Title: Ante Mortem
Editor: Jodi Lee
Publisher: Belfire Press
Ante Mortem is a good collection of authors that are the newest guard of the horror genre. All the stories are about the those last moments before dies, either physically or metaphorically. I’m sure there are many out there that think that this would be mostly characters getting killed my some kind of murderer or monster. While those are in there, I have to give credit to the number or ways that theme was used that weren’t. Stories like “Tiny Fingers,” “Hit the Wall,” and “Fetching Narissa” are probably the favorites for that reason. In “Tiny Finger,” Aaron Polson writes a classic ghost tale, but with an ending that could only happen modern times. It is also an ending that you would not expect in most tales of any genre, for the most part. David Dunwoody’s “Hitting the Wall” creeps into that lovecraftian realm of cosmic horror (not “outer space” cosmic but “large and unknowable to human perception” cosmic) with the antagonist being Nature itself. But I would say top billing would go to “Fetching Narissa” where David Chrisom wrote the only story without a physical death in it. I think it is a more chilling and stronger story for it.
There is good cross over appeal in some of these stories. For instance, “Hitting the Wall” is a dark sci-fi story with its Mother Nature antagonist. “The Dubious Magic of Elliot Prince” could easily be read and enjoyed by the Urban Fantasy audience. It, along with “Beauty Ritual” are also stories that deal with gay characters.
What they all have in common is interesting new takes on many classic conventions and tropes of horror that seem original and not just rehashes. You like zombies? Gina Ranalli is your woman to read. Werewolves? “Territory” is your story. I’ll leave the rest for you to discover.
All and all, the highs and lows of the book even each other out, leaving a fairly even reading experience in the end. A solid anthology collection that an horror or non-horror reader can enjoy fully.
Horror Reader Level:
“Tiny Fingers” by Aaron Polson: Beginner
“The Good Friend” by Natalie L. Sin: Intermediate
“To Serve the Beginning” by Gina Ranalli: Intermediate
“Hit the Wall” by David Dunwoody: Intermediate
“From the Bowels” by Benjamin Kane Ethridge: Fan
“The Dubious Magic of Elliot Prince” by K.V. Taylor: Intermediate
“Hunger Pains” by Myrrym Davies: Beginner
“Fetching Narissa” by David Chrisom: Beginner
“Beauty Ritual” by John Grover: Intermediate
“Territory” by Kelly M. Hudson: Intermediate
“A Little Help in the Kitchen” by Jeff Parish: Fan
Average Reader Level: Intermediate
Posted in Book Spotlight
Tagged #wih, aaron poison, anthology, belfire press, Benjamin Kane Ethridge, David Chrisom, David Dunwoody, Gina Ranalli, horror, intermediate level horror, Jeff Parish, jodi lee, John Grover, K.V. Taylor, Kelly M. Hudson, LGBT, Myrrym Davies, Natalie l sin, short stories, small press
Title: American Gothic
Author: Robert Bloch
Publisher: Tor Horror
American Gothic is great example of where modern horror literature started in relation to where it is today. Published in 1974, before horns could be heard signaling the oncoming horror boom of the 80′s, it is a story that, if published today, would most likely be consider a mystery than horror.
What some may not know is that Mystery and Horror have a strong bond between them. Edgar Allan Poe basically created the modern idea of the genre in “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” It was then solidified and codified by the works of Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, and the multitudes of mystery writers since. Both genres thrive on creating suspense, though in horror, the aim is to make it a more fearful suspense. With-holding information from the reader is also key, mostly to help with the suspenseful nature of the story. Investigation is essential too. While a crime is not necessarily needed in a horror story, there is always something that has to be figured out. There is an unknown that must be faced, and that is where the real fear stems from in a horror story.
In this story, based on the true event of H. H. Holmes, it is surprising how much is given to the reader through out the book. The start of the book sets up the character of G. Gordon Gregg to be a serial killer. But you never know how most of them are done. Instead, there is just a constant chain of disappearances. Because of that, it is also important that this is a third-person omniscient narrative. If Bloch were to go any deeper in point of view, he would have to let us on too much of G. Gordon Gregg’s thinking and ruin the suspense that builds over the course of the book. And it his metal capabilities that are so frightening. In a sense, G. Gordon Gregg is a charlatan version of Hannibal Lecter.
And in that, we also see how contemporary horror has changed in the 37 years since American Gothic came out. There was a time where there were two distinct kinds of horror: supernatural and psychological. These days, you don’t see many horror stories that don’t have some ounce of supernatural elements. If there are maniac killers, they are no longer people for the most part. If they are, they are not so much serial killers as spree killers thanks to the popularity of the slasher films. A pure, psychological horror story is rarely considered horror anymore, unless it deals with something like Lovecraft’s use of insanity in his Cthulhu Mythos. I would not be surprised that along with this, many classic horror stories would no longer be considered horror these days. They are foundation that has been pushed, slowly, deeper into the ground so we only see the most recent additions to the genre’s architecture.
Horror Reader Level: Beginner
Posted in Book Spotlight
Tagged american gothic, beginner level horror, edgar allan poe, h. h. holmes, hannibal lecter, horror, mystery, novel, psychological, robert bloch, serial killer, the murders in the rue morgue, tor