Feast of Frights from the Horror Zine, A (Book)
Edited by Jeani Rector and Dean H. Wild
Foreword by Ramsey Campbell
Published by The Horror Zine
Jeani Rector's The Horror Zine returns with another collection of stories, articles, poetry, and artwork in A Feast of Frights. Their previous compilation, What Fears Become (review here), was a very solid collection with some flaws. I'm glad to say that this collection is better, even if some of the flaws do remain.
The biggest improvement is in the stories. It's very hard to find a short story collection that doesn't have some clunkers, but this one is solid throughout. There's not a bad or misplaced tale in the book. As before, Rector has chosen well-know writers such as Graham Masterton and Joe R. Lansdale and mixed in new or lesser-known authors, focusing on the quality of the work rather than the strength of the name. It's a wise choice because some of the best stories are from the lesser-known authors.
"Filmland" by Stewart Horn is one of my favorites. An odd tale about reality and fantasy colliding, it made me want more tales in its universe. "The Dead Wall" by Michael Wolf packs a big punch in a very few pages with a tale that would fit well in the pages of EC comics back in the days of the Cryptkeeper.
The bigger names don't fail us, however. "The Story of My First Kiss" by three-time Stoker nominee Jeff Strand is my absolute favorite tale in the book. It's delightfully twisted, wickedly funny, and completely warped. Genre vet Ed Gorman contributes a sweet, sad tale of fandom and fame colliding in "Scream Queen". The only horror it offers is the real kind, the kind that comes when you watch lives and relationships come apart.
One of my main gripes with What Fears Become was the art section. The art on the Horror Zine site is amazing. It just doesn't translate given the way these books are published. Downsized, black and white, with a shabby dot-matrix-like printing method, the pieces just aren't done any justice at all. Thankfully, the art section here has been reduced to just a couple of pages and mostly replaced with a new section, a collection of articles.
Unfortunately, this new section contains the only real missteps of the collection. While some of the articles are interesting and themed appropriately, especially John Gilmore's discussion of his relationship with Elizabeth "The Black Dahlia" Short, others are just completely out of place. Kasey Lansdale, as I understand it, is quite an excellent country singer. However, other than being Joe R. Lansdale's daughter, I have no idea why an article discussing her life and history in music would interest prospective readers of this collection. There are a couple other similar examples, but suffice it to say that while it's better than the botched art gallery in the first collection, it still needs some refinement to justify its inclusion here.
A poetry section is included as well, and as before it's hit and miss. I find poetry incredibly hard to critique to any value, as all I can really say is if it's incredible or terrible. It's so subjective. Best I can say is that this collection has nothing I found incredible and nothing I found terrible.
Closing out the collection is the Editor's Corner, a section of pieces by Rector and her co-editor, Dean H. Wild. Both of Rector's tales are solid, and Wild's contribution, "The Bond", is extremely creepy. All three are a good way to close out this collection.
With A Feast of Frights we have another strong collection of material from The Horror Zine. While the sections that don't feature short fiction are the weak points, even removing them entirely, there's still enough value here to recommend a purchase. It's a good short story collection with some extras that are so/so. Buy it for the stories; read the extras if you like.
3 1/2 out of 5