I'm going to use this book for the Diverse Voices square because it features stories by Wrath James White & J F Gonzalez & quite a few ladies of horror fiction. Typically collections of these sorts are filled with old white fellas and this one has a decent balance of diverse voices - all considered.
Back in the 90’s I read many of these stories in other extreme anthologies like “Hot Blood” & “Outsiders”, “Little Deaths”, “Still Dead” and a few in Cemetery Dance magazine. I loved them and ate them up like tasty candies and actively looked for more even though they probably weren’t all that good for me! I figured I’d revisit my old extreme love of all things horrible by listening to them on audio and maybe finding some new favorites. That did happen but I also had to come to a painful realization about myself. I am jaded and hard to shock. Either that or a few of these stories just haven’t aged very well.
Do you really need me to talk about all 19 stories? Of course you do! I’ll try to be brief and not too boring but I am a little worn out and despairing about the state of things in this world after listening to all 19 of these back to back. I don’t recommend doing it that way unless you don’t like yourself very much, btw. To be honest, I nearly quit it halfway through because it was making feel like I needed a good brain scrubbing.
George R. R. Martin’s "Meathouse Man" starts things off. I hear it was written in the ‘70’s. I bet back then it would’ve been horrifying but I thought it was a little frustrating. The main character was a sad sack who made me want to kick him in the pants. He was dumped twice and thought love was dead. He then had to go back to the alternative way of finding some sort of satisfaction by screwing animated corpses because what else is a man to do, hmmm? Try a third time, maybe? Nope. This poor, sad sucker goes back to the meat puppet vaginas, all dejected and rejected. This story didn’t make a lot of sense to me. The reader is plopped down into this weird world with little in the way of any explanation. There also seemed to be plenty of women around so WTH man? Stop your crying, grow yourself a backbone and find yourself a new lady love! That’s my advice, anyway. 3 Stars
Joe R. Lansdale’s "Night They Missed the Horror Show" Two numbnuts and a dead dog hit the road and find more trouble than they planned. There’s some classic Lansdale humor here, loads of shocking violence, some rough language and an ending that is well deserved, if you ask me. 4 Stars
Ronald Kelly "Diary" gets 2 stars because I didn’t find it interesting. A serial killer jots down his thoughts and they’re all pretty nasty but clinically dull – like reading his laundry list of dirty deeds. Was it me? Probably.
Elizabeth Massie’s "Abed" deserves 5 stars because it is HORRIFYING even in 2019, even after years of desensitization via The Walking Dead. It’s a haunting take on the horrible life of one very unfortunate young wife whose demented mother-in-law demands a grandchild at all costs in a world seemingly over-run with a zombie plague. I shudder to ponder any of it. If you read nothing else in this collection and want to be disturbed, this one will do it for you.
Randy Chandler & t. Winter-Damon "I Am He That Liveth and Was Dead..." & "Have the Keys of Hell & Death" - I skipped through this one because it didn’t interest me. I haven’t a clue what happens because I am a quitter. It’s an excerpt from a longer story and what I listened to wasn’t thrilling me. Sorry, folks. I am a terrible person.
Edward Lee’s "Xipe" gets 3 stars. I’ve read a bunch of Lee’s work and this one was just okay for me. It’s short and not nearly as nasty as some of his hardcore small press stuff. I suppose I expected something over the top and this one really wasn’t it.
Ray Garton’s "Bait" hurts the heart. I saw where it was leading and I was hoping I was wrong. I wasn’t. 4 Stars
Gerard Houarner’s "Painfreak" - I read this way back when it was originally released. I think it was a chapbook. I remember thinking it was shocking back then but this time around it bored me. The snippets of deviant sex that the main character peeks in on were very clinical and read like a grocery list of somewhat deviant acts. That’s probably more on me than on the story though. It takes place in an underground sex club and features another sad sack, this one is looking for his lost lover. He finds other things instead. This is another dude who needs to grow a dick and get over the fact that his lover no longer digs him. 2.5 Stars
Wayne Allen Sallee’s "Lover Doll" - This was great until that terrible, gut-punch of a final act. WTF, man? Why’d you have to go and do that? What is WRONG WITH YOU? Haha. This one BOTHERED me so I guess I’m not quite dead yet. It’s getting a 4 for everything that came before that last scene.
