Edited by R.J. Cavender
Published by Cutting Block Press
New voices in horror arise every day, but are often times unheard of by the general public. Talented writers labor in obscurity, learning their craft in hopes of the one big break that will expose their works and voices to the general public to make their visions heard at last. To that end, a few notable publishers have taken to putting out anthologies filled with the curious and singular voices of writers of whom no one outside of literary circles might have heard. They are, however, quite talented, and the collections show their chops well. One such publisher is Cutting Block Press,whose 2006 release, Horror Library: Volume 1, is a showcase of terror, twisted visions, and pure horror.
Contained within 224 pages are thirty stories by authors you may not know, but you should. With plots ranging from the horrific to the absurd to the just plain disturbing, the talents showcased in this collection are wide-spread, with audiences of all kinds finding at least one story to send them into giggling horror frenzy. Beginning with the first story, “Palo Mayombe in Matamoros” by Boyd E. Harris, readers will understand that this is not an ordinary collection.
“Palo Mayombe in Matamoras” tells in gripping detail about a young student who is kidnapped and tortured to death while on vacation. All the more disturbing is the last few paragraphs, in which the writer reveals that the story is true, the events fictionalized from police reports of what evidence suggests happened, and just how many young vacationers go missing every year. Getting past that story, the rest of the anthology continues on a path that includes the darkest humor and the most visceral terror.
The best stories in this volume are hard to pick out, as, with very few exceptions, all of the stories contained herein are well written. However, as this is a review, there must be high points. One such high point is John Peter’s “The Mattress”, in which a man is lured to his demise by something tempting and deadly. Another, “Mamma’s Shadow” by Mark E. Deloy, hearkens back to King’s Pet Semetary because sometimes, dead is better. Cordelia Snow weaves a compelling tale with “Under the Floorboards”, the tale of a child finding a little girl living in the crawlspace behind her bedroom wall. Curt Mahr’s “Helping Hand” lends credence to the old saying of no good deed goes unpunished.
In many cases, the stories contained herein are less “horrifying” than they are simply disturbing. Readers will cringe with the brutality of “Scavenger Hunt” by editor R.J. Cavender, in which a killer only remembers one victim’s name. Similarly brutal, but for completely different reasons, is “Insensitivity” by Sunil Sadanand.
There are, in this volume, even a few that border on hilarity, having been written by authors who prefer a little humor mixed with their horror. Of these, Fran Friel’s “Wings with Hot Sauce” paints Satan in a slightly more sympathetic light, while John Mantooth’s “And Mother Makes Five” will make anyone think twice about going anywhere near a public toilet again. Vincent VanAllen’s “Lemonhead” is so unapollogetically weird that readers will find themselves laughing along with the drug-and-speed-crazed lead character. Also, “The Exterminators” by Sara Joan Bernicker bears mentioning, if only for the sudden unsettling feeling that rushes on the reader during the last two paragraphs, followed by a few moments of nervous but genuine laughter.
While space prohibits a lengthy discussion of each and every story in this volume, they are, almost without exception, excellent stories of the highest caliber. There are a few that fall short, either due to the author attempting to use an over-used and clichéd device to “get” the reader, or due to the piece being, well, too short. A few stories lack the ability to develop the characters adequately for the reader to empathize with them, leaving you with just a scene from what could, and probably should, have been a much longer piece. In a way, such a comment about a story could be considered a compliment, as the author has succeeded in making a reader want to know more about his story.
The only real shortcomings of this collection come from minor editing flaws. There are several places where there is an extra space, or where a paragraph began in the middle of a sentence. However, as I said, such errors are few and far between and can be easily forgiven for the overall quality of the stories held inside.
The names held within this book will undoubtedly be the same names gracing the horror bookshelves tomorrow. Given the overall quality of the stories in this book, it is already a foregone conclusion that we, the horror fans, will be hearing from these names again, and the horror genre is all the better for it.
4.5 out of 5
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