"Hellfire and Damnation" is a series of short stories (some based on true stories) organized around Dante's "Inferno" and the 9 circles of Hell. As William F. Nolan ("Logan's Run," "Nightworlds") put it, "Her frame for this collection is unique: stories built around Dante's 9 circles of hell, a unifying concept that is classically fresh. Many of these hellish tales are based on truth, amplified into fiction. Her 4 stories set along Route 66 from Missouri through California are all true ghost stories. The final statements of convicted prisoners on Death Row, as they await execution in Georgia, provide the dialogue for the story that takes us through the Gates of Hell, "Hotter than Hell." Scott Edelman ("Sci Fi Weekly") put it this way "Connie (Corcoran) Wilson puts her characters through Hell in 'Hellfire & Damnation,' and with her horrific stories, takes me along to places I did not want to go." Gary Braunbeck ("Coffin County," "Far Dark Fields") said, "Hellfire & Damnation" marks her not so much as a writer to watch, but ont to watch out for. Exploring the 9 levels of Dante's 'Inferno' via contemporary settings and sensibilities, and the sins punished therein, this collection veers from sinister noir ('Going Through Hell') to the bizarrely whimsical ('Amazing Andy, the Wonder Chicken') to the outright, no-holds-barred horrific. Never have the 9 Circles of Hell been so much fun. I had a blast following Wilson on her tour of the Inferno, and you will, as well." M.J. Turner of "Dark Scribe" magazine said, "A unique concept binds the tales in Connie Corcoran Wilson's short story collection "Hellfire & Damnation.' Unified by the theme of Dante's 'Inferno' and its 9 Circles of Hell, each story corresponds to the sin represented by the circle in which it appears and each takes readers deeper into the bowels of Hell...Subjects of many of the tales in the collection seem ripped straight from the headlines, and Wilson's cool and matter-of-fact style serves only to make the stories more disturbing."
"...Genuinely, blazingly original...It fulfills most every expectation one might have, being readable, entertaining, and deeply unsettling in a manner unique to itself." (Adam Groves, Fright.com)
"A terrifying collection guaranteed to keep you awake at night." (M.J. Turner, "Dark Scribe" magazine). --M.J. Turner, "Dark Scribe" magazine
"Fans of horror will find plenty here to chill them..." (Scott Edelman, "Sci Fi Weekly") --Scott Edelman, Editor, "Sci Fi Weekly"
"Never have the 9 Circles of Hell been so much fun. I had a blast following Wilson's tour of the Inferno; you will, as well." (Gary Braunbeck, "Coffin County") --Gary Braunbeck, author of "Coffin County" and "Far Dark Fields"
"Wilson's harrowing work will stay with you long after you finish the final page." (Lisa Mannetti, Bram Stoker Winner, 2010, "The Gentling Box") --Lisa Mannetti, ("The Gentling Box")
[This came to me via e-mail on Sept. 27th. I had forgotten sending a review copy of my short story collection "Hellfire & Damnation" to "The Tombkeeper" website. It was gratifying to read that J.L. Comeau (whom I do not know and have never met) has "featured" my book, now up at the website (www.countgore.com/gore/tomb.htm), so it was a treat to read the review below.]
One of my favorite small presses, Sam’s Dot, presents a truly original and thoroughly enjoyable short story collection by Connie (Corcoran) Wilson. In this, her third collection, Ms. Wilson takes the reader on a wicked tour of "Dante’s Inferno" by way of short stories written specifically to annotate the plunge through the nine circles of hell.
We are ushered through the gates with "Hotter than Hell," a grim tale of a remorseless killer on death row. The first circle of hell, Limbo, is inhabited by "Rachel and David," an affecting ghost story. On our way down, we encounter zombie hookers turning tricks in ancient Pompeii, suburban sinners, serial killers, one of the creepiest clowns (shudder) ever, strange cult members, a man whose greatest wish is to have his limbs amputated, a girl whose obsession with birds is truly disturbing, a screamer of a tale about a murderer’s problems with corpse disposal, a family curse, and more.
