Tag Archives: Bentley Little

Shrieks and Shivers from the Horror Zine

The Horror Zine’s latest short story anthology, Shrieks and Shivers from the Horror Zine, edited by Jeani Rector and printed by Post Mortem Press, is allegedly also their final one. Listed as “the scariest book that [they have] ever produced” on the Zine’s website, there are some big-name authors to be found here, including Elizabeth Massie, P.D. Cacek, Tom Piccirilli, Ray Garton, and Joe McKinney, alongside many other, newer and lesser-known authors.

There were stories in this anthology that particularly stood out. Martin Rose’s opener, “Tapeworm,” had me squirming with its subdued, suggested-but-not-seen horrors. Eric J. Guignard’s “One Last Tweet” was a delightfully disorienting second-person story-cum-postmodern social commentary about our Internet age. Elizabeth Massie’s “Squatters” was a solid, old-fashioned tale of a vile man getting his just desserts. P.D. Cacek’s “Somniphobia” was a fun, hallucinatory ride through night (and day) terrors. At first glance, Nathan Robinson’s “Old Haunts” was a typically gory zombie apocalypse tale, until it cleverly asks the reader to wonder just who is narrating the story. And let’s just say that Ray Garton’s “Parasites” is NOT a story to be read in the bathroom.

I have to admit that going into this anthology I was fairly stoked, but ultimately, I was a bit disappointed. A number of the stories just didn’t groove with me, often suffering from the common storytelling problem of “too much tell, not enough show.” Others were too heavy-handed with their horror delivery. Now, every multiple-author story anthology runs the risk of having some stories that don’t work for every reader; it’s a given evil in any art field. In this case, however, the sheer number of weaker stories hurt my overall opinion of the anthology.

Bentley Little’s introduction, in which he all but literally admits that he’s only included for cosmetic purposes, didn’t help. “I haven’t read any of the stories in this anthology,” he states in his opening paragraph. “I don’t even know the names of the authors contributing to this volume.” His admission left me desiring a more dedicated introduction, be it by Little or someone else. His lack of enthusiasm didn’t help my overall opinion of the stories and my feelings of their quality.

Furthermore, the book’s early inclusion of an essay by John Russo, co-scribe of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968), was another touch that didn’t quite work. Russo rambles about zombies, and how they’ve changed over the years, yet not once does he mention the following stories, nor Jeani Rector, nor anything else to do with this anthology. Beyond being another big name, its inclusion is not clearly justified.

For all of its content (over 30 stories in all), Shrieks and Shivers from the Horror Zine felt like it was assembled with quantity in mind, rather than a strong sense of overall quality. Here’s to hoping that it isn’t truly The Horror Zine’s final anthology, if nothing else than for the hopes of a more proper send-off.

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Horror Library Volume 5

I’m a huge fan of anthologies and collections. They’re great for those short attention span periods when you want to read but can’t commit to anything lengthy. They’re awesome for lunch breaks and in the bathroom. (Don’t give me that grimace, you know you read in there!) The problem with them is they are most times an uneven offering of material. Several great stories sprinkled in amongst a majority of meh or even terrible tales. Once in a while you get one that knocks the cover off the ball…but that’s rarer than a four-leafed clover.

Cutting Block Press has been putting out the Horror Library series for a few years now, but this is the first I’ve gotten the chance to dig into. Thirty stories rear their ugly heads here, the majority by authors I have not read before, but a few by those I have. Let’s get into the particulars, shall we?

We open with Pat MacEwen’s “Blown,” a gritty almost noir-ish tale of death and forensics. We go then into Ian Withrow’s wonderfully bizarre story of a lonely boy and his calling, entitled “Jerrod Steihl Goes Home.” John F.D. Taff’s “The Immolation Scene” is a grisly expose on arson and treachery. “A Body At Rest,” by Lorne Dixon, one of my favorites, is a darkly sad tale of loss and grief, drenched in terror and the surreal. This is followed by J.S. Reinhardt’s “By the Time I Get To Five,” in which we meet a man trapped in his own hell.

Next up is a fantastically eerie sliver by one of my favorite authors, Bentley Little, entitled “Notes for An Article on Bainbridge Farm.” Just chilling. Sanford Allen’s “Noise” is about a concert that is not intended for everyone’s ears. Shane McKenzie’s “Open Mind Night at the Ritz” is a weird story about flesh bending and performance. I was blessed to witness him read this at KillerCon a few years ago. Shane can always be counted upon to bring the “What the fuck?” With “Almost Home,” Kevin Lucia hands us a bleak and symbolic story of loss. Michael A. Arnzen’s “Pillars Of Light” explores faith and the powerful grip it can have.

“Footprints Fading In the Desert,” by Eric J. Guingard, is a story with an almost urban legend vibe. “The Vulture’s Art,” by Benjamin Kane Ethridge, is heavy in its symbolism and grisly with its message. “Activate,” by Boyd E. Harris, left me slightly confused but seemed to carry a sinister tone. Adam Howe’s “Snow Globe” is an old fashioned tale of the repercussions of dark deeds. “Intruders,” by Taylor Grant, delivers a somber premise as to what imaginary voices are really about. And Steve McQuiggan gives us an off-kilter, slightly bizarro haunted house story with “The Boathouse.”

While not the most even anthology out there, Horror Library Vol. 5 has its fair share of solid fiction. It is a good companion for waiting rooms, bathroom breaks, and the lunch table, and is available through Cutting Block Press.

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After Death

I met editor/author Eric J. Guignard last year in Las Vegas while attending KillerCon. An amiable guy with a great sense of humor and an appreciation for beat-up red Chuck Taylors. We hit it off.

So when he asked me if I’d be willing to review his latest anthology, I said certainly.

After Death is a collection of over thirty tales, all involving what happens upon the departure from this mortal coil. Some of them are good, others are amazing, and a few are merely okay.

The volume opens with Andrew S. Williams’s “Someone to Remember,” which is a wonderful meditation on loss and promises, all threaded through the mythos of Charon, the ferryman. “Sea of Trees,” by Edward M. Erdelac contains some horrific and lingering images and a story that is as jarring as it is resonant. Steve Rasnic Tem, an author I have adored for years, turns in a heartbreaking tale of the abandonment death leaves and those who remain. It is haunting and full of hurt.

In “Mall Rats,” James S. Dorr exposes the hereafter as trapped in the after mall. And in “Forever,” the strongest story in the lot, John Palisano weaves a quilt of sadness, loss, and heartbreak that will leave you reeling. I have no words to express the emotions this tale stirs, but stirs it does and quite violently. Brilliant!

Jamie Lackey turns in the sweet and wonderful “Robot Heaven,” and Simon Clark’s “Hammerhead” is an exercise in reincarnation and revenge that is spellbinding. Steve Cameron gives us “I Was the Walrus,” in which a man follows his past identities to some lofty and surprising conclusions. “Be Quiet at the Back,” by William Meikle, is a humorous parable of the definition of sin and consequence.

There are quite a number of tales I didn’t remark on, not because they were poor, but because they just didn’t have the same impact as those mentioned above. That is the rough cross to bear with an anthology. On the whole, Guignard has assembled a great roster of talent—quite a few of which I had never heard of or read before—and given us a rich and heavy menu of possible aftermaths to the grand finale. You won’t be disappointed.

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