Wednesday, April 30, 2014


Lucy Taylor is my Woman In Horror today! Lucy is certainly one of the foremost horror authors around, having won the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel from the Horror Writers Association. The Safety Of Unknown Cities is the novel and it is superb. I probably went a bit over-board with the description and reviews I have below for this great novel, but let's face facts: not everyone wins the Bram Stoker, and, if truth be known, I find it very refreshing that an author lays it all out on the table, exposing every taboo supposedly destined to send one to a life of eternal Hell, but, instead, gives us an enormous glimpse into a world of  horror and sexuality that perchance exits more than most of us realize.

Lucy has the talent and the gumption to let the naysayers be drowned out by the power of her written word. She is a master at the craft and a consummate story teller who will not be denied her place, her status, or the respect from her fans who appreciate what a truly awesome author is capable of writing.

When I read, I like to be taken to a place where I ultimately adapt to the conditions. My preference is for an environment where the Dark rules, for the Dark is the truth. Lucy writes about the truth, and though it might be unsettling to some, it is still the truth. Read her tales and immerse yourselves in a world unlike any you have ever seen. Yet, maybe . . . maybe you are not so removed from it.

Book Description

June 18, 2011
[284 Pages in Printed Book]
Winner of the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel from the Horror Writers Association!
Exclusive Introduction for The Overlook Connection Press edition by Lucy Taylor.
"Lucy Taylor's The Safety of Unknown Cities is one of the most impressive debut novels centered around relationship-driven fiction catalyzed by horrific events mostly realistic, sometimes supernatural. The Safety of Unknown Cities is very much a supernatural horror novel. Indeed its sexual, its graphically written, but its also an affecting and powerful novel about heartbreak and the untimely destruction of childhood. If reading the book strikes familiar chords, the resonances might be with either Clive Barker for an unflinching approach to highly charged subject matter, or with Poppy Z. Brite for sheer adventurous novel of a quality that absolutely demands an audience." -- Edward Bryant, Locus Magazine

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Winner of the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel from the Horror Writers Association! Exclusive Introduction for The Overlook Connection Press edition by Lucy Taylor Original Cover illustration by renowned artist Neal McPheeters

From the Author

Despite the often graphic sex in Cities, the book is also about the desperate human need for connection. Val, of course tries to achieve it by "changing partners with the same frequency that she changed countries." In a less forthright way, Breen suffers from a similar pattern. As a young boy burglarizing houses, he realized that he could, in a sense, become intimate with those he stole from by going through their personal items, their letters, diaries, whatever. Then later, he made the jump to a darker form of intimacy-the perusal of the contents of their bodies. -From the OCP Introduction to Safety of Unknown Cities by Lucy Taylor

About the Author

Lucy Taylor is the award-winning author of several novels and short story collections including: Spree, Close To The Bone, The Flesh Artist, Dancing With Demons and Unnatural Acts