I enjoyed every story in this collection, but I absolutely adored "Amazing Andy, the Wonder Chicken," a bizarre and hilarious spin on a true account of a living headless chicken that brought fame and fortune to the family who originally planned to have it for dinner -- but didn’t.
I laughed like, well, hell.
The author’s writing style is perfectly suited to her subject matter; her clear and declarative prose drives home the weirdness and horror of these tales, some of which are based on actual events and folklore.
Celebrated author William F. Nolan (LOGAN’S RUN, NIGHTWORLDS) provides an astute and amusing introduction. For more about the author, visit her online resting place at http://www.conniecwilson.com, and to purchase this grand collection of horror stories, go to www.HellfireandDamnationtheBook.com, where you’ll find a killer video and a Pay Pal purchase link. [If you buy this collection via PayPal, the author will personally sign your copy, which has received recommendations for this year’s Bram Stoker for Best Short Story collection.]
(SOURCES: J.L. Comeau on "The Tombkeeper", www.countgore.com/gore/tomb.htm; www.HellfireandDamnationtheBook.com)
"Hellfire & Damnation" Short Story Collection Reviewed by the Tombkeeper
With two collections already under her belt, Connie Corcoran Wilson takes the short story in some fascinating new directions in "Hellfire and Damnation." Lean at just over a hundred pages, the book still manages an examination of each level of hell as described in Dante’s, Inferno, with each tale representing a sin appropriate to its section. It makes for a perfect framing device, and it’s a wonder it hasn’t been used in horror collections more often.
The first story, "Hotter than Hell," acts as the reader’s entry through the gates of the underworld itself. The tale revolves around an unrepentant murderer awaiting his execution. Alone, except for the letters sent to him by his soldier son from Kuwait, he witnesses the breakdown in his child’s idealism before finally coming to understand the reality of what punishments await him on the day of his death.
"Rachel and David," the sole occupant of Limbo, offers a well-written, if somewhat traditional ghost story, given greater strength by its folklore status. The next tale, "Love Never Dies," explores Lust in far more ambitious territory with a tale involving young girls being resurrected for use as prostitutes in Pompeii. "Amazing Andy, the Wonder Chicken," breaks up the serious tone of its predecessors with the story of a chicken that survives decapitation only to be exploited for money and lusted over by a farmer’s greedy mother-in-law. "Queen Bee" follows up on "Andy’s" darkly comic atmosphere in the next circle with a very short but amusing narrative of spite set in suburbia.
"Going Through Hell," fits in the circle occupied by the violent perfectly with the harrowing story of a female cop and would-be writer forced into an unspeakable position by a serial killer. The next tale, "Confessions of an Apotemnophile," runs into similarly graphic territory, and is made even more disturbing by the protagonist’s willing role in his own mutilation. It also boasts what may be the best ending in the book. The final story, "An American Girl," closes things with a killing orchestrated by a high school girl and its messy aftermath.
"Hellfire and Damnation" does a number of things right. The connections a number of tales have to reality and folklore offer a special creep factor that adds to the tension, while Wilson make sure there are enough of the stranger tales to keep the "based on a true story" vibe from becoming pervasive. Still, it is often the latter that showcases her best work, and one comes away wishing even more of this territory was explored.
"Hellfire and Damnation," (Sam’s Dot Publishing), by Connie Corcoran Wilson
I have to be upfront and say I was a little suspicious of this book. It appeared to have some great reviews on the back from the likes of William F. Nolan, Scott Eddleman and Gary Braunbeck (and if anyone knows good horror its Gary Braunbeck). These seemed slightly at odds with the homespun production values and I have to say the slightly garish cover. Was this a case of excessive hyperbole?
In Hellfire and Damnation Connie Corcoran Wilson takes us on a trip through the nine circles of hell by creating a series of stories (or in some cases a single story) to illustrate each. Many of the stories are also based on true life tales of crime and horror adding a little extra spice to the mix.
