Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Publishing Update: Reviews of THE MISSION

Cover design by Ives Hovanessian

Upon abandoning a long, mediocre stretch as a screenwriter and officially entering the ring of dark fiction in 2010, I've had many stories published in various anthologies, publications and other mediums.  But it wasn't until 2014 that the very first stand-alone book of my work came out with The Mission, which was released as a limited edition chapbook by Dunhams Manor Press/Dynatox Ministries, founded and run by the gifted writer and publisher Jordan Krall, one of the hardest working fellows in indie press.

The book shipped throughout August and September, and the feedback so far has been wonderfully positive.  The Arkham Digest published a review in early October, while Daring Defenders put up a piece on The Mission several weeks back.  Recently, several authors I admire, respect, and count as inspirations in the Speculative Fiction omniverse have chimed in with their thoughts on The Mission, including Laird Barron, Nathan Ballingrud, and Jeffrey Thomas - three greats spinning their craft at the very top of the field.  I'm so very appreciative for all of these reviews and blurbs, and although they cannot lift sales with the book being out-of-print, it is still a lovely thing to know that your work connected with a reader.

As The Mission is not listed on Amazon or Goodreads or any of the usual review sites, I've decided to wrangle reviews into one electronic corral, for personal posterity if nothing else.  This will be - and has been - updated as necessary:

Award-winning author of the Weird, the Noir, and the cosmically horrific Laird Barron wrote:
"The Mission--an unholy union of Cormac McCarthy's annihilating moral vistas and filmmaker JT Petty's dark vision of the West."

Shirley Jackson Award-winning dark fiction author Nathan Ballingrud wrote:
"'Goddamn a thief that salutes you first.' 
THE MISSION, by Ted E. Grau, reads like a classic weird tale. It has echoes of Howard, Lovecraft, and even a hint of Clark Ashton Smith's 'Tsathoggua,' but written with greater worldliness and sharper, cleaner prose. A band of unlikely soldiers set off to track down two Lakota warriors in Nebraska, and stumble across something fantastically strange and terrifying. Creepy, bizarre, and fast-paced, this novella satisfied on all fronts.
'Ebke snorted. He had no dog in this fight. Didn't care for a damn thing in the whole wide world, including his own hide. The kind of man who was just born hollow, who just went where he was supposed to. Didn't matter, though. When the chips were down and the dander up, it was always light against dark. To hell with this New World.'
'Farm boys ain't exactly expert trackers. Good to have at your side in a saloon dust up, as those coffee can fists always found purchase, but rosy-cheeked plowboys weren't born bloodhounds like those with a more suspicious nature.' 
Coffee-can fists. I love that. This is the first in what will be a series of stories about Salt Creek, according to the back-cover copy of this sadly out-of-print novella. I'm on board for the full ride."

Acclaimed Horror, Lovecraftian, and Weird Fiction author Jeffrey Thomas wrote:
"Last night I finished THE MISSION. I can’t express how much I enjoyed it – it’s a knockout. Just one of the most engrossing, riveting, creepiest stories I've read in a long time. Truly, this is the most muscular, gritty, thrilling approach to horror I've experienced since I read Laird’s latest collection (and I include the entire contents of CHILDREN OF OLD LEECH in that assessment...). I was out there WITH those guys, in that hard landscape… experiencing one mind-boggling mystery after another. 
Grau packed an incredible amount of strange revelations and dangerous encounters into one novella, without it ever feeling crowded or overdone. He just pulled that Wild Bunch of cowboys in deeper and deeper, took them further and further, and me as a reader along with them. I hope to see a return to this location and these thoroughly intriguing mysteries in future work, as the back cover hints. 
So very impressed. He just consistently impresses…but this one is especially noteworthy. I don’t know if it quite tops THE SCREAMER, which I have a special fondness for and consider a modern masterpiece, but I’d say it’s pretty damn close. 
Again, I’m proud to possess #1 of this chapbook, which somewhere in the near future could become quite the collector’s item!"

