Shock Totem #10 (Jan 2016)
- Closing for Submissions
- Shock Totem Returns!
- Apex Publications Acquires Shock Totem Book Line
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 8
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 7
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 6
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 5
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 4
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 3
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 2
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Tag Archives: P. Gardner Goldsmith
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.
“Chirality” is, by definition, an object or system that does not match up to its mirror image. Hands are a common example of this. And we all know “mad” to mean insane or mentally ill. The two words that title this brilliant anthology basically tell you that these tales of varying madness and insanities will not be like anything you’ve read before. More than a title, it is a promise and one that is delivered upon.
The twenty-eight stories that make up Chiral Mad are all quite good. I will not go into all of them but will touch on my favorites.
I was not blown away by the lead story, Ian Shoebridge’s somewhat hallucinogenic “White Pills,” and worried I’d be wading through a volume full of that sort of thing; but the second tale, by Gord Rollo, laid my fears to rest. His “Lost in a Field of Paper Flowers” is a tragic tale of transcendental revenge that made me smile. A dark little smile.
Gary McMahon delivers another sliver of shimmering disturbia and repressed memory with “Seven Pictures in an Album.” While Monica O’Rourke’s “Five Adjectives” is a brutal diorama of denial and avoidance. Chris Hertz gives us firebug lovers in “There Are Embers.”
Eric J. Guingnard turns in “Experiments in An Isolation Tank,” a tale of inheritance, madness and perception, all darkly shaded in Lovecraftian hues.
In Julie Stipes’s “Not the Child,” a young mother sees the harbingers of death in her neighborhood and discovers it was not by accident. Jeff Strand’s “A Flawed Fantasy” takes the picking-up-a-strange-woman-at-a-bar trope and changes the game with a clever ending.
Jack Ketchum turns in a squirmy tale of marital discourse, nosebleeds, and strange visitations with “Amid the Walking Wounded.”
And then there is “Need,” by Gary A. Braunbeck. (Deep breath.) This might be the best short story I have read years. Its premise is simple: We are all saviors and we are all monsters. Told out of chronological order, it chronicles a tragedy in a town and the mark the heartbreaking event made on those who live there. It’s a haunting tale, one I found, and still find, playing on my mind. It hurts.
None of these stories are bad. Not a single one. Some resonated with me more than others, but that is to be expected. The writing is topnotch, and the subject matter is widely varied and innovative. These folks dug their toes in and went for big game. They have the trophies to show for it.
And if a collection of outstanding horror is not motivation enough for you to plunk down your hard earned money on Chiral Mad, I offer this enticement: All proceeds go to Down’s Syndrome charities. So buy a copy. And another for a friend or relative. Maybe a few more to sock away for Christmas gifts. Support the cause and read these stories.
I applaud Michael Bailey for publishing this…