All Hallow’s Read 2013 (Day 22) – You Gonna Die, Fly

You Gonna Die, FlyWe opened this week with a super creepy, atmospheric family friendly spoken word story on vinyl called The Ride of the Headless Horseman (see All Hallow’s Read 2013 (Day 20) here). Today, I have a hilarious not-so-kid-friendly 32-page picture book called You Gonna Die, Fly by sister duo Elizabeth Massie and Barbara Spilman Lawson published by Fucked Up Folktales Publishing. Massie penned the story of Fly, a world-weary fly, after being inspired by all these fucked up folktales she was reading. And Lawson brought Fly to life, born from her dream of flying and admiration of the fly since they can do just that. This is a story for adults who will enjoy illustrated stories and, in particular, will enjoy a tale that takes a humorous look at life & death through the compound eyes of a fly. Although You Gonna Die, Fly looks like a children’s book – with the exception of the word “die” in the title and the cig hanging out of Fly’s mouth – there’s drug use, violence, and sexual content that is definitely not appropriate for kids. “Rated RG for Racy Insect Drawings and Gratuitous Profanity.” You’ve been warned.

This is the first time I’ve seen Lawson’s work, but her loveable lil’ characters compliment Massie’s story, and general asthetic, perfectly. You Gonna Die, Fly is a fine representation of the dichotomy of Massie. On one side, she writes some of the most disturbing scenes in horror fiction, but on the other she’s knitting sweaters and scarves in her spare time. There’s a thread of frightening sexual perversity in her stories, but she also draws these adorable pictures of zombie animals. While reading a Massie short story, my mom yelled out “what the hell is wrong with this bitch!?” (“Bitch” meant to be complimentary in regards to Massie’s ability to freak her out, naturally). Massie’s stories may cause readers to question her mental stability, but just like any normal Jane, she can often be found people watching at Starbucks with her buds, or as she likes to call it, The Bux. Even her nickname for Starbucks is cute! I’m guessing that Lawson too is a similar blend of wholesome sweetness and morbidity.

I wouldn’t typically define Massie’s work as “cutesy,” but You Gonna Die, Fly is simply adorable, but with black humor and cursing. Massie has paired her love of pleasant and cute with dark and disturbing before through her zombie art, but the picture-books-for-adults project is the best forum for her to display both sides of her artistic personality. Of course, it’s not all Massie. Perhaps without Lawson’s dream of flying we’d have no Fly at all. I look forward to seeing more of Lawson’s characters and the progression of this Fucked Up Folktales venture.

you gonna die fly illustration

Fly on drugs. Illustrated by Barbara Spilman Lawson

You can snag a copy of Elizabeth Massie & Barbara Spilman Lawson’s You Gonna Die, Fly from Fucked Up Folktales here. And if you enjoy that, be sure to grab a copy of their follow-up, Damn You, Demon. Or you can take advantage of their special holiday deal and get both for $26 with FREE shipping! And they’ll sign them however you wish. Each title is usually $14.50 + $3.50 for shipping so you can’t beat that deal.

Based on Fucked Up Folktales’ Facebook page there is a third book in the works which will be out in the not-so-distant future, so keep an eye on their page here to see what fucked up thing they’ll come up with next!

For more information about Elizabeth Massie’s work past and present visit her website here. To explore more work by Barbara Spilman Lawson you can visit her website Art With A Twist here.

-Meli

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Meli’s Women in Horror Month Book Haul

The amount of money I spend on books is a regular point of contention between me and my husband. Actually, it’s not cash flow he’s concerned about, it’s valuable real estate. Shelf and cabinet space to be precise. While my honey, my sweetheart fills his side of the room with vinyl records, the shelves on my side runneth over with books and they’re starting to creep into his territory. It’s hard for my patient and understanding life partner to understand why I continue to buy books when I haven’t read all the ones I have. After all, it only takes him a half an hour or more to listen to an album. It could take me a couple days, probably more, to read a novel or anthology. Still, I can’t stop buying books.