Rodney Turner of Daring Defenders said:
"I recently acquired The Mission, a weird western by T. E. Grau published by Dunhams Manor Press. I’m sad that it was a limited run because this is a fucking excellent little book. If you didn't get your hands on it, light a candle and mourn your loss.
OK, that is quite enough mourning. Let’s get to it! 
The Mission is the tale of a rag-tag group of soldiers on the trail of a pair of Native-American fugitives. A chance encounter in a town that shouldn't exist sets in motion a chain of events that shatters the sanity of our protagonists. 
This not the West of 1950’s cinema with its bright blue skies and crimson mesas. From the first paragraph, Grau drags the reader into an ugly world. A world in which humanity’s self-inflicted horrors walk hand in hand with the ancient secrets lurking in the frontier. 
Grau’s pacing is frenetic, evoking the sense of urgency felt by the narrator and his companions. Like any good story, The Mission made me feel less like a reader and more like a powerless observer carried along inside the narrator’s head. It is not until the characters arrive at the titular mission that we really catch our breath. Grau gives us a brief moment of wonder and discovery, but it is a moment colored by the fact that the light at the end of the tunnel is just the reflection of the Reaper’s scythe. 
I’m going to give this one a 5 of 5."

Reviewer and editor and all-around voracious Horrorhound Justin Steele of The Arkham Digest wrote:
"I've always been partial to the Weird Western... T.E. Grau’s The Mission serves as prime example of what can be done when these two genres collide. The novella starts off with a typical Western plot; a group of Army men are on the hunt for a couple of Native Americans. Grau shows what can be accomplished when combining the West with the horrors of Lovecraft, as the men make some strange discoveries. 
The tension of the group is already thick when the novel begins, with some members clashing over racial differences and just skimming the boiling point. Once the stage is set, the already palpable tension ratchets into overdrive for the remainder of the novella. As the group is beset by strange occurrences, such as finding an out of place town where a town shouldn't be, the Captain does his best to stay cool and keep his group from tearing each other apart. 
Some of The Mission brought to mind The Men From Porlock or Blackwood’s Baby by Laird Barron. All three stories are period pieces featuring groups of tough guys coming face to face with horrors beyond their comprehension. Grau nails the rough tone required to portray these types of characters, making for a story that has already moved high up on my list of favorite Weird Westerns."

Bizarro author David Anderson wrote:
"A few months back, in the thick of summer, I was given a copy of T.E. Grau’s THE MISSION and happily accepted it. Limited to 50 hard copies (I got a digital review copy) I was excited to be able to dig into this tasty gem from Dynatox Ministries’ Dunhams Manor Press...
Grau, who’s work I've read before, not only continues to amaze me with this story but sets a new precedent. The ending is terrifying, and stuck with me for long after the story. I can look back on that feeling of hopelessness and cosmic doom and smile because it was invoked so well. Anchored by a really well done Western Story motif, THE MISSION has a cast of characters that immediately launched off the page and held my interest throughout. The pace is amazing, and given the smaller format here we are just HANDED the goods right away and they keep coming. Fans of Lovecraftian fiction will love, love, LOVE this, as it invokes the dread of the Mythos in a very classic way. There have been a lot of experimental Lovecraftian releases like Jordan Krall’s NIGHTMARES OF A LOVECRAFTIAN MIND that explore different ways to tackle the Mythos, but here Grau delivers what fans of classic Lovecraftian Fiction crave most – cosmic monsters! And scary stuff! There’s still enough to tickle your cranium, mysteries to explore, but we still get some hair raising chills. 
THE MISSION is a valuable edition to your collection."

Editor David Binks wrote:
"I highly recommend it.  Well written, good pace and it seemed to have a hint of Clive Barker which is always a good thing.  Everville comes to mind.  The characters were believable and flawed like most of us.  Grau takes the reader into the flat lands of Western Nebraska, a part of the world he knows and describes very well,  building up the suspense as he adds more ingredients to the mix. And if that weren't enough, we realize that we are reading a Lovecraftian work. My only hope is that this becomes a full length novel one day."

While The Mission is no longer available as a chapbook, it will be included in my debut collection of short fiction, which should be completed quite soon.  More updates as they are made available.