V.M.Zito guest blog and The Return Man reviewed.

Out now from Hodder

I have just closed this book and, if truth be told and I didn’t have another book to read by Tuesday, I would happily open it straight away and read it all over again.

Forget 28 Weeks or 28 Days Later – The Return Man is the most immediate, action packed tale of hunting and avoiding the undead that I have ever read.  If you love the movies of George Romero, The Walking Dead comic books and tv show, then you are in for a real treat here….

The author has somethings to say about the books that have scarred him a little way down this post, but first here’s a little more about his own explosive entry to the genre:

THE OUTBREAK TORE THE USA IN TWO.

THE EAST REMAINS A SAFE HAVEN.

THE WEST HAS BECOME A RAVAGED WILDERNESS.

THEY CALL IT THE EVACUATED STATES.

Before the outbreak, Henry Marco was a doctor, doing his utmost to save lives. Now his job is to end them.

The outbreak of the Resurrection has torn America in two. In the West, the evacuated States are a bleak wilderness – not a single living soul, except for Marco. But in the East, the Safe States are a different matter, crammed with 50 million refugees, not enough food and jobs to go around. Half the population relies on welfare and government assistance to survive.

In the days immediately following the outbreak, Marco remained hidden in his home, avoiding the search and rescue teams, despondent that his infected wife Danielle had disappeared in the chaos. Now, the Evacuated States are under quarantine, and Marco faces the grim prospect of a permanent life out in this wasteland, left alone to fight for survival against the infected.

But he has found a purpose – hired by grieving relatives in the Safe States to seek out their infected loved ones and deliver peace. Marco is good at his job. And yet . . . he cannot find the one person he wants to find the most. Danielle.

Now, the Safe States Homeland Security has a new job for Marco. His mission: Travel to Sarsgard Medical Prison in California, and track down a mysterious doctor named Roger Ballard.  To succeed and survive, Marco must return to where the outbreak started, where the secret of its conception is hidden . . .

In the acknowledgements at the end of the novel, Zito gives a nod to the great Richard Matheson ‘who led the way’ and it’s clear that ‘I Am Legend’ and a great number of other great genre books and movies have influenced his writing, whilst also managing to provide the reader with a fresh and exciting read.

Set in 2018, the story has a terrifying premise that, despite its essentially ‘undead’ formula, still manages to seem completely plausible as we read every day in the press about almost Frankenstein-like medical practices and advances. I was pleased to read in the press release that The Return Man has been optioned for Film Rights by The Ink Factory – in the right hands this could make for a cracking full-on horror action movie.

I enjoyed the pacing, the characters and the whole central idea that Marco is essentially just a contractor, hired to take headshots at the ‘resurrected’ to release them and kill them for their loved ones, sending trinkets back as proof of closure for those in mourning of the not-quite-dead.

And, before you all rush off to order your copies, here’s the author with some of his favourite reads (which I will also now be checking out – if they influenced this great new book, they can be no bad thing ….although I think they’ll be full of bad things ……).

V. M. ZITO  – Guest Blog Post

6 STORIES THAT SCARRED ME . . .

Some horror stories don’t just scare you; they scar you. You read them, let them into your head, and they wreck up the place; with sharp claws they scratch awful images into your cerebral cortex, like primitive drawings in some dark, ghastly cave. Sure, you might put the book away, and years of forgetful bliss might pass — but then one day, somehow, something reminds you, and instantly you’re right back in that cave, shivering madly, scared all over again.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved short horror fiction. And I’ve got the scars to show it. Wanna see? Go ahead, open me up, peer into the fear center of my brain. Notice all those slashes and slice marks? I’ll tell you exactly how they got there. People often ask me, ‘What’s your favorite horror story?’ I never know how to answer that question fairly, because there are just too many that I love — but I can easily name the stories that have disfigured me.

So here they are, 6 tales in chronological order of injury:

1. Sweets to the Sweet by Robert Bloch. When I was ten, I found a book of horror stories in my parent’s basement, and I made the error of reading this one down there alone. For months afterward, I’d break into a cold sweat at bedtime, dreading another night with the horrible, horrible, horrible image conjured by Bloch’s last sentence leering at me in the darkness.

2. The Lonesome Place by August Derleth. Another scar on my vulnerable ten-year-old psyche. Remember that one old-looking house in your neighborhood that always creeped you out as a kid? This story confirms everything you ever feared.

3. The October Game by Ray Bradbury. Take note, writers. This piece is the absolute perfect example of where to end your story for maximum impact. If Bradbury had gone just a single sentence further, it wouldn’t have cut the same way it does now. In fact, thanks to Bradbury’s mastery, the wounds in my mind are all self-inflicted.

4. Extenuating Circumstances by Joyce Carol Oates. Holy shit, this story is the most upsetting on the list. I can’t even think about it without getting chills. In fact, my eyes just watered as I typed the title. If you haven’t read it, please, please do so. Right now. I’ll wait.

5. The Summer People by Shirley Jackson. This actually might be my favorite horror story (yes, favorite). The horror I like best is shapeless, undefined; we fear what we don’t understand, and nobody owes us an explanation. In this story, I’m caught waiting for something terrible to happen, and I’m not even sure what. As an adult, I often have this same feeling…

6. The Inner Room by Robert Aickman. And here he is, Aickman, the master of unexplained horror in which the monster hides just beyond our perception, ready to grab us. Do I really understand this story? No. Can I tell you exactly what happens in it? Not quite. Did I feel unsettled, disturbed, somehow altered forever when I’d finished reading it? Hell yes.

So there you have it. My horror scars. Six pale lashes on my soul, defining me today as a reader and as a horror writer, too. Now I’d like to know… What are your scars?

V. M. Zito

A big thanks to Victor for dropping by with his own recommendations.

Be sure to check out his book, his website www.thereturnman.com and follow @hodderscape on twitter for the latest on this and other great horror fantasy reads.

Keith

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