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

The Safety of Unknown Cities Prologue At dinner that night she had stolen a spoon. She had sinned. Had taken something that belonged to the Keepers. The Keepers were always watching, peeking, sneaking looks at her and at the others who were confined here. Behind their sleek, syrupy smiles lay lies and cruelty. That was the least of it. Inside their eyes, she'd realized recently, was concealed a second, vestigial pair of orbs, tiny and dark like beebee shot, like the round, rotating eyes at the end of an insect's antennae stalks. These were the eyes that really saw, that watched her fretting in her sleep, pursued by abominable dreams, that saw her squat on the commode to defecate, that fixed avid attention when her hand went underneath the dressing gown and probed and pinched herself to painful orgasm. How had they missed her taking of the spoon, these omnipotent white-clad Keepers? Unless they wanted her to have it. Unless they knew something ! she did not. What she had really wanted was a knife, but that would have been impossible. They weren't even allowed knives at the dinner table, but cut their meat-their meatloaf tasteless as ground cardboard, their hamburger patties topped with the little square slices of cheap American cheese-with the sides of their forks. Like school children or barbarians. (Which amounted to the same thing, didn't it, she thought, grateful that her years of incarceration had not robbed her entirely of wit.) Seconds before she'd swiped it, the spoon had been inside her mouth, depositing a gelid lump of vanilla pudding on her tongue. Then it had slipped between her fingers and fallen to the floor and she, quite unaware of the miracle being offered her, had bent to retrieve it. And almost set it back upon the plate, until she realized what might be hers and what might be achieved if only she could keep these six inches of curved metal for herself. She was wearing a long-sleeved cardig! an that night and, as always, her watch, although it had stopped ticking over a year ago. No one seemed to care about time here anyway-the stark white walls were gleamingly devoid of calendars and clocks, of anything that might have pulled her from this purgatorial limbo into the stream of linear time with its schedules, its reassuring forward motion. No, that was something else denied them here-the sensation of time's normal flow, of the passing years and seasons of their lives. There was just one season here-and that was Hell. She'd slid the spoon up her sleeve, securing the end beneath the wristband of her watch, and pulling the loose-fitting sweater sleeve down to cover her wrist. And finished eating the pudding with her fork, as though such a thing were normal. As if anything were normal here. Thank you Jesus. The Keepers with their second sets of eyes hadn't even noticed that one minute she was spooning up the pudding, the next minute jabbing at it with! a fork. How was this possible? Unless they wanted her to have the spoon? Had, in fact, arranged for her to get it? Unless they were secretly in league with her? She didn't care. It was the Keepers, she felt sure, who sent the dreams that had been plaguing her for months now. Dreams of such unimaginable vileness, such stomach-turning carnality in a place beyond all salvation, a place she couldn't name or identify, that if she weren't already mad from all the years spent here, she would be soon enough. The visions of perversion and debauchery haunted her sleep and intruded on her waking. She could close her eyes, but this didn't stop the images. She knew that must be because the pictures were inside her eyes, projected there by the sadistic Keepers. Except she had them now. She had the spoon. Oh, thank you Jesus. Thank you. The spoon. That night, behind the locked door of her room, she crouched beside the bed and tried to say her prayers-impossible! Demon i! mages capered inside her eyes, a landscape of perversion unfurled in its unholy splendor. She reached to touch herself and touched, instead, (thank God) the object of her deliverance. Thank you, Jesus. The Keepers must be watching, enjoying this, delighting in her torment. She didn't care. She'd show them. She raised the spoon in both hands and snicked the cold tip underneath the lower lid of one eye. And thought about another lifetime, one of privilege and comfort, when often as not, breakfast was begun with coring out the sections of a grapefruit. Coring out the meaty pulp from its neat triangle, popping the dripping fruit into her mouth to suck the tangy juice. (Oh God, oh God, oh God, ohGodohgodohgodohgod...) Blood filled her head. Adrenalin lanced through her like electric shock. Something warm and oyster-like slimed wetly against her cheek. Now the other one, the other... Again, the sickening struggle with her stubborn flesh. Then it was ! done. She collapsed in pooling blood and holy darkness. "Thank you, Jesus! Thank you!" She screamed it aloud, at the top of her lungs, not caring now who heard. "Thank you, Jesus!" Until the visions started up again in the black of her gutted eye sockets. Then all she did was scream.
5.0 out of 5 stars An "X- rated" can of whup ass for your brain. May 14, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Every so often, you have to step into the abyss and hope that the bungee cord of your belief system -- whether "spirituality," "morality" or "compassion" -- will keep you from breaking your neck.

Reading Lucy Taylor is a step into the abyss, where most of us don't let our minds wander. Most of us don't encounter the highly sexed protagonists she chooses to portray. Most of us, when we think of these people at all, keep them filed somewhere in the back of our mind as something less than human. We call them sluts. We call them promiscuous. We call them poor misguided creatures who are going to burn everlastingly. We call them any number of hateful, hurtful, condescending and childish things - but we never stop and think of them as people. We never consider their humanity.

I think that's one of the things a great story should do, force us to examine aspects of society we might not otherwise consider or at least take people we think of as somehow inferior and make us reconsider them. Of course, no one wants to be preached at. We just want to be entertained, but if you consider a handful of movie comedies, you'll see my point. "Blankman," "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," "Being There," "Rubin and Ed," and "Buba Ho-Tep" - just off the top of my head - take characters who are initially unattractive and, by the time the movie ends, forces you to care about them. I don't know about you, but "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," in spite of the zaniness, always brings a lump to my throat by the time Arthur and Bedivere arrive at castle "Arrrrrrr" in the last reel. The journey has forced us to grow and even thought they use coconuts for horses, we are forced to accept these sometimes silly, arrogant and stupid people as our fellow human beings.

