My first introduction to Dybbuk Press founder, Tim Lieder was from his Shock Totem submission “Bop Kabala and the Communist Jazz,” a submission we would eventually accept for issue #3. So when asked to choose some books to review from the secret cache at Kenwood Mansion, I asked for this one. The title alone cried for my attention—She Nailed a Stake Through His Head: Tales of Biblical Terror. Catchy!
Upon its arrival, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t more than a little hesitant to dig in, mainly due to my lack of knowledge of many things biblical. Sure I know most of the big stories, but many of the lesser known parables would be alien to me. After putting it off a few weeks, I jumped in…and I’m glad I did. This collection is inspired and ecclectic.
The nine tales in this anthology kick off with “Whither Thou Goest,” by Gerri Leen, an interesting piece in which Ruth, the protagonist, is some sort of psychic leech. Daniel Kayson takes the story of Daniel and the writing on the wall and sets it in a modern corporate setting, rife with sinister dealings and spiritual treachery in “Babylon’s Burning.”
In “As if Favorites of Their God,” by Christi Krug, King Saul pays a visit to a witch to communicate to the prophet Samuel. “Psalm of the Second Body,” by Catherynne Valente, is the fourth in line and my absolute favorite. The language of this piece is flawless, a sweet hybrid of prose and narrative that I loved. Non-conformist writing. It defies description and must simply be read, a commandment.
Take a measure of Mad Max futurism and mix liberally with prophets, the damned, and revenge and you have Elissa Malcohn’s, “Judgement at Naioth.” In “Judith & Holofernes,” Romie Scott gives us the premise of endless beheadings. A darkly humorous tale.
Lyda Morehouse appears via the tale “Jawbone of An Ass,” a bitter story of domestic non-bliss and unspoken gods. And what has to be the most inspired craziness in the book, Stephen M. Wilson has crafted “Swallowed,” a glorious mutation of Jonah and the “whale” swirling with Lovecraftian nightmares, parasitic twins and deviant sexual appetite. The closer is D.K. Thompson’s “Last Respects,” a unique vampire tale, delivering smooth nostalgia and heartfelt sentiment.
Lieder knows what he likes and it is nothing close to traditional, and that is one of the many things I like about the guy. This is an ambitious anthology, one that could easily alienate a section of the book-buying market, the ones who eschew anything biblical. And sadly, it would be their loss. On the other hand, it brings a dark little smile to my lips thinking of all the Flanders out there who may see this title somewhere and assume it is of the “Left Behind” ilk, spiritual but sanitized to the point of blandness. This is a splendid collection, full of fresh ideas and images that will play in your mind long after the story has been read.
This can be ordered directly from here from Dybbuk Press.