Yeah, I have an Amazon.com wish list, but what if I can’t–or don’t want–to get the book in question from Amazon? What if it’s published by a small press? What if I later forget that I even wanted it? What if it sells out? I can’t take that chance! That’s why I have to get it while the gettin’ is good. To the chagrin of my husband, one book leads to another in an endless cycle of seek and destroy.

For example, my favorite author may reveal in an interview that he/she is heavily inspired by so-and-so and I got another book to add to my to-read list. Then, I read that book by so-and-so and in the introduction they mention a fellow peer whose work has motivated them to pursue writing seriously (or something like that). I add that to my to-read list. Now, with social networking I have a non-stop influx of recommendations from my favorite authors, readers, publishers, bloggers and even strangers, so I may not be able to finish one book before I’ve got five other titles on my shelf!

I have many titles collecting dust while I continue to buy new books. This is precisely why I started The Dreadful Attic, a review section here at Dreadful Tales that is for the sole purpose of getting those books read!

Even though I’m making a concerted effort to finally read some of the lost and forgotten, I struggle to resist alluring novels, collections (my biggest weakness), and my favorite writer’s new releases. Sometimes books that just have cool cover art.

Women in Horror Month proved an irresistible temptation to that feat. I had the opportunity to interview several women throughout February and of course I had to pick their brains about their favorite writers and personal influences. This elicited a number of additions to my wish list.

Every once in while you get in a slump where everything in the scene kinda feels stale and nothing seems to grab you and demand you take notice. Other times, the times I live for as a horror fiction fan, you have the exhilarating realization that the well was never dry to begin with; you were just tapping the wrong vein. With my shopping cart full and my bank account empty, I felt that rush of excitement for the state of horror fiction this past month and I want to share it with you all!

Beyond is the list of books I purchased before and throughout February, and I’ve included some titles I will buy soon also.

Before WiHM kicked off, I was soliciting genre fans for their favorite female horror writers and it was Ron McKenzie, artist and man of exquisite taste, that first mentioned the name Gina Ranalli, a name new to me. Many people joined in to second, third, and fourth that recommendation and in particular the title House of Fallen Trees. I picked up that book along with Brainfused Colorwheel, just because the title sounds trippy. You can browse Ranalli’s titles here and visit her website here.

I’m on an Elizabeth Massie kick lately and I love vampires. Pre-WiHM I snagged a used copy of The Mammoth Book of Vampire Stories by Women edited by Stephen Jones and featuring work by Poppy Z. Brite, Nancy Kilpatrick, Gemma Files, Elizabeth Massie, and a dozen other high caliber writers. I picked this up more for my rabid vampire obsession, weakness for anthologies, and Massie fandom than the celebratory month of February, but a fitting title to include here. Used copies are available rather cheap, you just gotta look around. Visit Elizabeth Massie’s website to follow her work and find out more about the multi-talented author.

There were a few titles I added to my collection as a result of my interview with Maria Alexander. Right about the time I was reading (or just finished) Maria Alexander’s short story contributions to Dark Arts Books 2008 anthology Sins of the Sirens, the preliminary Bram Stoker Award nomination ballot was announced. Included among that bevy of talent is, now officially, Maria Alexander’s poetry collection At Louche Ends, published by Monica S. Kuebler’s Burning Effigy Press. Alexander struck a nerve with me, as did all the Sins writers. I had to have At Louche Ends. So I headed over to the Burning Effigy shoppe to pick it up. I figured there was no point just buying one lone title, so I grabbed Ian Roger’s Black Lands novellas Temporary Monsters, The Ash Angels, and Black-Eyed Kids as well. You can get all Burning Effigy Press titles here. Visit Ian Roger’s website here and Maria Alexander here.

After reading Maria Alexander’s At Louche Ends, I was motivated to introduce more poetry to my diet. Not through a direct recommendation, but perhaps subliminal messaging I recalled Wrath James White’s poetry collection Vicious Romantic, which was also nominated for a Stoker last year. I’m anxious to read the most hardcore horror writer’s take on this format which, interestingly, is in traditional Japanese and Korean formal poetic structures. You can pick up Vicious Romantic here and follow White’s projects on his website Words of Wrath.