Lucy Taylor's genius lies in her unflinching, uncompromising honesty, her vision which is willing to take us to the furthest edges of insanity and her strong humanistic streak which brings us back. She takes that area of the human psyche everyone else has buried in clich├ęs, brushes it off and then forces us to take another look. This is the hallmark of a GREAT writer - even if the field she chooses to work in is "erotic horror."

Frankly, I have a problem with the label "Erotic Horror." When I hear the term "erotica" I think of it as an euphemism for "porno," material intended to give your libido a buzz - the literary equivalent of a long, slow toke from a bong. Well, "The Safety of Unknown Cities" features some extremely graphic bodily functions and a panoramic view of some of the most demented sexual activity this side of Hieronymus Bosch, but I don't find it arousing. Not that Lucy Taylor couldn't write arousing porno if she wanted, but that's not what this material is about. Sexual desire, once all of the taboos and cultural baggage has been stripped away, is simply another part of the human condition and as such, merits HER hard work and OUR serious, literary consideration.

As for the writing itself, the lady is staggeringly good. There is no deadwood in this novel and not one single passage that reeks of `just moving the plot along.' Her prose and command of the English language are beyond praise.

As to the present work: "The Safety of Unknown Cities" won the Bram Stoker Award for First Novel in 1995 from the Horror Writers Association and the International Horror Guild Award for Best First Novel, also in 1995. It is very much a product of it's time reflecting the influence of Clive Barker (The Hellbound Heart,) Thomas Harris (Silence of the Lambs) and one could ague, "Aliens." However, this is not derivative hackwork, no pale re-telling of stuff you've already read. It's the difference between "The Spanish Tragedy" and "Hamlet:" there are certain similarities but a WORLD of difference.

Briefly, the plot of "Safety of Unknown cities" revolves around Val, an insatiable hedonist driven by internal demons, the madness of her birth mother and an abusive childhood, as she drifts from city to city, love affair to love affair trying to find fulfillment through erotic pleasure. She hears of a magic place called "The City," where pleasure is constant, unending and everlasting and since she's tried everything else, she embarks on a quest to find it. Unknown to her, she is being stalked by obsessive, psychopathic killer and former lover, Arthur Breen. Breen is someone you do not want to meet anywhere but in fiction - the ultimate, obsessive, can't-let-go-of-the-past, twisted, "demon lover." He is made more chilling because you probably know people like this. Beneath the surface urbane sophistication, he is an overgrown, self-centered child self-hypnotized by his own sensualist whims. You easily believe this guy kills for the pleasure of killing. It must have been what Ted Bundy was like behind the charm, what John Wayne Gacy was like behind the clown act.

Serial killers, a powerful demon, magical gateways to parallel worlds: it's all here, but the behavior of the characters against this setting is what's important. Although extreme and "out there," the novel is grounded in the reality of believable characters who are true to their given natures.
As you probably have surmised, I wasn't immediately sympathetic towards Lucy's self-indulgent protagonist, Val. My initial reaction to "Safety of Unknown Cities" was "Ho hum, it's `Looking for Mr. Goodbar' as written by Clive Barker." But as I started slogging through the depravity, I came to realize that Val doesn't really hurt anybody, outside of a few broken hearts (- and any REAL man has had, or bloody well SHOULD HAVE HAD his heart broken a couple of times. It builds character.)

As the story progresses, Val's own inner-demons, her drives and psychological motivations are revealed, most importantly, to herself. She eventually learns to put aside her quest for the perfect orgasm and place the good of other people above her own pleasures. As a result, we start to care about her - especially when we compare her relatively innocent peccadilloes to the perpetual, demonic freak show in which she eventually finds herself.

And so, on one level, "The Safety of Unknown Cities" is a cautionary tale of what happens when you give too much of your attention to satisfying your libido. It is also a plea for perspective, proportion and tolerance. (One of the most sympathetic characters in the book turns out to be a hermaphrodite. In most circles hermaphrodite is the worst label you can attach to someone -- worse than "Geek" was back in the `50s when it meant 'one who bites the heads off of live chickens,' but again Lucy Taylor reminds us that it is THE BEHAVIOR of the human being, his/her CHARACTER which is important and not that person's appearance, gender, race or sexual preference. The person, the human being, is much more important than the tag or "fetish word" we attach to them.

