Tag Archives: Post Mortem Press

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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Toxicity

Having read his collection of flash fiction, They Might Be Demons, I was curious as to what this novel would be like. Max Booth III writes in a very bombastic and somewhat over-the-top style. Sort of like if Masterpiece Theatre was cast with pro wrestlers and performing play versions of Lansdale novels. That kind of madness. So when I was asked if I’d like to review Toxicity, I said sure.

Toxicity is the story of several hapless fuckers. All of them in various miserable situations, all of them shitty but almost likeable.

Maddox Kane is just out of prison and anxious to reconnect with his daughter. His daughter and her boyfriend are busy playing Badlands and trying to stay ahead of the fuzz and hide the bodies. One of her friends, Johnny, has just had his family pull up stakes for greener pastures, after winning the lottery with a ridiculous numeral sequence. Johnny’s crazy mom has revved up her odd obsession with dolls while Dad hides in his basement bunker masturbating to Warcraft, as his obese brother eats Cheetos and watches endless television. Johnny fills the familial void with strange drugs that allow him to see between existences. He meets Jesus—in the form of a fly.

Maddox just keeps tripping from one bad situation to another, each messier and more fucked up than the previous. His dumb-ass brother gets them held hostage by a beastly whore and he keeps missing the calls from his parole officer. And the Goths teach Johnny that throwing grapes at hellhounds can save your tripping ass.

All of that is in here…and much more. It sounds ridiculous when splintered apart, but it works quite well. The storylines meld and part but never compromise the flow of the story. An exercise in fluid pacing and an altar to high octane fun. This is modern noir-cum-bizarro. This is cool.

Available through Post Mortem Press.

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Bone Whispers

I reviewed Tim Waggoner’s Skull Cathedral a few years ago—quite favorably, if memory serves—so when I saw that he had a collection coming out, I was looking forward to it. When I saw the chance to snap up a copy of said collection from the Post Mortem Press table at AnthoCon, I did it.

Bone Whispers is a collection of eighteen stories. Now, I’d be derelict in my duties if I didn’t warn the uninitiated that a Tim Waggoner story is NOT like any others. He deals out vicious, wriggling slivers of off-kilter horror, slathered in strange and stitched with surrealism. This is my favorite type of story, truth be told.

We open with “Thou Art God,” wherein a man makes the difficult discovery that he is God and much to his chagrin, that doesn’t equate to unabashed love and adoration from his fellow man. “Bone Whispers” takes us on a painful journey of sad nostalgia and coming to terms with tragedy…and a giant supernatural groundhog. “Some Dark Hope” give us a pathetic loner who finds a way to use his particular life “skills” to make some money in a very special house of ill repute.

Visit an orchard where the living dead sprout like trees in “Harvest Time.” “Surface Tension” delivers a very odd story of a man afraid of puddles, with good reason. “Best Friends Forever” shows us how powerful denial and guilt are when working together. “No More Shadows” is a bizarre exercise in paranoia and loyalty. “Unwoven” is a trippy little shard of existential humor…shaded darkly.

Marking the book’s equator is “Skull Cathedral,” a nightmarish kaleidoscope of surreal brutality. “Do No Harm” is a sort-of zombie apocalypse story without any zombies, but the vibe is eerily similar. “Country Roads,” which happens to be my favorite in this book, tells the tale of a sad man looking for validation in the echoes of his youth. Outstanding! “Darker Than Winter” gives us a tale of snowman murder and terror in the bold tradition of the old horror comics from the 50s.

“Swimming Lesson” corrals the weirdness into a public pool, while “Conversations Kill” finds a man confronting his woman issues in a very unhealthy way. “Long Way Home” is an apocalyptic tale of survival and resentment masked as guilt that, with it’s crazy monsters, plays like a Del Toro film. “Sleepless Eyes” is a crazy little scene in the most horrific roadside dive you’ve ever visited. “The Faces That We Meet” is a story that allows a dark glimpse into the secret habits and lives of those we know and think we know well.

The collection closes with “The Great Ocean of Truth,” a gonzo tale that channels the authors inner Kafka and brews it in a Norman Rockwell coffee mug to be poured down your throat while still scalding hot.

Bone Whispers is an astounding testament to the talents of Tim Waggoner. I have (and I hope to remedy this soon) only read his short fiction and I have loved all of it. Ranking among Brady Allen and Bentley Little in the halls of Weird Fiction Manor. toothy and terrifying and delightfully devilish. Good stuff that will leave stains and scars.

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Back Roads & Frontal Lobes

Nothing thrills me more than discovering new authors. New to me, to be precise.

Brady Allen intrigues me with his unapologetic attitude and willingness to stand tall and stalwart while brandishing his opinions with honest intellect. This is a trait one sees very little these days, when it is all too fashionable to lay with the herd and suckle at the teat of popular opinion. This made me wonder about his literary output, so I reached out and got a copy of his collection.

Back Roads & Frontal Lobes is as amazing a collection as it is puzzling. Not a single tale here is what it appears to be. Most flirt with horror but are more about the human condition and attitudes of characters. There are shades of noir and bizarro, but the stories are most often darkly surreal and more terrifyingly realistic than should be allowed. This collection is a unique stampede of unease, stamping and snorting discomfort. I mean that complimentary, of course.

Opening with “Slow Mary,” Allen gives us a strange tale of road kill and revenge. But it was actually the second tale, “Not Over Easy,” that won my dark heart. That story follows its bizarre protagonist through a series of troubling and odd scenarios to a conclusion that is just as puzzling as the opening. “Devil and Dairy Cow” is a hallucinatory tale of a girl, a teacher, and a rainy recess where the shit hit the diabolical fan.

In the title story, a man on the lam makes a stop in Death City and finds he likes it. “The Last Mystical Vendor” has exactly what you need even if everything you know tells you otherwise. And in “The Taste of a Heart,” a motel room is the stage for an exceedingly sinister game between a man and a woman.

“Six Miles to Earth” is a highway roadshow; Tarantino by way of Russ Meyer. “Burger” is a nasty side-road monster mash. “Ballad of Mac Johnstone” concerns the courtship between an aging bluesman and death. “Road Kill (A Love Story)” brings us to a man who feels compelled to remove dead animals from the roadside and the chain of unfortunate events that come about because of it. And “Praying” exposes the insectile ways we have.

Of all of the stories, however, “Rounding Third” was the one that smacked me in the face and then continued to do so. A tragic and all-too-real slice of reality. If it doesn’t make you cry—God help you.

If early Joe R. Lansdale left you gobsmacked, then you MUST read this cat! Allen is versatile and fearless. He doesn’t give much of a damn if you get what he’s doing or not. He’s writing to get it out and if it happens to bring enjoyment to someone, cool. If not, oh well, he’s doing it anyway. And I’m glad for that!

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