Another title I snatched up in an effort to get better acquainted with the poetic form is Rain Graves’ Barfodder: Poetry Written in Dark Bars and Questionable Cafes out from Cemetery Dance Publications. As the title suggests, Graves’ poems were written in the shadowed corners of establishments through her travels and is praised by genre icon Neil Gaiman; Rain Graves writes really nasty poetry. She is a mistress of creating images that stick, the kind that you cannot get out of your mind—not even using steel wool and a small, extremely sharp knife.” Even though this collection was published in early 2009, it’s still available from Cemetery Dance Publications here. You can also check out Rain Graves’ website here.

Another author’s name that came up quite a bit during WiHM was, unsurprisingly, Daphne du Maurier, most famously known for her works adapted by Alfred Hitchcock, like the short story “The Birds.” While browsing the Cemetery Dance website, I came across The Doll: The Lost Short Stories by Daphne du Maurier. This collection includes eight stories originally published in the now out of print Early Stories, and five stories from periodicals published during the 1930s. With du Maurier on the brain, I had to have it. The anthology is currently available from Cemetery Dance Publications here, but this is a one-time only run so get it while you can.

While Sins of the Sirens writer and Bram Stoker Award nominee Maria Alexander has inspired me to expand on my knowledge of poetry, the other Ladies of Sins have sparked my interest in a number of books as well. Loren Rhoads created the magazine of weird true stories Morbid Curiosity and collected her favorite published entries from 10 years as editor in Morbid Curiosity Cures the Blues. This anthology of unusual tales includes an entry from fellow Sins writer Mehitobel Wilson, “Thanksgiving at Bel’s.” Morbid Curiosity Cures the Blues is morbidly cheap and you can pick that up here. Also, stop by The Daphne du Maurier website for everything du Maurier.

Speaking of Mehitobel Wilson, I am now on the hunt for her short horror fiction collection Dangerous Red. From what I can tell this early in my search is the book, originally published by Necro Publications in the early 2000s, is only available used. Prices don’t look unreasonable ($20 or so on ebay), but I’ll keep searching. If you have a good lead, please give me a heads up! (edit: Dangerous Red is available at Amazon.com here There are typically only 5 copies in stock, so if they’re out check back again later) Get to know more about Mehitobel “Bel” Wilson on her website.

There are a few other authors I’m seeking out and books I want to pick up – suggestions from authors and fans – but those are the titles I have on deck or books that are in transit to my mailbox as we speak!

So, what did you get last month (WiHM-related or otherwise)?

-Meli

Modern Marvel: Feature & Interview with Horror Author / Knitter / Artist Elizabeth Massie

Truth be told, I’m unfashionably late to the Elizabeth Massie party. I don’t know if my invitation got lost in the mail or if I was busy that night, but lucky for me people are still hanging out having cocktails.

If you ask fans of horror fiction to list up their favorite women in horror literature, you’ll hear Massie’s name mentioned repeatedly. Hell, pick up any horror Best of anthology or short story collection and there’s a pretty good chance you’ll find one of her titles there because she’s got almost 100 short horror stories to her credit!

Like most of the women we will feature this month, Massie has a helluva long resume which includes a lot of work outside the genre, but we’ll get to that a bit later.

With such a massive catalog to choose from, deciding where to begin can be a daunting task, so why not start with the publicly revered, Bram Stoker Award-winning titles?

Massie’s long fiction tale “Stephen” was her first piece to garner the highly coveted award in 1991. Massie was up against horror lit icons like Stephen King (nominated for “The Langoliers”) and Dan Simmons (nominated for “Entropy’s Bed at Midnight”), but proved she could roll with the big dogs after claiming her own miniature castle statue.