Don't you love the term "fetish word?" Communicates A LOT in a brief space, doesn't it?

"Fetish Word" is a concept I stole from Lucy's newest collection "Unspeakable," a book that, in my opinion, takes the horror short story about as close to the realm of "pure art" as it's ever going to get. "Unspeakable" is a book that will grab you by the skivvies, hang you up on a coat hook and then gleefully smack you around until you see things a little differently.

Indeed, "The Safety of Unknown Cities," will also force you to examine yourself and hopefully, grow a little. So, as someone who doesn't even like erotica who has been thrust uncomfortably into the role of gushing fan, I've got to give it 5 stars.

LUCY TAY­LOR is the author of seven nov­els, includ­ing Danc­ing with Demons, Spree, Nailed, Sav­ing Souls, Eter­nal Hearts, and the Stoker-​award win­ning The Safety of Unknown Cities. Her sto­ries have appeared in over a hun­dred mag­a­zines and antholo­gies, includ­ing The Mam­moth Book of His­tor­i­cal Erot­ica, The Best of Ceme­tery Dance, Twen­ti­eth Cen­tury Gothic, The Year’s Best Fan­tasy and Hor­ror, and the Century’s Best Hor­ror Fiction.
Most recently her work has appeared in The Mam­moth Book of Hor­ror presents The Best of Lucy Tay­lor, Danse Macabre, Exotic Gothic 5, and the Best Hor­ror of the Year #5.
Tay­lor lives in Pismo Beach, CA, where she vol­un­teers with cat res­cue orga­ni­za­tion, attends Bud­dhist retreats, and plots dar­ing escapes to exotic and fan­tas­ti­cal places.
CLOSE TO THE BONE is avail­able at inde­pen­dent book­stores, Ama­zon, B&, and dis­trib­uted by Ingram and Baker & Tay­lor. You can also pur­chase direct from Over­look Con­nec­tion Press.
Her novel THE SAFETY OF UNKNOWN CITIES won the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel in 1996.
At var­i­ous times in her life, Tay­lor has worked as a dance instruc­tor, a bar­tender and wait­ress, an Eng­lish teacher for a lan­guage school in Tokyo, an artist’s model, sec­re­tary, ghost­writer, news­pa­per reporter, edi­tor, and free­lance travel writer.
Taylor’s love of travel has led to many adven­tures (not to men­tion ideas for plots)! She’s been on safari in Zim­babwe, jogged with a troop of baboons in Zaire, rid­den a camel in Coober Pedy, Aus­tralia, hang­glided in Queen­stown, New Zealand, got­ten mar­ried on a beach in Fiji, scuba dived in St. Lucia, lost her pass­port, plane ticket and wal­let in San Miguel de Allende, Mex­ico, pony trekked in Ice­land, and con­fessed her sins to a priest in Paris.

Lucy Taylor was born in Richmond, VA and never really got the South of her system, as evidenced by the flavor of southern Gothic in many of her works. She's published seven novels, including NAILED, SAVING SOULS, and LEFT TO DIE (under the pseudonym Taylor Kincaid) and over one hundred short stories.
Her novel THE SAFETY OF UNKNOWN CITIES won the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel in 1996.
Most recently, her work has appeared in the short story collection UNSPEAKABLE AND OTHER STORIES, the anthology series EXOTIC GOTHIC 1,2,and 3, in 21st CENTURY GOTHIC, THE CENTURY'S BEST HORROR FICTION, and THE BEST OF BEST NEW EROTICA.
She lives in Pismo Beach, CA, where she volunteers with a cat rescue organization and shares her home with an assortment of delightful felines.

It is very obvious that a lady who has the courage, the gumption, and the skills to write the tales she does should be at the top of her game. Lucy Taylor is a Woman In Horror! 

Blaze McRob

UNSPEAKABLE and Other Stories by Taylor, Lucy (Mar 5, 2011)


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Eternal Hearts by Lucy Taylor and John Bolton (Sep 13, 1999)


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Left To Die by Taylor Kincaid (Aug 5, 2003)


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Nailed by Lucy Taylor (Jul 1, 2001)


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Saving Souls by Lucy Taylor (Jul 1, 2002)


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Axes Of Evil: The Heavy Metal Anthology by Lucy Taylor, Sean Leonard, Ray Van Horn Jr. and Grant Wamack (Mar 26, 2014)


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