Standouts for me were
Hotter Than Hell – where we hear the tragic tale of Big Jim Bingham as he awaits his fate on death row. A series of tragic letters to his son reveal some deep and powerful truths behind both his and his sons actions. It’s typical of the book, having a King like sense of down home characterisation where real life just touches the boundaries of something darker.
Amazing Andy, The Wonder Chicken – This surreal, if not in fact completely bonkers, tale concerns a chicken who loses his head but goes on to become a star bringing all the pressures of fame down on his owners. At times humorous and at others stomach wrenching but always inventive and well written.
The Ghost Girl of Howard “Pappy” Litch Park – features strange goings on in the eponymous park when a father threatens a fellow visitor and things get out of hand. It bears all the tragic hallmarks of a real world tale but is told in an interesting and thoughtful voice.
We also get to meet ghost children (Rachel and David), the zombie prostitutes of Pompeii (Love Never Dies), serial killers (Going Through Hell) and fantastically creepy clown Pogo (Living In Hell).
A couple of weaker stories exist among the fifteen ( Queen Bee, Effie We Hardly Knew Ye!) but otherwise we are taken on a roller coaster trip with laughs (Hell to Pay features an amish mobile phone owner) and tears (On Eagle’s Wing’s a tragic tale of child abuse). Even the weaker stories are well enough written though and given the variety of styles at play here your personal favourites are likely to differ.
All in all a thoroughly enjoyable, well written anthology. Gary A. Braunbeck’s blurb on the back claims that, “never have the 9 circles of hell been so much fun”. As I said Mr Braunbeck knows his stuff, this is a journey into hell that will intrigue, disgust and excite you, often at the same time, excellent stuff. Just shows, don’t judge a book by its cover!
You can find out more here.
Rating 4 out of 5
Tales from the Black Abyss Review
In horror fiction, as in most any other sort, true originality is an increasingly rare commodity. But it does exist, as proven by Connie Wilson’s HELLFIRE AND DAMNATION, an anthology that is genuinely, blazingly original.
The collection is rigorously structured around the nine circles of Hell as laid out in Dante’s INFERNO, yet the contents couldn’t be more varied in subject matter. What unites them is the unerringly rational, straightforward prose, which is unlike anything else in horror fiction (usually typified by subjective "you-are-there" descriptions). Stylistically it’s not unlike Wilson’s previous book GHOSTLY TALES OF ROUTE 66, a journalistic compendium of American folklore that was likewise distinguished by its novelty. HELLFIRE AND DAMNATION, however, far outpaces the earlier volume in every respect.
"Hotter Than Hell," categorized under the Gates of Hell, starts things off. Inspired by the final words of real death row inmates, it’s a gritty and depressing account of prison life.
From there we move into the first circle of Hell, where Pagan souls reside. Illustrating this is "Rachel and David," set in Webster Groves, Missouri, and apparently based on folklore from that region. It’s about a young couple and their fateful meeting with two odd kids.
In Circle Two, Lust, we have three stories. The first, "Love Never Dies," is a strange little number set in ancient Rome and headlined by an undead prostitute! "Konerak" takes a real-life incident, of the man who almost escaped the clutches of the late Jeffrey Dahmer, and spins a wild tale of Oriental sorcery emerging from the Hmong of Laos, who fought for the United States against the Viet Cong (obviously this is the only place you’ll find Eastern mysticism, Jeffrey Dahmer and the Vietnam War combined). "Effie, We hardly Knew Ye!" is another folklore-based tale, this one of an Oklahoma City hotel haunted by the spirit of its founder’s wronged mistress.
Circle Three is Gluttony, as represented by "Amazing Andy, the Wonder Chicken." In this tale a chicken gets its head cut off and still lives--and I’ll leave you to discover the rest of it on your own.
From there it’s on to the circle of Hoarders and Wasters, with "The Lemp Mansion Curse," a jaunty account of a family curse, and "Queen Bee," about an all-too appropriate revenge taken on a woman whose personality and social standing are accurately encompassed by the title.