“Stephen” starts at a brooding pace, but takes an unexpected turn with a brutally violent revelation, and closes with a morbid sexual romp. The ending is unconventional erotica while still being titillating. Of course, if you ask Massie, which I did, she would have you believe I’m a pervert for saying so! Still, “Stephen” gets under your skin. It stays with you for days, even weeks, after you’ve read the last page. Whether you get turned on or not… well, that’s your business. “Stephen” is collected in Cemetery Dance Publication’s The Horror Hall of Fame: The Stoker Winners which is currently available for purchase. There are 13 short and long fiction stories, all Bram Stoker Award-winning titles, included in this anthology ranging from 1987 to 1995 and you can pick it up here.

Massie beat out Poppy Z. Brite, among others, in 1993 to claim her second Bram Stoker Award for her first novel, Sineater. Here’s a little peak into what horror writer Rick Hautala called “one of the best, most touching, most intense ‘horror’ novels I ever read.”

According to legend, the sineater is a dark and mysterious figure of the night, condemned to live alone in the woods, who devours food from the chests of the dead to allow them to ascend to heaven. To look upon the sineater is to see the face of all the evil he has eaten, and to become insane with the overwhelming presence of sin. But now the order has been broken, the tradition violated; the sineater has a family of his own, although even his wife and children must avert their gazes on the rare occasions he visits them. When Joel, the youngest child, tries to lead a normal life, strange occurrences affect the community. Before long, no one is safe from the dark forces set loose, and Joel must discover if the havoc emanates from the sineater, the community itself, or some other mysterious force….

After you’ve finished with the essentials, I would recommend picking up Massie’s zombie short story “Abed.” This isn’t about a guy named Abed turning into a zombie, which I mistakenly thought it was, it’s infinitely more awkward and terrifying. You can download it for your e-reading device for a scant $0.99. If you don’t have an e-reader just download a Kindle app for your PC. No matter what, YOU HAVE TO READ “ABED!!” Sorry I screamed at you. But seriously, this story costs less than a 5-piece chicken nugget and will take only 10 minutes to read. That’s plenty of time for Massie to blow your mind! Just quit reading this and go read the story now…

…Did you read it?? Promise? Ok, well, I’m just gonna have to trust you. Now, what if I told you there is man named Ryan Lieske who is passionate and brave enough to pursue making a film adaption of “Abed!?”  Hard to believe, huh? It’s absolutely true. In fact, filming just wrapped this past weekend and Abed is slated for release this spring/summer! You heard me right. Spring/summer 2012. And I don’t mean to boast or brag, but yours truly had the privilege of visiting the set of Abed in southern Michigan last Saturday and I got zombified with blood, guts, mud, dead leaves, decaying teeth and all that! It was probably the greatest day of my life, just don’t tell my husband.

The short story is easy to find. Once you’ve read it, which I assume you have because you promised you did, check out the Abed movie Facebook page or the IndieGoGo website to keep up with the latest developments. Keep your eyeballs on the Dreadful Tales website for the super-duper extra exclusive set visit coverage coming soon! You won’t get the inside scoop anywhere else, folks.

Massie doesn’t just write horror fiction, though. She has published novelizations of the television show The Tudors, historical fiction, and educational non-fiction as well. Her photo history of Waynesboro, Virginia, Images of America: Waynesboro which was co-authored with Cortney Skinner, was published a few years back.

When Massie isn’t terrifying readers, corrupting minds, or educating the masses, she’s warming bodies and hearts with her homemade knit scarves and Skeeryvilletown drawings. Yep, you read that right. The author of “one of the most disturbing horror stories ever written” also knits scarves and draws cute little characters from the fictional world Skeeryvilletown, with names like Boo Boy, Stinky Square Eyes, and Fire Breathing Dog ‘O Death! Doesn’t look like much has been happening in the world of Skeeryvilletown in a while, but you can still enjoy these bizarre little cartoon animals on Massie’s website.

Massie took a break from writing her latest novel, Desper Hollow, and her furious knitting (she never stops!) to answer some questions for Dreadful Tales. Find out about her influences, the inspiration for a few of her stories, and why she thinks I’m a pervert beyond the break!

