Book Review by Mel: Crimson Souls by William Holden

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Crimson souls william holden horror gay

Crimson Souls, William Holden
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Release Date: June 1, 2016

Rating: DNF @ 68%


In 1920, Phineas Nathanial Trescott fought back against the “Secret Court” of Harvard’s elite and their unjust purge of homosexual men. The members of the court, fearing his influence, attacked him and threw him off a bridge to look like a suicide. As Phineas lay in the river dying, he was given the chance of eternal life, a life that would allow him to seek out the men who had murdered him. He accepts the offer and becomes Nate, The Midnight Barke, a shadower ruling over the dark realm of his Netherworld. Now, over eighty years later, Nate has tracked down the last remaining descendants of the members of the Secret Court, and for one night will gather them together for a final confrontation of lust, desire, and revenge.


Gay Characters

Please see review for trigger warnings!


William Holden has written two books that I immensely enjoyed and that both got a nomination for the Lambda Award. His Thomas Newton Series is historical gay erotica and o-secret-societiesit was simply fascinating to read them. That’s why I chose to read Crimson Souls, although I knew that horror is not my genre. I probably should have known better but I just had to try, you know…? Well, I read 68% and then I just couldn’t stomach anymore. This is a great horror book and if you like horror with gay characters – I believe, there are not that many books on the marked with that description – you should definitely give this a go.

Crimson Souls is based on the purge of homosexual students at Harvard in 1920. It is a complex horror story that plays both in contemporary times and in the past. There is a supernatural component that encompasses everything and the Netherlands (some place in hell) are also part of the setting.

In 1920 Nate aka Phineas Nathanial Trescott was betrayed and murdered for  being gay and has been taking revenge on everyone involved ever since and is now close to eliminating all descendants in one final showdown.

The first 50% of the book that introduces a larger set of characters is great, captivating, scary from time to time and slowly reveals more and more about what is going on. Nate remains an enigma although we get pieces of his past and character. He manipulates all the remaining descendants to attend his dinner party – an event that hangs dooming on the horizon.

The next part plays in the past, which was a great change of scenery and shows how young Phineas became Nate. I thought it was fascinating to witness him before he died and I wondered about whether he had the potential to be evil before or whether he got corrupted by the devil.

At the dinner party and the beginning of torture and the promise of many more horrible things to come, I wussed out.

But I would love to know how this ends. Will Nate have his revenge or a change of mind? Who will die, who survive? Will the descendants remain the victims of Nate and a past they weren’t involved in, or will they reveal a darker side and maybe ‘deserve’ their fate?

The first chapter gives us some small hope but I believe that everything is possible. Should you read the book, please talk to me and tell me everything 😉

I believe some content warnings are in order. I’ll just list them and you can always ask me for details or more explanations…

Rape, STRONG violence, torture, domestic abuse, murder, patricide, homophobia, (mental) manipulation, gore. Another thing you should be aware of is that all of this is written with a sexual note and is meant to titillate. And well, I believe there is still some things to come…

But again, if you like to read horror, I believe this is a good book. Recommended.


Originally from Detroit, William Holden now lives in Cambridge, MA, with his partner of eighteen years. He has a Master’s in Library and Information Science from Florida State University. Over the past decade, he has focused his work on collecting, and preserving, GLBT history and is a volunteer archivist at Boston’s History Project.

o-the-thief-takerWilliam has been writing fiction for over fifteen years, accumulating more than seventy published short stories in the genres of erotica, romance, fantasy, and horror. His titles include the Lambda Literary Award finalists A Twist of Grimm (Lethe Press), Secret Societies (Bold Strokes Books), and its sequel, The Thief Taker (Bold Strokes Books), as well as Words to Die By (Bold Strokes Books), a Finalist for the Foreword Reviews’ INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award for Best Horror and 2nd place in the Rainbow Book Awards for Best Horror.

William has also written encyclopedia articles on the history of gay and lesbian fiction and has authored five bibliographies for the GLBT Round Table of the American Library Association.

William can be contacted at wholden2 AT mac DOT com. Website:

You can buy Crimson Souls on

Bold Strokes Books
Barnes & Noble

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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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