Book Review: You Can’t Escape Houdini’s Charm

#Sponsored by Jimmy Patterson Books


When an author writes books in series, it is hard to keep the original concept going where the audience is engaged in every book. Usually the second book gets boggled down with a weak plot or characters that end up being annoying to the point where the reader loses interest in the rest of the series. This is not the case with writer Kerri Maniscalco’s series dealing with her main character Audrey Rose Wadsworth.

The latest in the series, Escaping From Houdini (Jimmy Patterson Books,2018) takes place right after the events of the last book, Hunting Prince Dracula. The main character, Audrey Rose, along with her companions (her uncle, and her partner in crime Thomas Cresswell) are on a cruise named the RMS Etruria, that is heading to New York, along with the entertainers of the Moonlight Carnival which performs every night for the wealthy vacationers. After each performance, a murder occurs, which the main characters have to once again use their skills to determine what is going on before they end up on the docks in New York. Each of the characters in the carnival have a mysterious background, along with most of them wearing masks the whole time, including the ringmaster, named Mephistopheles.

The performers of the carnival not only have a skill, but they also have a nickname based on tarot cards; for instance, the girl who swallows fire, named Anishaa, is also known as “The Ace of Wands,” the knife thrower Jian is known as the “Knight of Swords,” and a young magician named Harry Houdini is called “the King of Cuffs.”

Just like the other books in the series, Maniscalco combines horror and mystery with science and forensics in the late 1880s. Her two main characters, Audrey and Thomas continue their comedic bantering from the previous books with more depth during each page (I won’t give spoilers, but if you read the last book, you’ll understand what this means). This book is more mystery based, than the past two, which dealt with a horror theme, and since Houdini is one of the main characters, magic, illusions, and things that are not seen by the naked eye, is constant throughout the tale.

The character of Mephistopheles is a great addition to the story, a person who is mysterious in wearing his mask at all times, with a hidden past, along with a comedic wit to him that entertains the reader with his reactions to Thomas, and Audrey Rose. He has the presence of someone like The Phantom of the Opera, but instead of the theater, he is on a cruise. The reader does not know what side of the fence this character is on, who is trying to keep his audiences entertained and keep his performers making money for a living, all the while not revealing his hand on what he does or does not know about the events that happen throughout the cruise.

Escaping From Houdini is yet another entertaining ride by Maniscalco and her series. The book is not only for fans of Young Adult books, but also for those that want a good mystery tale that keeps the reader turning each page (at over 400 pages, the book does not skip or rush through any excitement or character development). The last few chapters even shocked this reader, which is kind of hard to do.

It was announced on her Twitter account, that Maniscalco finalized a deal to do one more final book in the series. If you have not read the other two books in the series, it may be helpful to read them before journeying into this third book, although each tale is separate, it all runs together in a short timeline, with several references to the other books that the reader may not comprehend if they did not read the first part of the series. Nonetheless, “Escaping From Houdini” has enough tricks and illusions in the book to keep any reader on the edge of their seat.



The Advanced Reading Copy was sent courtesy of Jimmy Patterson Books,

Little, Brown and Company, and Hatchette Books.


Escaping From Houdini by Kerri Maniscalco (Jimmy Patterson/Little Brown and Company , 2018 ISBN: 978-0-316-55170-0 hardback, Ebook: 978-0-316-55169-4, audiobook(CD): 978-1-4789-9597-5, and download: 978-1-4789-9598-2) is available at


For information about the author, go to :


Escaping From Houdini


Pages: 413 (ARC copy)

Language: None

Ages: 13 and up

For fans of: Young Adult mysteries, historical fiction.

Halloween 2018 Part Boo (I Mean Part 2)


Every year for my Halloween post, I usually list several horror films that I have seen over the year that needs attention. Most of them are movies that either flew under the radar, or are the classic older films that many have forgotten about. This year I decided to do something different, and I hope, entertaining. The past year I have been able to review many books and have contact with many authors and publishers, and have had the pleasure of emailing several of the writers on a normal basis. I thought that I would survey several people and ask them what films should they suggest you watch during Halloween. Keep in mind, I did not ask them to list their opinion of the greatest of all time, just what films they would suggest to be good to watch, along with choosing any category-they could list all vampire films, all slasher films; just whatever they wanted. Since I received several great responses, I decide to put it in two parts. Here is Part 2 of my Halloween special.