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Dreadfully Anticipated 2012

Dear Dreadful readers, we have a great 2012 ahead of us because there a frightful number of horror titles clawing there way to your bookshelves and e-readers this year. While our film-obsessed horror brothers and sisters discuss the state of dismal box office turnout and the exhaustive onslaught of remakes, reimaginings, and reboots, we’ll be celebrating the hard work and dedicated efforts of some of the best in genre literature as well as meeting some fresh faces to the scene. Every year seems to get better as my to-read list climbs to new heights and the outlook for 2012 is no different. Here is a list of the releases we are dreadfully anticipating this year, in no particular order.

The unfolding of Monica S. Kuebler’s online YA vampire series Bleeder

We’ve mentioned Bleeder a few times now, but it is timely to give it another shout because Chapter 2 just went live yesterday! If you haven’t been reading along, go back and check out the first two chapters in the series and buckle in for the exciting saga of Mildred “Mills” Millhatten as her life is turned upside down by a long dormant family secret. Monica S. Kuebler calls Bleeder “pitch-black urban fantasy/horror crossbreed” for teens, but I can assure you this will be enjoyed by adult readers too. A new chapter will go live every Sunday, so mark your calendars! Visit the Bleeder website here.

Jeff Strand’s Faint Of Heart (February 2012)

Jeff Strand just made an announcement this past Thursday about his upcoming novel Faint Of Heart via his website, Gleefully Macabre, with a very simple but enticing teaser followed by a peek at the cover:

Some of you prefer my funny stuff.

Some of you prefer the more serious stuff.

For those of you in the latter category, on February 1st there’s…

We are huge Jeff Strand fans here at Dreadful Tales. Hell, I even got dressed up like the guy and went strutting around town because I admire him so much! I like the funny, I like the serious, I’m just happy when he’s releasing new work! Faint Of Heart is due out February 1st, so keep your eyes peeled on Strand’s Facebook page and website for the deets.

The Hunger Artist by Lisa Mannetti (TBD)

Lisa Mannetti just announced via Facebook a few hours ago, at the time of writing this, that she is starting her next novel, tentatively titled The Hunger Artist, so I can’t say for certain that is will be published in 2012. Regardless, I am as pleased as punch to hear there is a new book on the horizon from this Bram Stoker Award-winning talent. I have no synopsis to tease you with or cover art to entice your eyeballs, but we’ll be sure to keep you posted as information becomes available. In the meantime, you can stalk her Facebook page and visit her website to stay abreast (stop giggling, Colum!) of everything Mannetti.

Everything Greg Lamberson is releasing! (April 2012, June 2012, October 2012)

Greg Lamberson has at least three books coming out in 2012! Yes, you read that right, three! And he may even have some super top secret book that he’ll squeeze in before year end as well, but we’ll have to wait and see.

First up from Lamberson is his zombie road novella, Carnage Road, out from Creeping Hemlock Press’ zombie line, Print Is Dead, in April. I scanned the aged wall postings of my Facebook to find the original blurb Lamberson used to describe this novella, but without success. If memory serves me right, he said it’s “Dawn of the Dead meets Easy Rider.” If that doesn’t sell you, read Colum’s glowing review that just went live yesterday. Lamberson also put together a book trailer where he puts that filmmaking experience to good use! Carnage Road is due out April 3rd, 2012, which is also my birthday, so plug that one in your calendar! Creeping Hemlock Press has an obvious eye for talent and they’re quickly becoming my favorite indie press, so stop by their their website to see the other horror titles they offer.

Second on the agenda is the long-awaited follow-up to Lamberson’s werewolf novel The Frenzy Way, The Frenzy War. Already available for pre-order, The Frenzy War is due out in June 2012 from Medallion Press. It’s been almost two years since we left our hero, Detective Tony Mace, and I am anxious to catch back up with this hunka hunka burnin’ love fearless protector of humanity. Tony, if you’re reading this, call me!