Charlee Jacob’s "The Spirit Wolves" - A boy wants only to be loved, to be touched with kindness after his mother rejects him time and again. He wants acceptance so badly he’ll do almost anything to get it. What he has to do to find his “pack” is a bit over the top gross but he eventually finds some comfort. I think I would’ve enjoyed this story if it had been a wee little bit longer. 3 stars
Brian Hodge’s "Godflesh" tells the tale of Ellen who is a mild mannered bookstore clerk by day and a sexy, sex fiend named Elle who frequents underground sex clubs by night. Sidenote: What is it with these underground sex clubs in the 90’s?! Were they ever a big thing? Anyhow, Ellen meets a man in a wheelchair giving himself some enthusiastic self-loving right out there in the street for all to see. He later visits her bookstore and she follows him back to his secret sex cult. I mean the nights are long, right, so why not? This one is freaky and harkens back to a certain element found in Dunn’s Geek Love but with some added freaky sex scenes. 3.5 Stars
John Everson’s "Every Last Drop” is about a dude who is no longer getting sexy times from his wife so he answers an ad that promises unspeakable pleasure for FREE! Fella, nothing is for FREE! He learns this lesson the hard way. It ends well with the pervert getting what he deserves. Or at least I thought so. 3.5 stars
Mehitobel Wilson’s "Blind in the House of the Headsman" was very short and very disturbing. I’m not entirely sure what happened because my mind started to go numb after listening to too many of these but whatever it was, it was definitely something terrible and abusive. 3.5 stars
Monica J. O'Rourke’s "An Experiment in Human Nature" Yikes, this one woke me back up. It’s about three privileged rich boys who decide to experiment on a poor student (who is a drain on society – according to these spoiled fucks). This story is extreme (in a not at all sexy way), it is horrifying and it might be one of the best in this book but it is not easy to stomach – even for me. 5 stars for shocking me.
Graham Masterton’s "The Burgers of Calais" This entire collection is narrated by Eric A. Shelman (and I sure hope he is okay after this!). His narration was by far the best in this story and the Lansdale one. The tone was markedly lighter and a much needed relief from the heaviness of the previous stories. This was another of my favorites. There is no extreme sex in this story either and for that I was thankful. It’s a fish out of water tale about a jovial man from Louisiana who gets stuck in Maine and decides to take a job in a restaurant in order to pay for car repairs. He’s the nosy sort and sniffs out something fishy going down with the meat he’s serving up. I’ll just say that I was never more thankful that I gave up eating beef two decades ago because if I hadn’t this book would’ve pushed me over the edge. It’s comical and good humored and the main character is almost charming. I wish more of the stories in this book had been written in this vein. 5 stars
Nancy Kilpatrick’s "Ecstasy" brings us back to the sordid world of strange, underground clubs. A lady goes looking for her sibling and what she finds is harrowing. 3 stars because I was a bit tuckered out by the depraved and strange clubs at this point.
Bentley Little’s "Pop Star in the Ugly Bar" is a Yikes story from beginning to end. This one is ROUGH going. I didn’t like it. It was super mean and cruel and clearly based on a real person making it a little too much AHHHHHH! for me to stomach. 2 stars.
Wrath James White’s "The Sooner They Learn" was another rough one. A man feels that he let his children down by being too lenient of a parent and since both are long past saving, he decides to take the parenting of other people’s brats into his own hands and does so with increasingly violent and sadistically scary methods. I was with him on the time-out nonsense but I simply can’t say I abide by his methods for taming those little beasts, lol. 3 stars.
J.F. Gonzalez’s "Addict"- Dennis tired of his overweight wife long ago and now he’s addicted to porn. His addiction has grown so bad that regular porn doesn’t do the trick and he’s seeking out extreme, rare and pricey films to sate his desire. This one is one of the grossest in a collection filled with grossness. There is decay and there are worm and you will have to use your own imagination because I’m not saying anything else. I think I need my head examined and that brain scrubbing right about now. 2 Stars
Overall the narration here is adequate. There are a few long pauses here and there but, you know, we’re all human. I liked what he did with Lansdale & Masterton tales but some of the others felt a little monotonous and his lady voices made me want to cry a little but there isn’t a lot of lady POV in these stories so that’s a minor nit to pick.
If you’re in need of some desensitization this collection will do the trick.