Edited By Jeani Rector (The Horror Zine Books; 2012)
Here we have the fourth anthology culled from the Jeani Rector edited Horror Zine website. Each of these anthologies has been bigger and better than the last, meaning A FEAST OF FRIGHTS is the most substantial of them all (at least until the next one). As in the previous collections it contains fiction, poetry and artwork, and also a nonfiction section new to this volume. It all adds up to a terrifically eclectic collection that mixes big names (Graham Masterton, Joe Lansdale, etc) with up-and-coming ones. There’s even an admiring introduction by Ramsey Campbell, whose enthusiasm for The Horror Zine and this book seems genuine. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you this is as strong as any anthology published in 2012, and a must-buy for any horror fan.
Among the fiction entries are several reprints, among them Joe R. Lansdale’s unforgettable “Incident On and Off A Mountain Road,” about a survival trained woman taking on a homicidal freak, Ed Gorman’s “Scream Queen,” about some not-entirely-stable video store nerds and their fateful encounter with an aging horror movie actress, and Jeani Rector’s own “The Golem,” a powerful fleshing out of a legendary folk tale.
Further standouts include “Germ Warfare” by Eric J. Guignard, about an ultra-paranoid man’s attempt at ridding himself of toxins; “Mouthpiece” by Mike Goddard, concerning a guy who develops a second mouth; “Husks and Formless Ruins” by Tom Piccirilli, which explores lust, disillusion and the limits of religious mania; and “The Tide Clock” by James Strauss, an unrelenting evocation of extreme pain experienced by a man trapped under a downed tree.
The poetry section is shorter here than in the previous volumes, but contains some potent entries. “Where the Dead Go” by Ian Hunter offers a sharp and disquieting evocation of confinement and oppression experienced by a dead–or soon to be dead–person interred in a coffin. Wesley Dylan Gray’s “The Skittering” is even chillier in its depiction of insectoid horror (“On his skin they crawl/as he sleeps they dominate/his flesh”). “Judgment From Beyond” by Andrea Latham may indeed be about the otherworldly judgment suggested by the title, or possibly just retribution by a jilted lover; either way it’s a standout. I know I won’t be forgetting “The Diagnosis” by Elise R. Hopkins any time soon, with its overpowering depiction of a woman’s hand slowly rotting from some unexplained contagion.
Of the nonfiction, the standout offering is by true crime impresario John Gilmore, who provides a pungent overview of his life as a Hollywood native obsessed by the Black Dahlia murder. Rounding things out is Joe Lansdale, who tells how it is he became a writer, while TV legend Earl Hamner reminisces about writing for the original TWILIGHT ZONE, and Graham Masterton provides a deeply poignant remembrance of his recently deceased wife.