And finally, the third book Lamberson will release this year is the fourth installment in the action / horror mashup, The Jake Helman Files series, Tortured Spirits, due out in October 2012 also from Medallion Press. This is a truly epic series with a badass paranormal detective, Jake Helman, and a whole host of monsters. If you haven’t had a chance to read these books yet, make it your top priority! Otherwise, Detective Helman might come kick you right in the groin! Find out more about the fourth book here.

House of Skin by Jonathan Janz (Summer 2012)

I just recently finished Jonathan Janz’ first title published by Samhain Publishing, The Sorrows, and it really blew me away. I will be posting a proper review soon, so I won’t elaborate too much here now, but I will say all you children of Laymon out there will be pleased. The Sorrows is a turbo-charged, erotic horror that has passages to make the roughest biker dude blush and maybe even warm his heart! Samhain will publish his sophomore effort, House of Skin, this summer and I can’t wait to see what other sick and twisted monsters Janz will unleash upon the reading community. Read more about House of Skin and browse around Janz’ site here.

Corrupts Absolutely? anthology edited by Lincoln Crisler (March 2012)

Corrupts Absolutely? asks its readers what would happen if people had superpowers. People including the mentally unstable, social outcasts, and the regretful and bitter. Featuring work by genre favorites like Jeff Strand, Joe McKinney, Weston Ochse, and a dozen more, this anthology will undoubtedly be on everyone’s wish list this year, if it isn’t already. Corrupts Absolutely? will be available from Damnation Books March 2012.

Zombies vs Robots: This Means War, edited by Jeff Conner (April 2012)

Here is another title being released on my birthday! I don’t know who sent the memo to the publishing world, but THANK YOU! Zombies vs Robots: This Means War takes IDW’s comic book series, created by writer Chris Ryall and artist Ashley Wood, and promises it “expands it in ways that will redefine both zombie and robot fiction.” While I’m not familiar with the original series, I like a good comic and the lineup for this collection is promising which makes it worthy of an instant self-gift for my day of birth! Great concept, talented contributors, and a pretty badass cover too. You can preorder ZVR: This Means War, due out April 3rd, 2012, now at Amazon for a slight discount.

Wild 2 by Lincoln Crisler (September 2012)

Lincoln Crisler is gonna be a busy bee this year, buzzin’ all over the genre scene. Not only is he involved in the two projects mentioned above, but he’ll also be releasing the sequel to his weird western zombie novella Wild with Wild 2. There’s no cover art available to tease you with just yet because the book won’t be out until September 2012 (apparently he didn’t get the memo that all releases are due on my birthday!), but here is a peek at what to expect from the second entry.

While escorting Henry Waters to his new beginning at a Massachusetts prep school, Matthias and Juan uncover the reason for the school’s headmaster’s mysterious disappearance. Less cowboy. More questions.

Release of the film adaptation of Elizabeth Massie’s short story Abed (Spring 2012)

Abed, short story by two-time Bram Stoker Award-winning author Elizabeth Massie, has been called one of the most disturbing horror stories ever written. Now, the director adapting the short story for film, award-winning writer/director Ryan Lieske, has his sights set on making it the most disturbing zombie film of 2012. Until just last night, literally right before I went to bed, I hadn’t read Abed, but being a Massie fan I was still excited to learn that one of her stories would be adapted for film. Now that I have finished Abed, I can say undoubtedly that the short is one of the most disturbing stories I have ever read and I am very curious to see how this evolves from the page to celluloid. You can pick up a digital copy for just $0.99, so you should do that right now! And just wait until you find out what “abed” means. Production for this project is in full swing and due out in my most anticipated season of the year, spring 2012! Like Abed on Facebook and keep up with one of the hardest working writers in this gory game on Massie’s website. Below is a synopsis to get your blood pumpin’.

The dead have risen … and in one small, Midwestern town, the residents have learned to cope as best they can.