Circle Five is the Wrathful. It contains "The Ghost Girl of Howard "Pappy" Litch Park," set along the author’s favorite highway, Route 66. Here, in what may or may not be a fact-based tale, a father’s wrath causes his young daughter to be whisked away... but glimpses of the girl can of course still be seen in the area.
Heretics populate the Sixth Circle, containing the quietly unnerving "Hell to Pay." It combines a look into Amish life with an intriguing speculation on the origins of schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis. Also in the Heretics circle is "On Eagles’ Wings," concerning a weird cultist, a young girl and an unhealthy obsession with birds.
Circle Number Seven is reserved for The Violent. It begins with "Going Through Hell," about a serial killer and his woman police officer victim, and continues with "Living in Hell," about a young boy who visualizes a serial killer’s crimes in nightmares. This tale is particularly shivery: the concept isn’t terribly original, but the nasty subject matter and clinical prose make for a skin-crawling read.
Circle Eight consists of The Fraudulent, represented by "Confessions of an Apotemnophile." That word refers to an person desiring to amputate his own limbs, in this case a man who’s harbored an all-consuming desire to lose his legs ever since conversing with a like-minded individual as a child.
Circle Nine is the final circle, featuring "An American Girl," the collection’s creepiest story. Its subject is the factual murder of a teenage girl in snowy Illinois, with the bulk of the tale taken up with a methodical depiction of the pubescent killers’ attempts at disposing of the corpse.
You won’t find another collection like this one. Some readers, I’m sure, will be put off by its oddness, yet it fulfills most every expectation one might have for a horror anthology, being readable, entertaining and deeply unsettling in a manner unique to itself.
Fight.com Review of Hellfire and Damnation
“Connie Corcoran Wilson’s impressive collection Hellfire and Damnation is a series of remarkable tales (some based on true stories) organized around a brilliant and unifying theme that echoes Dante’s Inferno: the progressively painful downward spiral to the nethermost regions of hell. In these riveting stories you’ll meet ghosts, child-psychics, men obsessed with amputation, serial killers, and teenage murderers. These are vivid, disturbing accounts of the many opportunities evil uses to claw its way into our world and settle into our daylight psyches—and our nightmares. Wilson’s harrowing work will stay with you long after you finish the final page.”
(Lisa Mannetti, Bram Stoker Winner for Best New Novel of 2008, The Gentling Box)
“Let me start right off by saying that Connie Wilson presents what I call ‘matter-of-fact’ horror. She writes solid, declarative sentences rife with dark undertones. No fancy description for Connie. No sentimental musings. No soft emotionalism. Just hard-edged documentary-style storytelling. Jolting objective sentences made all the more disturbing by their cool directness. Frankly---and I consider myself well read in the shock genre---I have never encountered a style such as she displays here in story after story. Connie Wilson’s dark talent is unique, and readers will stagger away from her icy tales, stunned and groggy.
Her frame for this collection is also unique: stories built around Dante’s nine circles of hell. A unifying concept that is classically fresh.
Many of these hellish tales are based on truth, amplified into fiction. Her four stories set along Route 66 from Missouri through California are all true ghost stories. The final statements of convicted prisoners on Death Row as they await execution provide their actual words in ‘Hotter than Hell.’
Connie’s settings and backgrounds are beautifully variant: ancient Pompeii with zombie prostitutes; the Hmong people during the Vietnamese Secret War in Laos; the Amish community in Iowa. And the author explores her own hometown area of the Quad Cities of Iowa/Illinois in the brutally shocking ‘An American Girl,’ which is factually based on the gruesome murder of a luckless teenager.
Once you’ve read this remarkably fresh collection, you’ll emerge with some twisted new thoughts about clowns, bats, birds, serial killers, zombies, sadistic dentists and headless chickens. And what about the good folks in ‘Confessions of an Apotemnophile,’ who yearn to have their legs amputated?
