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Don't You Know There Ain't No Devil?

matthew rolston photo

The great songwriter Tom Waits once said, "Don't you know there ain't no devil? That's just God when he's drunk."

I think it's a duality of "the devil" that fascinates us all. Which is part of the reason I named my newest book CITY OF DEVILS... pretty much the perfect title for horror and dark comedy, set in L.A.

The reviews are starting to come in, and they're good (whew!)... so, I thought I'd share them here:

Killer Queens

Staci Layne Wilson occupies a unique niche in horror fiction. She was born into celebrity but didn’t take long to blaze her own trail to success in Hollywood as a writer, filmmaker and interviewer. I can’t think of another writer in the genre with her background and experience. She is also a woman, of course, a gender woefully underrepresented in horror. If you are naive enough to believe that women can’t deliver the goods when it comes to scaring the daylights out of you, I invite you to read Staci’s magnificent new anthology, “City of Devils: 13 Tales of the Uncanny, Unlucky & Unholy.”

The first tale, “He Was Asking For It,” gets its hooks in you immediately, and is one of the very few times that the phrase “ripped from the headlines” will make you enjoy the story even more. Staci is to be applauded for that reason alone, but she also imbues the yarn with enough power that it will still resonate years from now. Yes, this riff on the #MeToo movement is a topical story for the second decade of the 21st century, but its underlying theme is (sadly) timeless. And no man, not even the master, Stephen King, could write this story better than Staci. She knows what makes these characters tick, and they are all the more real as a result.

Lest you think every story in “City of Devils” portrays women as saintly victims of scummy men, read on to the next tale, “Based on a True Story,” where a Hollywood actress goes to obscene lengths to research a career-defining role. The plot is so believable that one is left wondering if something similar hasn’t already happened in Tinseltown.

I’ve only mentioned the first two stories so far. There’s 11 more just as good as these. All of these mini-epics take place in or around Hollywood, but as you already guessed, it’s not all glitz and glamour. “The Case of the Butchered Bombshell” is a detective story that takes place in the gritty 1970s. Maybe I’m biased because the 70s was my favorite era in horror fiction and cinema, so I loved it. However, I would wager many horror fans share my opinion and will cherish this too. “Tasty Waves” is a nautical tale that will give you goosebumps, even underwater. The ending is deliciously disgusting and based on a (hopefully!) exaggerated real life denizen of the deep. And not to bring up Stephen King again, but in “Ankle Biters,” Staci proves that he isn’t the only writer who can create a memorable – and frightening – dog.

Sexy and scary, these stories could only be written by Staci. She is both a master of horror and a Hollywood insider and completely unlike any other writer you’ve ever read.

– Guest Review by Jason Bodak

Banshee Irish Horror Blog

City of Devils is deliciously dark fun!

* Starred / Best Read

This devilish book is perfect to read by the pool this Summer or in your garden imagining that you’re in LA.

My Thoughts on the Book

City of Devils is weird, twisty and funny, I loved it! Each story is scary and a tiny bit crazy in its’ own way.

The imagery of the setting of Los Angeles is just how I imagine it, I could see it as clearly as watching a movie. The descriptions made me feel like I was in LA and Hollywood.

City of Devils is a collection of well-written, weird and humorous horror. It contains a concoction of stories filled with egocentric characters who all experience their own horrendous adventure.

My favourite is ‘Abracadaver’ – An invite to a haunted mansion on Halloween night is something I’ve always dreamed of! The tale twists and turns for the host of invited guests.

‘He Was Asking for It’, scarily reminiscent of real Hollywood stories with a most satisfying ending. ‘Ankle Biters’ was clever and hilarious, while ‘Based on a True Story’ was chilling and gory.

‘Tasty Waves’ is a surreal and beautiful, oceanic story while also being horrific. ‘Depraved Indifference’ was disturbing, one that made me think. ‘My Mother the Carcass’ features trickster Carlson, a supposed psychic who sees more than he expected. Those are only a few of the excellent stories in the collection, each one is unique and impactful.

To conclude, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this great collection!

-- The Corpse Bride

Red River Horror

When I was offered the opportunity to review Staci’s latest literary offering City of Devils, I think I said, “YES!” before the question was fully formed. I’ve been a fan of Ms. Wilson’s work since “Ghost Writer” (wowsers, has it really been 14 years since it came out?), and she has continued to amaze and astound me with each new publication.

It was hard to pick favorites out of all the wonderful offerings, but I decided for the purpose of this review to just focus on a trio of tremendous tidbits out of the thirteen.

Depraved Indifference

It’s my favorite because from the very first sentence I was hooked. The conversational tone immediately drew me in, then as more details were revealed, my brain started going crazy, imagining all sorts of reasons behind this clandestine clubhouse. I was torn between the urge to read it as fast as possible to see how it all fell out, but wanting to savor it slowly, enjoying all the little nuances along the way. I compromised by tearing through the first read, then taking my time through a second.

It’s also my least favorite because when I got to the end (both times), while it was completely satisfying as far as story resolution goes, I was wicked disappointed – I wanted more!

My next favorite is –

Tasty Waves

Imagine the Brothers Grimm got together with Stephen King and had a literary baby. This spooky seaside tale has an awesome old school fairy tale vibe, combined with a healthy toke of modern horror.

Rounding out the trio is –

The Case of the Butchered Bombshell

This hardboiled, neo-noir-ish tale is a gorgeous bit of a classic hard talking detective, but instead of a femme fatale, we are given a medium Mellie. Set at some point in the 70s, it’s a wonderful, atmospheric bit of murder mystery with a healthy dollop of horror.

All thirteen tales share that uniquely Hollywood hometown atmosphere that Staci imbues with such skill. From the character of Howard Wexler (who reveals himself to be the fictional twin of a real life scumbag), to Alice (representing the bazillion of young girls who move to Hollywood to be discovered), there is that common Hollywood insider thread that weaves them all together.

If you like your horror smart, sexy, and savage, this is definitely the anthology for you!

-- Traci York

#bookreviews #killerqueens #cityofdevils #tomwaits

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