Review of Lou Yardley’s HELLHOUND

Self Portrait
Features Editor Cooper Anderson
By Cooper Anderson

With a shady barman, creeps wearing sunglasses at night, and the mother of all hangovers, Hellhound by Lou Yardley is a dark and grisly modern-day telling of the werewolf mythos set in a strangely hot English summer. This month I got a chance to read the new release from Y Books Publishing and here is what I thought:

Just A Taste

Hellhound is the story about down on his luck and low on self-esteem Kit Byers and how a chance encounter at a random pub in summertime London changed his life forever. After retreating from another failed job interview, Kit finds himself in desperate need of a drink and sanctuary from the heat. He wanders into The Hound & The Philosopher Inn where he meets a charming barman who is used to the whoa and blather of pub patrons and decides to supply Kit with enough drinks to get him horizontal and then proceeds to pull Kit by the ankles into the back room of the pub.

Christine (our other main character of the story), who while waiting for a cab, also decides to pop into The Hound & The Philosopher Inn to get out of the heat. There she sees a pub patron who’s seen better days and has drunk himself into a belligerent mess on legs. The man tumbles backward onto the pub floor and is then dragged into the back room by the barman who never stops flashing his rogue-like smile. Finding her cab waiting for her outside, Christine decides to leave but not before hearing a loud, blood-curdling scream. A scream that nobody else seems to notice.

Unable to get the scream out of her head, Christine finds herself visited in the middle of the night by a strange man in dark sunglasses who tells her to stay away. To forget what she thinks she heard at The Hound & The Philosopher. That it’s going to get very painful and very messy if she doesn’t stay away. So, with a fresh dose of terror freshly applied, Christine does exactly what she knows she shouldn’t be doing. She goes back to the pub.

Meanwhile, Kit wakes from his drunken stupor to find himself naked and with a strange painful mark on the back of his neck. He finds his clothes waiting for him in a box with his name on it and quickly legs it home to sleep it off. But once he’s home, however, he soon notices something. Something about himself that’s not quite right…

I’m not going to spoil any more of the story for you. Like I said it’s just a taste.

The Delicious Bits

Hellhound has a lot of things going for it that I like to see in my horror books. There is a definite sense of unease that permeates throughout the book that leaves the reader on edge. Twists and turns can happen at any moment throughout the story and it’s not entirely predictable which is always a plus for horror writing. There is also a very ominous voice that is first introduced in the prologue and then shows up occasionally as thoughts implanted into the characters head which I think is a pretty inventive way to set the tone.

Classic elements of horror are also present throughout the book. There’s a smiling barman that you never feel comfortable enough to trust. Blackouts in houses that normally have power. Things that accentuate the genre that it’s in.

There’s also no “Heavy Lifting” when reading this book. You don’t have to ponder secretive character motivations or deep-rooted symbolism throughout the book. It’s just an easy read that you can do on a plane ride or at the beach and not feel bad about doing so.

The Gristle

The things that make Hellhound a fun read are also its biggest problems. The characters that we meet feel like horror movie characters. We meet them with little backstory and are thrown into the supernatural story of blood and gore. Here is the main character, here is the villain, here is the premise and off we go. We aren’t given enough information or background to care too much about the characters. It’s hard to care about Christine being threatened by a creep in sunglasses when we don’t really know anything about her. What kind of person is she? What does she care about? We don’t really know. However, this kind isn’t entirely a bad thing. The same things that I think are problematic are probably what a lot of people would find enjoyable. Just characters reacting to a horrifying situation. We tend to bring our preconceived notions as to the type of person Christine is because we know this archetype in the horror genre.

Final Thoughts

Hellhound is a book that I have no problem recommending to my friends who are casual readers. It’s a light non-complex book that does a decent job at making me want to turn the next page to find out what happens. It’s fun, it’s simple and above all, it has a lot of blood.

