Paperback: 316 pages
Publisher: Grey Matter Press (3 Dec. 2014)
Kindle Edition £2.68
Available in Paperback
16 authors contribute short stories that fall under the umbrella of Thriller/Horror or somewhere between the two. The subject of each story is ‘DEATH’ – Violence, Blood (in varying condition and quantity), and Gore, features high in this context. Ghosts too, mainly vengeful ones, is the specialism in most cases. There is common link and approach taken to comply with the required structure, and so the cutting edge element is forever present for that reason. Some stories have the quality edge over others but the writing is skilfully clever and imaginative every time. A short bio follows each story which profiles the authors in a few short paragraphs.
1. Omniscope by Rhodes Brazos – Short Story is of the ‘trapping’ of victim(s)
Writing: well written – Brazos adopts a simplicity that really works in this short story format
Death: portrayed in terms of undergoing scientific experimentation (of sorts)
2. Some Other Day by John F D Taff –the spirit of a dead mother is controlling her son
Writing: the tone is modest to maintain the tragic irony of the tale
Death: She is a wife and a mother who has passed away, but this is more about her After Life. She appears in the living world as a sinister spectre
3. Haunter by Hank Schwaeble – an evil spirit seeks vengeance on one man
Writing: the inclusion of media news reporting moves the plot along nicely, although, in an effort to shock, the momentum is lost at times. Contains strong expletives and sexual references are very base
Death: comes in the form of the man’s possible psychosis and by his own murderous actions
4. Burial Suit by John C Foster – this is about criminal lives. Like father. Like son. This gangster story has everything from funeral parlour to backstreet motel, pocket revolvers, to bodies in the trunk of a car.
Writing: a strong theme with added interest. Some swearing
Death: is the ‘laying out’ of a male corpse, revenge killings etc
5. Nine by Aaron Polson – Charlie is dead; and this is about him, his wife (an Archaeologist) and their two sons.
Writing: Polson takes a softer angle than that of the majority of contributors and this is weirdly romantic. Tribal ritual is a strong theme
Death: is represented in human artefacts and body parts appearing, funeral references etc.
6. Penumbra by Jay Caselberg – This is a ghost story of the traditional kind
Writing: includes listed definitions of the word meaning of ‘Ghost’. The story telling is a little weak but it has a spooky little twist at the end. Some swear words
Death: is related to a dead man who continues his stalking habit even after he has died
7. Foxhole by J G Faherty – a dramatic war story yet is one of compassion and companionship
Writing: Faherty demonstrates the art of short story writing extremely well
Death: is graphically represented in battle wound description of the gruesomely fatal…and more
8. Drowning by Gregory L Norris –is this a story of personal tragedy? Or one of survival? A clue may be in the title but it is still a question to ponder and holds the fascination until the reveal at the end
Writing: language is descriptive and the dialogue is excellent
Death: this is a Titanic story. Time hopping happens but death is always by drowning
9. The Weight by Jane Brooks – Leigh has been hospitalised, the pain in her spine is chronic. Concerned husband, Rob is at bedside, but she fears a cruel destiny awaits her. Under sedation, she is experiencing emotional abuse and anguish from her vicious and nasty ‘Mama’
Writing: Brooks really does convey the misery that her character is experiencing and so it is an absorbing read
Death: is referred to many times in Leigh’s tortured conversation with her dead Mother
10. Harder you Fall – Brian Fatah Steele – Cavallaro eats ghosts and has recruited Madeline. She is fast on becoming his ‘protégé’, albeit a reluctant one.
Writing: this is text book horror in short. The story builds and reaches a really grotesque crescendo. Sexuality and expletives are just mild references. Not a vampire story but has the same kind of allure
Death: is everywhere in this tale
11. MirrorWorld by Martin Rose – the talk is of two worlds, existing side-by-side. Which one is real? This tells of a strange 2D place, a bird keeper, and a child possessed.
Writing: ‘The Birdman of Alcatraz’ meets ‘The Exorcist’! A well constructed piece.
Death: is undoubtedly present throughout because of the dark tone Rose sets, death falls upon characters in a twist at the end
12. March Hays by Matthew Pegg – Soldier Sam has been badly wounded. Lily, a constant friend, is a nurse at the hospital, but this love story separates itself from the traditional somewhat, because it features creepy Old Tod and his hammer!
Writing: In the first person we move from the present, backward into the memories of Sam, and then cleverly forwards (in decades). Pegg’s writing is eloquent and his story packs a few punches
Death: is represented in conflicts, in a storybook myth, in ghosts, the graveyard, the chapel; funeral etc
13. High Art by Karen Runge and Simon Dewar – Raymond has been having regular sex with a well known news reporter. He has enjoyed the challenge of bedding the TV celebrity because he has been bored living with his artist wife, and he is unable to tolerate her insecurities any longer. Raymond starts a chain of unfortunate events, and both women have fallen foul by the end. Raymond has to witness an evil act before he gets his just deserts
Writing: so homicidal and macabre is this story; that it would sit just as well under Crime fiction as it does under the horror label. The sexual content is high, crude language features
Death: is by a thousand cuts
14. A Pirate’s Ransom by Jay O-Shea – The crew of a ‘ghost’ ship are dead, but before the pirate gang, namely Fareed, Old Boy and others, can lay claim to it, events take a turn for the worse. Main character, Jamal narrates a modern take on an old theme
Writing: the sophisticated use of language makes this a real attention grabber. Some Religious references
Death: arrives to those who are cursed
15. To Touch The Dead by Paul Michael Anderson – artefacts that co-ordinators find at a historic site, (where many people had died in a bombing), are taking on a psychic energy of their own.
Writing: and language is ‘down to earth’. This is a mystery and has an air of suspense that keeps you reading on. Some swearing, some religious/spiritual referencing
Death: comes to ‘victims’ of the supernatural (in ritual-type occurrences), bleeding and haemorrhaging of external orifice(s) of the body happens
16. You Only Die Once by Stephen Graham Jones – a dark story with much poignancy. A young girl and her boyfriend are dead. She is constantly observing his deteriorating condition. But why should she? He killed them after all, but still the attention she pours on him is very touching.
Writing: is not that explicit or gory, but, somehow, it really penetrates the psyche
Death: is in many descriptive passages about being dead, or observing death, throughout
Declaration of Copyright
More Dark Fiction from Grey Matter Press
Having read, and re-read for the purpose of reviewing, each story holds its own distinction. Recommended.