I am excited that Mike Perry agreed to submit to this year’s page. I am a fan of his webpage and Facebook page, called Mike’s Take On the Movies. He covers his love of film, including showing photos of his massive collection of movies and posters, not just horror films, but all films (Go to his site to see his movie room!). His page also informs people of films that some may never heard of, especially me, but he also shares a liking to one of my favorites in the past few years “Horror Express”. He decided to theme his choices with pairing actors Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Here is what he wrote:

       As Halloween approaches it seems everyone has a list of horrors to see and there’s usually very little that interests me when it comes to seeing the ones splashed about it newspapers or movie magazines you pick up in the lobby of the theater you’re attending. Why you ask? It’s simple. They generally cater to the masses. People who have no idea that movies existed prior to the current decade. I might be a bit harsh with that statement but go ahead and randomly ask a 20 year old at the office who Vincent Price is.


To be fair, some of these lists might have Rosemary’s Baby on it or maybe Robert Wise’s The Haunting and of course The Exorcist, but for the most part they are films of a more recent vintage. Which brings us to my pick for the top five Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing duets. I’m not going to get critical on these but rather base it on the ones I enjoy the most. If we were going to base it on critical praise then I would suggest the top two would be 1948’s Hamlet and 1952’s Moulin Rouge. Yes for the uninitiated, the legendary icons of horror cinema were attached to both the Oliver and the Huston films. Lee to a lesser degree than Cushing.


Now on to my five faves though I’ll admit I hate narrowing the field to just five and before I start I am listing these in order of their release dates as opposed to a favorite on down.

The Horror of Dracula   (1958)

Is there really any doubt? This one is the best that Hammer has to offer in my mind and made Lee an international star. Not only is Lee the best of all Draculas’ but Cushing is by far the screen’s greatest Van Helsing. A Coles Notes version of Stoker’s story but it’s a classic that gets better with age and tops many historian’s list of the best horror film ever made period. Saw it as a kid on late night TV and rarely does a year go by I don’t give it another look. Great score from James Bernard adds to the thrills.


The Hound of the Baskervilles   (1959)

Cushing as Holmes is really an extension of the physicality and the energy he brought to the Van Helsing role. He’s perfectly suited to the Sherlock character and I’ve always mourned the fact that the studio never continued the series with Peter taking the lead joined again by Andre Morell who made an excellent Dr. Watson. Joining in the fun is Lee as Sir Henry Baskerville. marked for death it’s up to Dear Peter to save him not only from the Hound but also who is behind the beast and controls who it kills. Like Dracula, this is another effort from the great Terence Fischer.


The Mummy   (1959)

Again it’s Terence Fisher breathing new life into the Universal Monsters of old. Who better than Peter to play the archaeologist and Chris to take on the role of Kharis. The two are pitted against each other when Peter unlocks the tomb of the Princess Ananka. The color photography is a welcome addition to the tale when we compare this film to the Chaney films of the 40’s. Lee’s powerful performance as Kharis is not to be overlooked and his size is most intimidating as is his speed that must have been a surprise to those in ’59 accustomed to the slow walk of Chaney. Don’t get me wrong, I love Lon’s film’s as well. Once again Peter delivers a wonderful performance and as usual is playing with props throughout. Hence the nickname Props Peter.

Horror Express   (1972)

What really makes this fantastical plot of Sci-Fi and Horror work is that Lee and Cushing begin as adversaries yet must team up to battle a demon from outer space on board a snowbound train. The fact that they appear on screen together for the majority of the film gives fans a chance to see them interact throughout. Not something we’re used to seeing. No one plays arrogant on screen like Lee did and Peter’s man of science is hoping to get a look at what Lee has found in the ice and is transporting aboard the train. It’s a bloody affair and Telly Savalas only adds to the fun chewing up the scenery as only he can. Best scene in the film is when Lee and Cushing are mentioned as possible hosts to the alien being. Accused of being a monster, offended Peter states defiantly, “Monsters? We’re British.”


