The third and thus far strongest anthology of stories, poetry and artwork culled from www.thehorrorzine.com. As with volumes one and two, the contributors are a mixture of well known names and first timers. There’s also an admiring introduction by the renowned British horror scribe Simon Clark.
In the fiction selections animals are a favorite topic, as evinced by “Bast” by Christian A. Larsen and the jaw-dropping “Dogleg” by Bentley Little, about, respectively, a cat who steals the breath (and thus the life) of a grieving man’s grandmother, and a girl who loses a leg and has dog’s leg grafted onto its place. Of a similar hue is “Lost Things” by the fantasy novelist Piers Anthony, featuring telepathic guide dogs and cats.
I also got a kick out of “A Bad Stretch of Road” by Dean H. Wild, which reads like a lunatic cross betweenTHE THING and DUEL, and “3 AM” by James Marlow, concerning a man haunted by that very hour. Graham Masterson’s “Reflection of Evil” examines what occurs when a mirror containing a woman’s unquiet spirit is dug up, and Ramsey Campbell contributes “Next Time You’ll Know Me,” a darkly satiric account related in the form of a letter written by a deranged writer to a successful novelist the writer believes has deliberately destroyed his life.
“Adelle’s Night” by David K. Ginn features a woman who’s astonished to be told that she’s a character in a movie–by her would-be murderer! “Fish Night” by Joe Lansdale is a visionary account of ghost fish seen on a magical Texas night, topped off with a nasty surprise involving a spectral shark. “Bones for A Pillow” by Alexandra Seidel is an elegantly written haunted house tale that begins in predictable fashion but concludes in a manner that is anything but. Finally there’s “What the Blind Man Saw” by C. Dennis Moore, a wild and unpredictable number about a blind man who dreams he can see…and kill!
Onto the poems, which are arranged in groups of three, and occasionally four, per author. “A Guide for Ethical Zombie Murder” by Emon Anthousis is a miniature variation on themes introduced in Max Brook’s seminal ZOMBIE SURVIVAL GUIDE, while Anthousis’s “Red Planet” provides a haunting evocation of apocalyptic devastation. Dennis Bagwell’s “Jason’s Lament” straddles the line between prose and poetry, it being comprised of an actor’s bitter rants against his agent–who, for reasons we learn in the final lines, is none too responsive.
Very much of a piece are the three contributions of Teresa Ann Frazee, “The Light Under the Door,” “That Stretch of Road” and “The Roadside Rose,” which deal with ghostly presences and eerie nighttime landscapes. The four entries by Alec B. Kowalczyk likewise feature strikingly desolate imagery–abandoned lighthouses and amusement parks, shadowy doorways and stone lions’ heads–while dead beat poet’s three contributions are told in the form of laments to a deceased lover.
I particularly appreciated “King of Shadows” by John T. Carney, a haunting evocation of Lovecraftian menace; “Seventy Years Later” by John Grey, a poetic take on themes introduced in the classic horror film DEATHDREAM; “The Rules of The Abyss” by Christopher Hivner, describing a metaphoric climb out of a rocky cave; “One Night’s Last Stand” by Juan Perez, about an infernal seduction by a bruja (witch); “The City of the Dead” by Peter Steele, with its unforgettable lines “See how your eyes have fallen out of your head/Welcome to the city of the dead”; and “Unending Battle of Self” by Nathan Rowark (whose author bio identifies him as a practicing Wiccan), about a literal battle for a man’s soul.
The book concludes with a section called “The Editor’s Corner,” in which Jeani Rector contributes two of her own stories. First is “Horrorscope,” whose deranged narrator commits several horrific deeds based on the perceived dictates of his horoscope. “The House on Henley Way,” by contrast, is an old-fashioned ghost story about a realtor’s shivery inspection of a house that was the site of brutal murder.
One last thing: I may have identified this as the “strongest” of the Horror Zine anthologies, but I’ve just gotten a hold of the massive fourth volume, and from what I’ve read thus far it’s clear that it will now have to be ranked at the top–at least until volume five turns up!
- New Anthologies, Part VI: Horror For Good (jeffstrand.wordpress.com)
- New Anthologies, Part IV: A Feast of Frights (jeffstrand.wordpress.com)
- Making the Ordinary Meet the Extraordinary With Piers Anthony (tor.com)
- Happy Birthday, Alan M. Clark! (bizarrocentral.com)