Meggie lost her husband, Quint, during the early days of the undead uprising. She now lives a life of quiet horror and desperation, for her mother-in-law will do anything to help the family adjust to this new world. Even the unspeakable …

NightWhere by John Everson (June 2012)

Ever since Colum gave me a copy of John Everson’s The 13th a few years back, I haven’t missed anything by this author. His blend of erotica and horror has been perfected into an intoxicating signature style that hits all the right notes. Everson revealed some details about this project in his interview with Dreadful Tales here where he assures his sixth novel, NightWhere, is a return to form. More blood, more sex, more mayhem! NightWhere centers on a swinging husband and wife who are invited to a floating sex club, the titular NightWhere, where anything goes. There is no cover art available yet, but we’ll keep you posted. NightWhere will be available from Samhain Publishing June 2012. Prepare yourself! Until then, visit Everson’s website and sign-up for his newsletter to stay in the loop on everything the master of sexy is up to.

So, those are the titles we are most anxious for this year. Tell us about your most dreadfully anticipated titles in the comments section below!

The Horror Hall of Fame: The Stoker Winners, Edited by Joe R. Lansdale

It’s been a long time coming for Cemetery Dance Publication’s The Horror Hall of Fame: The Stoker Winners. The earliest story is dated 1996, but timing isn’t so much an issue when you have a collection of truly timeless fiction. These stories, handpicked by the Horror Writers Association for the Bram Stoker Award for short and long fiction, represent a wide spectrum in horror writing.  Editor Joe R. Lansdale, a master of horror himself and a contributor to this collection, describes the anthology best in his introduction stating “These stories cut a wide swathe through the field.” He goes on to say that these stories are “gathered together like fine chocolates,” ones that “do not diminish with consumption.” The Horror Hall of Fame represents a remarkably diverse range of horror fiction and stands as a testament to a horror writer’s ability to tap into more than just the emotion of fear.

What better way to prep your palate than with a tale by a writer best known for penning Psycho? Robert Bloch opens with “The Scent of Vinegar,” a grotesque vampire story that leads one man to discover urban legend is sometimes borne of something real. There is nothing conventional about the stories chosen for this anthology, so although Bloch uses a classic monster you can expect a fresh perspective.

In an interesting turn, Bloch’s “The Scent of Vinegar” is followed by David B. Silva’s “The Calling,” a striking juxtaposition to illustrate different styles of horror. Silva’s story abandons any supernatural elements to delve into one of the most terrifying real-life monsters, cancer. He exploits the psychological power of sound to evoke a gnawing suspense and terror. Using this one minor detail, an incessant whistling from a man’s suffering mother, Silva exposes the residual horror of disease and death.

Following those two notably different tales is an equally distinct short by the infamous Harlan Ellison in “Chatting with Anubis.” Ellison, a writer whose shelves must overflow with awards, is unsurprisingly the one to whet our appetite for fantasy. “Chatting with Anubis” is an otherworldly piece that pits man against God, albeit a jackal-headed one, when two people seek great discovery in the mythical Shrine of Ammon. Ellison is an author with an impressive resume perfectly at home with the horror elite, but considering the collection overall, this had the least impact for me.

While “Chatting with Anubis” didn’t stick for me, it is followed by one of my favorites in the collection, the disturbing, nauseating “The Pear-Shaped Man” by horror / sci-fi / fantasy master George R.R. Martin. He takes one of the most nonthreatening objects, cheese curls, and turns it into a real terror. Yes, you read that right. Martin makes those delicious little, orange puffs of corn your worst nightmare. Only a true Horror Hall of Famer could do that! Martin builds pitch-perfect suspense to a shocking and satisfying reveal.

Joe R. Lansdale keeps the momentum going with another one of my top picks, “The Night They Missed the Horror Show.” Boredom leads two men into a dangerous situation where one despicable act is trumped by another in what I consider the most brutal, gut-wrenching contribution in the bunch. They miss a horror show, but find out real-life horror can be much worse than any movie could depict.