Dracula A.D.   (1972)

For years I believe this film was trashed but time has a way of changing opinions and as the years have gone by it’s finally found an audience who appreciate it for it’s campy fun, Cushing’s return to the series as Van Helsing and Lee’s vampire looking more menacing here than in perhaps any other film that he essayed the role. Stephanie Beacham and Caroline Munro appearing has to be considered a major plus as well. Not only do we get one battle to the death between the two titans of horror but TWO. The film is bookended between their first battle in 1872 and their final one 100 years later. Cushing carries the film and Lee’s Dracula remains in a Gothic setting where the blood flows freely. Very under appreciated but thankfully time has I believe begun to change that opinion.


The list called for just five titles so left by the wayside are a pair that I love to revisit but decisions had to be made. From Amicus, The House That Dripped Blood which is more of an ensemble piece with the two never sharing the screen together and Hammer’s The Gorgon. A film I revisit often thanks to my two sons enjoying the film as much as I do.

I’m sure I’ve ticked off someone by omitting their favorite choice but surely Scream and Scream Again or Arabian Adventure are not the reasons why.



I contacted writer S.L. Baron, who writes vampire books, and likes horror style writings, as well as movies. S.L. Baron isn’t a full-time writer but keeps wishing she could quit her day job. She’s been scribbling down stories since she was a small child, and she’s glad the evidence of those stories no longer exists. After reading Anne Rice’s Interview With The Vampire, she found her Muse. She’s been obsessed with vampires and other types of immortals ever since. When she’s not writing about her own Children of the Night, she reads all she can get her hands on about these and other supernatural creatures.


S.L. grew up near the shore in the New Jersey Pinelands but lives in West Virginia. She graduated from West Virginia University with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology. Keeping her company is her partner in crime, Tim.


Her picks are the following:


1.What We Do In The Shadows (2014)

I’m going to start out with a goofy one here. I love and write about vampires, but I can’t pass up a movie that takes a swing at them either. What We Do In The Shadows is a mockumentary following the exploits of a group of vampires— Viago, Vladislav, Deacon, and Petyr—who share a house in a suburb of Wellington, New Zealand. A crucifix-wearing film crew follows the vampires as they try to adapt to life in the 21st century. We get to see how the vampires cope with day-to-day life and past relationships, which, as an immortal, could get pretty complicated.

I love how this movie took supernatural/paranormal creatures and incorporated them into the mundane world…because, honestly, who hasn’t wondered how an 8,000 year-old would react to cellphones?

2.Let Me In (2010)


Let Me In is an American-British remake of the Swedish film Let The Right One In from 2008. It follows the story of Owen, a bullied twelve-year-old boy, and Abby, the young girl who moves in next door to him. The two become close friends and communicate through Morse code on the walls of their apartments, but Abby has a dark secret: She’s a vampire. Abby becomes the only one he trusts enough to confide in about his treatment at school, and she encourages him to retaliate and vows to protect him. After finally revealing her true nature to Owen, she tearfully leaves town. But, despite her departure, she returns to save Owen from the bullies who finally go far enough to try to kill him.

The idea of child vampires intrigues me! How would they mature and behave being locked in such a youthful body? I think Let Me In explores the idea quite well.


3.The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

When nineteen-year-old Emily Rose dies of malnutrition and self-inflicted wounds following an attempted exorcism, the Catholic priest who performed the rite, Father Richard Moore, is arrested and put on trial. Though the diocese wants Father Moore to plead guilty, he refuses, instead hoping his lawyer, Erin Brunner, will let him tell the truth behind Emily’s death. The story of Emily’s possession and failed exorcism are told through flashbacks and evidence presented by witnesses at the trial. Though Brunner doesn’t believe demonic possession is possible, she begins to experience terrifying supernatural phenomena at her home, making her question her own beliefs and begin to see that the priest is telling the truth, a truth she will risk her job to prove in court.