While this is her first standalone novel, Lou Yardley is also the author of THE OTHERS series, Jingle Bells (a novella), and the short story “Lydia.” You can find more of Lou Yardley and her work at LouYardley.com and @LouciferSpeaks on twitter

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Why Did I Wait to Read Faulkner?

by Cooper AndersonSelf Portrait

Back when I was in high school, I never actually cared about great pieces of literature. Like so many other hormone and anxiety-riddled teenagers, the only things I ever cared about were the things happening in my little micro-universe around me. What party was I gonna go to that weekend? Who made out with who at last weekend’s party? Which gas stations carded? That sort of stuff. So when I was given a copy of William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying to read for senior English class, I did what most kids my age did: I memorized the Sparknotes for quizzes and found a half-assed analogy section of Wikipedia that I could tweak just enough to not get caught for plagiarism on essays. But why did I do that? Why couldn’t I just buckle down and read the book? Well, this past week I’ve since remedied my mistake and read As I Lay Dying and I wish that I had picked it up a long time ago.

For those of you who don’t know, William Faulkner was a Nobel Prize Laureate who grew up in Oxford, Mississippi—the first Mississippi native to win said prize. He’s famous for writing American literature but most notably Southern gothic literature. (Faulkner also won a couple of Pulitzers as well, but once you win a Nobel Prize everything else seems a tad less impressive.) One of his most famous works is the aforementioned As I Lay Dying and there’s a reason it’s noted as one of the best novels of the 20th century, that reason being it’s one of the best critiques of death and grief I’ve ever read.

Using the point of view of about fifteen different characters over fifty-nine chapters, As I Lay Dying starts off with Addie Bundren, a mother of five children (four of which were fathered by her husband, Anse Bundren), who is terminally ill and is in her final moments of life. Before she dies, however, she makes it known that she wants to be buried in her hometown of Jefferson, Mississippi. The main journey of the book is about Anse and the children taking Addie’s body to Jefferson for a proper burial. There are other events that happen in the book that I don’t want to spoil. It’s a fairly straightforward narrative (although it’s not always told linearly), but the plot is not where Faulkner really succeeds in this book. Where he does succeed is in just how differently each member of the family deals with the loss of their wife or mother.

As I Lay Dying was published in 1930 in a time where people were not supposed to grieve publicly after losing a loved one, as if crying at funerals were some kind of societal faux pas and  a death in the family was supposed to be taken in noble silence. Nobody was supposed to make a fuss over the dead and once they were buried you went back into the fields and started working again. In As I Lay Dying, however, we see a multitude of different reactions to grief. We see the characters deal with this loss in the only ways they know how to deal. Some of them are very dramatic and heartbroken while others grieve in stern silence.

An entire chapter of the book is only two pages long and it’s a list by Cash Bundren (the eldest son of the Bundren family) talking about how he made the coffin for his mother. That’s it. That’s the whole chapter. There’s nothing about how he feels about his mother’s death or what the journey to Jefferson is going to be like. Just how he made the coffin so that water would have a hard time getting into it. Which may sound like he’s being cold or indifferent on the surface but through Faulkner’s use of language you can really tell that losing his mother is eating him up inside but he has no idea on how to let it all out. Something that I’m sure people back then would relate to or sympathize with.

However, it’s not just the expansive viewpoints on death that make As I Lay Dying a seminal piece of literature for its time, but the use of language stands out as well. Faulkner tends to have a flatter tone but this isn’t a bad thing. In fact, this further exemplifies how good this book actually is. By creating a flatter, less eccentric, tone the reader can then project their own inner feeling onto that character. To use the characters in the book as a kind of conduit from the reader’s inner self to the reader’s surface. You know that what you’re reading isn’t real, that it’s all made up, but it’s still hard not to experience the emotions running through the characters at the time. Here’s an example:

“Vardaman comes back and picks up the fish. It slides out of his hands smearing wet dirt on to him and flops down, dirtying itself again. Gapped mouth, goggle-eyed, hiding into the dust like it was ashamed of being dead. Like it was in a hurry to get back hit again. Vardaman cusses it. He cusses it like a grown man standing a straddle of it. Anse don’t look around. Vardaman picks it up again.”

In this passage alone we can see Vardaman (the youngest of the Bundren family) letting out all his anger over the death of his mother on a fish he’s just caught.  That deep down, we as the reader know that he’s letting out all his grief. We even see that his father, Anse, can tell that this is what’s going on and he doesn’t try to stop Vardaman from cussing. Anse simply lets Vardaman express himself.

