarre and doesn’t make you laugh.

Pretty annoying right? I mean, you might watch out of curiousity for a few minutes, but you’ll probably turn it off pretty quickly and have a wank instead.

Now imagine the exact same scenario, but with every sketch in the show ending with the characters being attacked and devoured by a swarm of bloodthirsty maggots.

That would be the television equivalent of this book.

I have read many awful horror novels, but Edward Jarvis’s Maggots was shockingly bad. I was genuinely surprised at how something so awful could get published. Sometimes you read a book and decide quickly that the story is bad or the writing is poor, but you can usually tell what the writer is going for, even if they never get there. Maggots is different. It’s such a mess that I honestly don’t know what Edward Jarvis was trying to do with it.

The story is very stupid. Maggots start coming out of the ground and eating people. Some of the maggots are regular size, some of them are bigger than dogs, some are so small that they form a fine mist in the air, and at least one is bigger than a bus. There’s a guy who likes exploring caves who sees some. He has some dealings with an American politician who is running for president. There’s also a teacher who uses karate to beat up his students. The maggot problem gets worse and worse. Maggots invade a sports stadium. A maggot volcano erupts. The maggots come because people use oil. People start eating the maggots. Other people start maggot hunting groups. The world’s leading politicians agree to try to kill the maggots by playing loud noise at them through a speaker.

Maybe the story is more coherent than that, but I doubt it. In truth, I wasn’t able to give this book a thorough reading. I skimmed large chunks after the first 50 pages. The writing here is utterly tortuous. It goes between lengthy scientific descriptions of the Earth’s crust to boring political satire. I assume it’s satire of British politics of the mid 1980s, but it was totally over my head. When you’re telling a story, there’s certain unexciting parts that have to be included for the sake of coherency, but Jarvis takes these bits and draws them out as much as possible. When I buy a book with a maggoty face on the cover, I want maggoty faces to take up a good chunk of the story. There are some nasty bits in here, but they take up maybe 8 or 9 pages of the total 235.

The book features characters from all over the world, and dis bleddy awtaw cawnt bleddy ‘elp wroyten ow deh accence phawneticlay. It’s fucking unbearable. I know that there’s a market for “so bad it’s good” horror out there, but this isn’t good at all. This is “so bad it’s actually really awful and difficult to read” horror. I wanted to give up at so many points, but I struggled through.

Honestly, this book reads like it was written by an alien or a computer or something that has a basic understanding of what a story should contain but absolutely no understanding of why people like stories. As I read through it, I actually wondered if Edward Jarvis wasn’t some genius post modernist who had created this book as a statement on… something I don’t understand. Maggots is actually so radically awful, that it’s difficult to believe that its author was simply incompetent.

Fortunately for everyone, this book is very hard to find. Copies sell for insane amounts considering how terrible it is. This is obviously due to the cover. Scroll up there and look at it again. A festering, maggot-eaten head. Quality.

The Invincible Magick Spells of the Afghan Mullah-Sensees – Mohammed Ali

The Invincible Magick Spells of the Afghan Mullah-Sensees – Mohammed Ali
Finbarr International – 1993

Afghanistan is having tough time at the moment, and this is probably an inopportune time to start featuring supposedly Afghan content. All jokes aside, fuck the Taliban. I had a hole in my posting schedule and needed something short for this week. This piece of garbage seemed perfect. I haven’t done any books from Finbarr for a long time, and this heap of shit is actually worse than I expected.

It’s a few spells that are all pretty much the same thing. You just draw some squiggles on a piece of tissue paper and say “Allah-O-Akbar” a bunch of times, and this will either make 4 women fall in love with you or make your enemies start fighting each other. The author tells the reader to trust in these spells as they have prevented the people of Afghanistan from ever being conquered.

This book came out in 1993, a couple of years before the Taliban conquered the people of Afghanistan.

Most of the book is taken up with pictures of the stupid squiggles you’re supposed to draw, but there is one page where the author includes information on Afghan “non magical remedies”. These remedies include rubbing your back when it is sore and gently scratching your eyes when they are itchy. Arcane secrets revealed at last! Also, if you have problems with your digestion, remember to rub your tummy clockwise if you need to shit and anti-clockwise if you want to hold your shit in. I’m not joking.

This whole book is a pretty grievous example of cultural appropriation. Only a monumentally ignorant person could take this dreck seriously.

Damn, I actually enjoyed writing this. I might start featuring this kind of crap more frequently again.

Wrath James White’s Porno for Psychos

Like Porno for Psychos – Wrath James White
Deadite Press – 2011

It was this time last year that I read Wrath James White’s Skinzz. I was a little underwhelmed by that book, but I was willing to give the author another go. Something about the beginning of a new school year makes me want to read brutally violent splatterpunk horror, so I decided to read Like Porno for Psychos.

This collection of short stories features an alien prostitute, a weredog, a pregnant ghoul and a woman who gets off on the idea of being savaged by lions. All of the stories are extremely violent and gory, but there’s a certain sense of morality that runs throughout the book. Rapists and racists don’t fare well in these tales. There’s one story about a girl with body dysmorphia that is both horrendously violent and devastatingly sad. Wrath James White writes some pretty messed up stories, but I got the sense that he’s not a piece of shit human being.

At 100 pages, this book was too short to really blow me away, but I was entertained the whole time I was reading it. If you’re the type of person who would even consider reading a book with this title and cover, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. I don’t think this is the last Wrath James White book I’ll be reading.