There are a few things about this movie that appeal to me. The first is exorcism. I was raised a Roman Catholic, but exorcisms are one of those taboo subjects never discussed in our studies. I think that gives it a certain mystery that makes me want to delve deeper into it. The next thing that draws me to this movie is that it’s based off the exorcism of Annaliese Michel, which took place in Germany, 1976. The thought that a real person experienced what Emily Rose did is a chilling one. Finally, the thought of losing control over one’s self to demonic forces is a psychologically disturbing, making it a great horror movie to me.


4.A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014)

While Arash, a young Iranian man, works hard to take care of himself and his heroin-addicted father, a mysterious, young woman clad in a chador roams the streets, skateboarding and bedeviling the less desirable residents of Bad City. One of these undesirables happens to be Arash’s father’s drug dealer who learns too late that the young woman is a vampire and he her meal. As the vampire leaves the the dealer’s apartment, she passes Arash who has come to pay money his father owes. Seeing the dealer dead, Arash takes his stash of drugs, hoping to earn some money to make his living situation better. At a costume party, he attempts to sell ecstasy pills. A young wealthy woman he had worked for convinces him to take a pill, and, as he wanders the streets alone and high, he encounters the vampire. The vampire takes Arash to her apartment, but resists the urge to feed from him. Arash becomes infatuated with the woman, but she isn’t the innocent he imagines.

I think what I love most about this movie is the idea of a female vampire in a Middle Eastern country. Almost every country and culture has a vampire myth of their own, but we don’t often see movies explore how they would behave in areas outside of Europe and North America. This movie does just that with a brilliant dose of dark humor, horror, and romance.


5.Zombie Strippers (2008)

Bear with me on this one. Zombie Strippers is campy, raunchy, and full of nudity, so it’s not for everyone out there. Despite all that, it’s also a political satire that takes a stab at George W. Bush’s presidency, which I won’t give away here. In it, a Marine, Byrdflough, who is a member of the “Z” Squad tasked with destroying test subjects in a failed government experiment to bring back the dead, gets bitten by a zombie. Upon waking as a one, he finds his way to a strip club and attacks the club’s star dancer, Kat. When the owner, Ian Essko—played by none other than Robert Englund of Nightmare on Elm Street fame—sees how much money his undead dancer is raking in, he encourages others to get bitten. Essko tries to keep the zombies in cages, but when they break free, the remaining humans in the club must fight to survive.


LIke I said, this one isn’t for everyone! I, however, am not one of those people. I couldn’t stop watching, but I was an exotic dancer and I have a twisted sense of humor (possibly from said job). I enjoyed how well the writers portrayed the rivalries that develop between dancers and how greedy the owner is to let his employees get infected for profit. This is an utterly ridiculous movie, but one I can watch over and over.



I thought a Halloween poll would be fun this year as well. Here are the final results, from those that voted via Facebook, Twitter, and those I asked in person. Some of the tallies were very interesting.


Halloween Poll Results:

Best Horror Actor of all Time

  1. Vincent Price   90% 2. Bela Lugosi 10% 3. Boris Karloff 0% 4. Peter Cushing 0%
  2. Christopher Lee 0%

Best Horror Villain:

  1. 1. Michael Myers   45.45% Frankenstein Monster 18.18% 3. Dracula 27.27%  
  2. Freddy Kruger 9.09% 5. Leatherface 0%

Best Series:

  1. 1. Friday The 13th 30%   2. Halloween 30% Nightmare on Elm Street 20%    
  2. Saw 10%     Texas Chainsaw Massacre 0%

Most Classic Film:

  1. 1. Frankenstein 28.57%   2. The Wolfman 28.57% Psycho 14.28%   4. The Shining 14.28%       5. The Exorcist 14.28%     Bride of Frankenstien 0%   Halloween 0%



As for me, I chose to theme films that are seem bad, whether from the effects some other odd aspect, but are actually good films that I enjoying watching. In no order, here are a few choices:


  1. Suck (2009).

            This is a black comedy/Canadian Indy about a rock band that hasn’t made it big in Canada. While touring, the female bass player (Mad Men’s Jessica Paré) gets turned into a vampire, and needs to feed. The music is pretty bad, but the jokes are funny (especially if you were ever a musician). It has appearances by Rush’s Alex Lifeson, Iggy Pop, Henry Rollins, Malcolm McDowell, and Alice Cooper.