Death and grieving are universal experiences that all of us will deal with in one way or another during our short time on this mortal coil. Faulkner sees this universal truth and instead of trying to hide the pain and the reality of death with somber and quiet characters, he lets them be real people with real reactions. These are the things we can relate to on a personal level regardless of the time we actually occupy. People in the distant future may not recognize a horse-drawn carriage but they know that they’re going to deal with death the same way that the generation before them had to. It’s one of the reasons why I wish I read this book in high school.

When I was younger, I lost all four of my grandparents roughly around the same period of time. Between the ages of six and nine. At the time, death just became another factor of life for me. Death was simply another thing that occupied this world and nobody ever really taught me how to deal with that fact. (To be fair, I don’t think anyone tries to tell a kid how to deal with death before they need to.) The reason I wish I actually read this book in high school is that it would’ve taught me that grieving, even after years of the person’s passing, would have still been okay. That there is no normal way to miss or to grieve someone and that death affects different people in different ways. If you want to shout and cry, that’s totally acceptable. As is the simple act of building a coffin for the one you’ve lost. That’s okay too. You deal with loss in the way that helps you move past it.

The last thing that I want to say about this book is that As I Lay Dying can be a really useful tool for self-discovery.  That this book can act as a sort of inoculation to grief. That as a reader we can learn which way we’d react to a heavy loss like the Bundrens did without actually going through the hardship of a death in the family. When we do inevitably deal with loss we might actually know beforehand how we would handle it and then, if we’re really lucky, how to accept it and get back into our field somewhat whole.

There’s a lot to unpack from this book and there’s even more if you decide to read it a second time. It’s one of those stories that you kind of discover over and over again. I suggest reading it with a friend simply for the same reasons that you wouldn’t want to grieve alone. Life and healing are best done with people around you to share the load and this book is no different.

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Updates from Coffin Bell

We are still working through IMMORTALS submissions–look for issue 1.4 October 1st!

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Our unthemed issue 2.1, slated for January 1, 2019, is now closed. It’s a very packed issue full of work we’re excited to share. All general submissions from this point forward are being considered for the unthemed issue 2.3, which is scheduled for July 1, 2019.

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We are currently open to submissions for issue 2.2, themed MAGIC. Issue 2.2 is scheduled to go live on April 1, 2019.

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Coffin Bell is thrilled to announce that issue 2.4, themed SADISM, MASOCHISM, & THE EROTIC, will be guest edited by Dr. Barish Ali. More to come on the theme and on Barish, so stay tuned for updates! If you haven’t already, sign up for our newsletter to stay abreast of updates, announcements, calls for submissions, and more!

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Welcome new Designer to Masthead!

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Coffin Bell is thrilled to welcome Lindsey Turner to the masthead! Lindsey is an art director, writer, and photographer in Nashville. She lives with her husband, son, and dog. She still hasn’t figured out what she wants to be when she grows up, but she’s having fun anyway.

Lindsey is joining the masthead as our designer. She is the photographer behind the cover art for Issue 1.3 and Issue 2.2 (MAGIC). She is the author who penned the CNF piece, “The Handoff,” which appears in Issue 1.3. And she is doing the book design for our upcoming print anthology Coffin Bell: One.

Like her style? Many of her dark photographs are available for sale in her Etsy shop! Partial proceeds of sales of these prints go toward funding Coffin Bell‘s operations.

Look for more of her photography and design around the web site and in future issues. Lindsey blogs every now and again at theogeo.com and wastes more time than is wise on Twitter: @tindseylurner.

Welcome new Short Story Editors!

Tiana Coven

Tiana Coven is a Florida native with a Bachelor’s degree in Literature from The University of South Florida. While earning her degree, she sought out to study literature which revealed how race, gender, and sexuality collide in society. She enjoys writing both science and speculative fiction, among other genres, in her spare time and never leaves the house without a book in her bag.


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Stacia Rogan is an editor and writer living in Alexandria, Virginia. After leaving a career in technology, she studied editing and marketing at UC Berkeley and began pursuing more creative paths. Stacia’s short stories often involve unlikable characters and ambiguous endings that leave her readers feeling unsettled.

Coffin Bell is thrilled to have Tiana and Stacia on the masthead!