Believe me, Dear Reader, you’ve never encountered anything like Hellfire & Damnation.
I have a final word for it…WOW!”
(William F. Nolan. Logan’s Run, Nightworlds.)
“Connie (Corcoran) Wilson puts her characters through Hell in Hellfire & Damnation, and with her horrific stories, takes me along to places I did not want to go. As I read them, I found myself wanting to cover my eyes from the carnage, yet, at the same time, I couldn’t resist reading on. Zombie fans, in particular, will enjoy her unique take on undead romance in ‘Love Never Dies.’ But fans of other brands of horror will find plenty here to chill them as well.”
(Scott Eddleman. Editor, “Sci Fi Weekly.” Bram Stoker Finalist.)
“Connie (Corcoran) Wilson’s debut collection of short stories, Hellfire & Damnation, marks her not so much as a writer to watch, but one to watch out for. Exploring the 9 levels of Dante’s Inferno via contemporary settings and sensibilities---and the sins punished therein---this collection veers from sinister noir (‘Going Through Hell’) to the bizarrely whimsical (‘Amazing Andy, the Wonder Chicken’) to the outright, no-holds-barred horrific. Never have the 9 Circles of Hell been so much fun. I had a blast following Wilson on her tour of the inferno, and you will, as well.”
(Gary Braunbeck. 5-time Bram Stoker winner. Author of Coffin County and Far Dark Fields.)
A unique concept binds the tales in Connie Corcoran Wilson’s debut short story collection, Hellfire & Damnation. Unified by the theme of Dante’s Inferno and its Nine Circles of Hell, each story corresponds to the sin represented by the circle in which it appears and each takes readers deeper into the bowels of Hell.
‘The Gates of Hell’ swing open with the actual words of condemned prisoners awaiting execution on Death Row in Wilson’s ‘Hotter than Hell.’ The journey then continues down through each ever-darkening level to the icy core of Hades itself.
In Circle One: Limbo, where the souls of children who die in original sin are said to reside, we find ‘Rachael & David’ in an unforgettably haunting story of two youngsters from the Edgewood Children’s Center for emotionally disturbed children.
Other outstanding stories include ‘Love Never Dies,’ a completely fresh and original take on the zombie theme and one of the best the book has to offer. ‘Hell to Pay’ concerns the lengths an Amish father goes to for his daughter and ‘On Eagles’ Wings’ is the story of a ten-year-old girl abducted by a cult leader and indoctrinated into a bizarre religion. ‘Going through Hell’ involves a serial killer who operates beneath a roller-skating rink and the final desperate actions of his latest victim. The final story, ‘An American Girl’ is the cold blooded and horrifying account of a true teen murder in Moline, Illinois.
Subjects of many of the tales in the collection seemed ripped straight from the headlines, and Wilson’s cool and matter-of-fact style serve only to make the stories more disturbing.
Connie Corcoran Wilson has published seven books, including three books of ‘true’ ghost stories (Ghostly Tales of Route 66, Vols. I, II, and III, Quixote Press). Three of the stories, among them the chilling ‘Rachael & David,’ were taken from accounts related to the author by residents along Route 66 that appeared in the stories in Ghostly Tales ofRoute 66 (Vol. I). However, three-fourths of the stories in this collection are brand new.
With an Introduction by William F. Nolan ( Logan’s Run, Nightworlds) and fifteen potent and nightmarish tales, Hellfire & Damnation is a terrifying collection, guaranteed to keep you awake at night.
More information is available on the author’s website, www.ConnieCWilson.com, on her own website www.weeklywilson.com, and on the upcoming www.HellfireandDamnationthebook.com website. Other websites for Connie’s previous books include that for the Lachesis novel Out of Time (www.outoftimethenovel.com) and for her trilogy of Route 66 ghost stories, the third volume of which is due out in 2010. (www.GhostlyTalesofRoute66.com).
“Dark Scribe” magazine reviewer M.J. Turner, Feb., 2010