  1. Kiss Meets The Phantom of The Park (1978)

            I remember anxiously awaiting this TV movie to be shown as a kid like many Kiss fans at the time. After seeing it, we wondered “what did I just see?” What better way to captialize the band in a movie, like The Beatles did, than have Hannah-Barbara produce the film? Even though some Kiss fans (and band members) hate the film, it is a guilty pleasure film, which debut on October 28, 1978. The cartoonish effects, bad stunt men, and cheesy one -liners makes this film a cult favorite. If you really want to get an extra feel to the film, listen to Chris Jericho’s podcast episode from July 2018, where he and his friends decided to watch it.

  1. The Strangers:Prey At Night (2018)

            I never saw the first Strangers movie, but I thought the cover looked cool when I got it at my local library. The plot is a simple slasher film, where a vacation at a mobile home park goes wrong for the family visiting, when three masked people start attacking. Even though the theme has been worn out, this was enjoyable, especially with the placing of the music in the film with 1980s hits by Air Supply and Bonnie Tyler. If you liked the placing of the music in Marvel’s Deadpool movies, this is very similar, and becomes more humorous than scary. When’s the last time you laughed during a slasher film?


  1. The Gorgon (1964)

            Mentioned earlier by Mike’s picks, this Hammer film is one I watch several times a year , not just for Halloween. The Christopher Lee/Peter Cushing film is a what films used to be about; a plotline, suspense, and a climax. No CG effects, just some rubber type masks, but it still is a great film. Although many film fans discovered the myth of the Gorgon through 1981’s Clash of The Titans, this older film builds up the story of the creature turning people into stone when looking at them. This is a horror film that can be watched as a family film (about age 7 I’d say) without much gore and adult themes like most films are about today. This film is not mentioned enough when Hammer films are discussed.

  1. The Wasp Woman (1959)

            Also known as The Bee Girl or Insect Woman, this Roger Corman film stars Susan Cabot who runs a cosmetic company and is trying to keep the company relevant, although she is aging as the spokesperson. She meets a fired scientist who can extract enzymes from bees to keep her young. However, there are side effects to the experiments. Corman was known for his Edgar Allan Poe movies with Vincent Price, but this one is like The Gorgon, where it is not long in length (73 minutes), and although today’s fans may laugh at the effects without CG, it is a good family horror film.


A few other films that I recommend this season is 2018’s Winchester (if you like suspense/supernatural themes instead of action horror) and Insidious: The Last Key, and the 1970 Spanish film The Wolfman vs The Vampire Woman. Of course, you can always serach the archives here for my past Halloween picks too (just type in “Horror Films” or “Halloween” in the serach engine, or scroll down the “Archives” link to the past year’s October month.)

Thank you to all the contributors for Parts 1&2, and those that voted in the poll as well!

Happy Watching!


Mike Perry’s pages can be found at:

and https://


You can find S.L. Baron’s books on Amazon, and at facebook:



Halloween 2018 Part One

Every year for my Halloween post, I list several horror films that I have seen over the year that needs attention. Most of them are movies that either flew under the radar, or are the classic older films that many have forgotten about. This year I decided to do something different, and I hope, entertaining. The past year I have been able to review many books and have contact with many authors and publishers, including having the pleasure of emailing several of the writers on a normal basis. I thought that I would survey several people and ask them what films they suggest you watch during Halloween. Keep in mind, I did not ask them to list their opinion of the greatest of all time, just what films they would suggest to be good to watch, along with choosing any category-they could list all vampire films, all slasher films; whatever they wanted. Here are some of the responses I received. This is the first of two parts.

One of the first people I contacted is an author who has been featured on this page several times. Gary A. Smith gave me a great Q&A after reviewing his book “Vampire Films of the 1970s” (both you can find in the archives section). He has been a contributor to the magazine Little Shoppe of Horrors from 1980 -2013, and has written several books about various aspects of films. Smith and I started emailing each other frequently discussing the films we have seen in the past months. Smith, like me, makes it a habit to watch at least one horror film a night in October leading up to Halloween. Here are his picks when I asked him:


     Every year I watch a horror movie a day during October. My one rule is no science fiction, just horror. Here are a handful of movies that I seem to include every year for a variety of reasons.