The Horror Hall of Fame continues to position stories with significantly different styles by placing Nancy Holder’s “Lady Madonna” next in line. Holder boasts four Bram Stoker Awards solidifying her as a veteran Horror Hall of Famer. In this tale, one woman struggles to give birth in secret suppressing screams of agony to protect her child. But this is no ordinary birth or baby. Our first-person narrator shares the bizarre story of her obsession to bear a child, one for which she goes to extraordinary lengths.

When one talks horror fiction, Jack Ketchum’s name is sure to come up. Ketchum, also a four-time Bram Stoker Award-winner, has perplexed readers for years with his MacGuffin in “The Box” as readers wonder “What’s in the box!?” This tale concerns itself with a man whose son mysteriously stops eating after looking into the box of a stranger. When this condition is passed on to the other children and eventually the mother, we are subjected to the aching sadness a father who grapples with a helplessness to save them.

Now past the halfway mark, we finally get into a subgenre of which I am most fond, erotic horror. Elizabeth Massie’s “Stephen” is more titillating than terrifying, but a short that will be burned into your memory. A woman volunteers at a rehabilitation center to help patients with extreme deformities, an assignment that culminates in violent revelation and one of the strangest sex scenes ever put to paper.

We cool off with a dark atmospheric piece by one of my favorite horror authors, Thomas Ligotti’s “The Red Tower.” The narrator shares the story of the titular Red Tower, an obscure factory that produces a “terrible and perplexing line of novelty items.” Ligotti is able to horrify with just a building and a clever history of macabre production. He builds his Red Tower effortlessly in the reader’s mind despite his often unconventional prose in which he indulges in lengthy descriptions.

Contrary to the serious and dark tone of “The Red Tower,” Alan Rodgers follows with a playful science-fiction story about a boy who comes back from the dead, appropriately titled “The Boy Who Came Back from the Dead.” When aliens dig up Walt, he immediately goes back home. His family isn’t terribly disturbed by his return initially, and he even goes back to school for a bit, but that doesn’t last long. Rodgers’ offers a bit of reprieve from the darker tales in the collection with his charming undead protagonist, b-movie influence, and tongue-in-cheek attitude.

Another sci-fi entry, Jack Cady’s road story “The Night We Buried Road Dog” is an example of horror being heart-warming. The story is multi-layered revealing the big picture in bits as we progress. I found this to be one of the more surprising stories in terms of development. Simply put, it’s about a friendship between two gear heads who become preoccupied with a legend of the road, but simple becomes complex as the origins of the legend are revealed. The friendship between Cady’s two central characters is palpable which makes the conclusion of the story emotionally stirring.

The arrangement continues to be eclectic with the fitting placement of another erotic horror piece. P.D. Cacek introduces readers to a hypersexual woman in the strange and arousing “Metalica.” She stimulates her readers with a normally sterile encounter, the Pap smear. “Metalica” casts the reader as a metal-craving nymphomaniac by alternating between second-person and third-person narration. One moment finds Kate lying back for this routine procedure, another “you feel him growing warmer, incandescent as the orgasm builds.” Cacek successfully turns a big turn-off, visiting your Gynecologist, into a turn-on which coincidentally makes you feel a bit weird for being aroused by it.

Sadly, the anthology must come to an end and the last chocolate in the box is David Morrell’s “Orange Is for Anguish, Blue Is for Insanity.” In this story, the work of legendary Impressionist Van Dorn, ignites an obsession that threatens to destroy anyone who tries to understand its secret. For those who do, their downward spiral into insanity leads to a gruesome end.

The Horror Hall of Fame is an anthology of great stories by some of the most talented authors in the genre. It’s a must-have for horror fiction fans. Every story has the prestigious stamp of approval by the Horror Writers Association featuring authors every fan should be familiar with. It’s also the perfect collection for a reader who is curious about horror, but doesn’t know where to start. And as Lansdale suggested in his introduction, it’s “a wonderful primer for would be horror writers… because good stories and good writing do not belong to genre; they belong to readers.”

The Horror Hall of Fame: The Stoker Winners is available just in time for Christmas from Cemetery Dance Publications. The book features cover art by Alan M. Clark and darkly delicious interior art by Glenn Chadbourne for each story.