1.) Halloween– I know, what could be more cliche but the original is, in my opinion, one of the best and most frightening horror movies ever made. It’s simple. It’s scary. And it has seldom been equaled. 

2.) Carrie– This movie holds a special place for me as I first saw it at a Halloween midnight sneak preview before it was officially released. As the remakes prove, you can’t top Brian DePalma’s brilliant direction. And that final scene! Wow!

1943’s Universal film “Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman” featured Lon Chaney and Bela Lugosi.

3.) Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man– More than anything else, Halloween means the original Universal monsters to me. In this film you get two of the best. It’s hard to pick just one Universal horror during Halloween but this one always is on the top of my list. 

4.) Brides of Dracula– What’s Halloween without Hammer? My favorite of all the Hammer Horrors is this film. Not your run of the mill vampire movie by any means. Tops in every department…acting, direction, story, sets, costumes. This one has it all. 

5.) Ghost Story– Sure, it’s not a patch on the original Peter Straub novel with it’s shape-shifting spirits, but don’t let that stop you from watching. This is a genuinely creepy film with the wonderful Alice Krige as a ghost bent on revenge. 



Who better knows what’s good for Halloween than horror hosts? I contacted the hosts of The Mummy and The Monkey‘s Janet Decay and Grimm Gorri from Cleveland, Ohio, and they picked these films:


Janet Decay’s Halloween Flicks:

Halloween 3 Season Of The Witch ( seems fitting) it has nothing to do with Michael Myers, but it gives you those Halloween “feels”

Hocus Pocus, a great 1990s family friendly Halloween movie about the Witches of Salem.

 Dracula, Starring Bela Lugosi. Classics never go out of style, and Bela was a dashing Drac. 

Trick R Treat, a more modern horror film with a nostalgic Halloween feel, that’s on the gory side. Make sure you leave Sam some candy.

The Great Pumpkin. Because, I have this stuck in my skull for all eternity. 

A family classic for youngsters and young at heart. 

Janet also stated that:

“3 things I learned to never discuss, religion, politics, and The Great Pumpkin” 

Horror hosts Grim Gorri and Janet Decay of “The Mummy and The Monkey.”

Grim Gorri responded by stating:

What’s buzzin’, cousins?! Grimm Gorri, here, wishing everybody a Happy Halloween! There are too many great scary movies that would make for good watching on Halloween, but my top five are a great start! I chose 5 newer flicks that I found refreshingly frighteningly fun! 

  1. Trick r Treat
  2. Get Out
  3. Cabin in the Woods
  4. The Orphanage
  5. Drag Me To Hell


Eric Walker is a fan of not just horror films (and movies in general), but also runs a comic book store in Columbiana, Ohio, called Watchtower Heroes Comics LLC.   He has attended several comic conventions for his business (where horror celebs and comic icons are usually present). His favorite Halloween films to watch features comedy, family, and slashing:

Lon Chaney in 1941’s Universal film”The Wolf Man.”

       1.Young Frankenstein: This movie is by far my favorite movie to watch around Halloween. The nostalgia mixed with timeless comedy make this a “must-watch” every year

            2. Disney Halloween: This is just good old fashion family fun. The combination of the talking mirror, timeless characters, and catchy music are what truly make this a favorite.

            3. The Wolf Man: All of the classic Universal Monster movies are absolutely masterful. This movie, along with Frankenstein have that little extra bit of terror that put them above the rest.

            4. Frankenstein: See #3

            5. Friday the 13th Part 3: This movie serves up the usual dose of teenage angst and graphic murder scenes. This also marks the beginning of Jason’s trademark hockey mask.


Thanks to all the contributors that helped me.

For information on The Mummy and The Monkey Show at or

For comics and collectibles, visit , the facebook page at, or stop in the Columbiana, Ohio store at 6 S. Main St, Columbiana, OH 44408

You can find Gary A. Smith’s books at,, and at