And Now the Nightmare Begins: The Horror Zine
Volume One – to purchase click away here for US readers and here for UK.
An anthology of horror stories edited by Jeani Rector
Reviewed by Geoff Nelder
Paperback: 260 pages
Publisher: Bearmanor Fiction (Dec 2009)
Jeani Rector edits and started a monthly online zine of horror featuring fiction, articles, images and poetry many years ago and the current website is at http://www.thehorrorzine.com Twenty of the finest stories and twenty-one poems have been collated into an anthology published in December 2009. I leave a review of poetry to those who understand the good and the bad of it.
This collection is a patchwork quilt of horror, with a mix of writing styles and plots to please all aficionados of the genre. For me, some are merely very good while a handful are outstanding.
Folks Don’t Always Come Out of Ratwitch Cave The Same by Lawrence Barker
Maybe it was the sadist in me but as a geography teacher I loved to take groups of teenagers into an abandoned slate mine near the Welsh town of Blaunau Ffestiniog and creep them out. I needed to do no more than walk them in a mile, divert them into a side adit then get them to turn their lights out. Some screamed, others laughed. The laughers probably turned into readers of horror. This story by Lawrence Barker took me back to that cave, added more rats, a witch and, writing with stylish sensual Show, threw in a hellish emotion roaring through the protagonist, Hargus, as he fought his demons with murderous results. I like long titles but this one lacked the subtlety of the narrative and was too much of a spoiler in my opinion.
I’m Coming To Get You by Jason D. Brawn
Simon watches a 60s film on TV, The Devil’s Shadow, but the ending isn’t as he expected resulting in him experiencing the horror of his family being hacked. Or does it? There is a way out, but will he accept it? The premise of pacts with the devil isn’t new but the treatment is unique. The writing could be tighter with the occasional dangling participles, but the mood of the piece is cleverly scary.
The Dead Wall by David Byron
The early mention of unprotected sex betrayed the likely consequence. However, the ghastly nature and revelation of that consequence unsettled me all the way to a compelling finale.
The Hands by Ramsay Campbell
I always relish reading the master of fantasy, and pleasurably recall hearing his FantasyCon readings in the UK. It is the archetypal corridor horror where the reader feels ill following the protagonist through the realistic grim interior of a dilapidated building, initially following someone in, then desperately seeking a way out. One of the reasons Campbell is a multiple-award winning writer is the way he masters description. For example he doesn’t Tell us it’s raining he Shows us with a signpost dripping like a nose. Every time I read The Hands I find nooks I’d missed earlier, yet I am surprised at the lack of the use of smell and taste. However, Campbell says he uses each story to try new things and plenty of full sensory Show is used in his stories in the quarter of a century since The Hands was first published.
The Real-Time Boogey Man by Chris Castle
I wasn’t surprised to learn that Chris Castle is also a poet: this story has that kind of fluidity. Listen – ‘There was a moment when his smile was lit too brightly and she had to close her eyes and when she opened them again, he had faded from view.’ This, when Martha finds a ghostly friend who is to Halloween her evil father to hell. She is remarkably composed yet with an eerie air, obliging the reader to read on.
The Pass by Simon Clark
This must be a good story because I squirmed in my desire for the wrong ending. The hogs, or were they, coming to kill the community, felt real and dangerous, but then the alternative threw up pathos equally stomach churning.
Venus by Connor de Bruler
I suppose a young writer is allowed to let exuberance for the art trample the mature niceties of point of view adherence, dangling participles, and such. The many sections doesn’t allow readers to engage as much as they should. Nevertheless, in spite of the predictable outcome, the story has colour and setting descriptions that took me there. I look forward to reading more of Connor de Bruler’s work.
The Silent Hours by Trevor Denyer
A cunning ghost story from the point of view of a young lad thrown into the care of his grandparents (one of whom is not alive) while his parents recover from a car crash. My only criticism is that it finishes too soon.
The Rattling Man by Alan Draven
There are many Halloween stories, and this has too much Tell in my opinion. However, it is different, one for collectors, maintaining its tension and challenging the reader with the identity of the villain until the last sentence.
What The Dead Are For by Terry Grimwood
I collect in limbo stories and though this starts oh so religious, I was caught out and enraptured. I have the feeling Terry didn’t know how to end it but the story is worth the read anyway.
The Man With The Crocodile Eyes by Kyle Hemmings
Written with the eye of a poet though in my opinion it could have ended three paragraphs earlier. Marvellous wordcraft - example: a reason Carly says no to a joint is how could she explain the ‘never ending dance of giggles’ to her parents?
My Mother’s Knives by Christina Hoag
Mary Grace is disillusioned turning her from a latent sociopath to bloody butchery. Not to be read if you live in an apartment, hotel, block of flats, a shared house, anywhere except an isolated cottage. Even then… Yes, scary – rather obvious – but well written.
The Dream Catcher by David W. Landrum
Victims speaking from their grave giving away their murderer always makes for an interesting and macabre plot, especially when elaborated with Native American lore. Too much Tell spoilt it a little for me, but the moodiness is captured well.
The Demon Smiles by Rick McQuiston
I would have engaged more with this night-exploring-an-empty-factory tale if it didn’t head hop so much. Having said that it is spooky with an unpredictable ending.
Outside Her Bedroom Window by Brian Medof
I feel for Linda, trying to slip into escapist sleep yet disturbed and perturbed by unnatural sounds. Conflict, resolution – or is it? A worthy read.
On One Condition by B. A. Sans
An inheritance to dream of, but the dream turns to a nightmare but with a fiendishly unusual endgame. Well-written – a keeper.
For Rachel (With special thanks to Ed Gorman) by Brian J. Smith
In my top three in this collection. Great use of all the senses and one of the few employing colour. Action combined with sustained tension, and it isn’t quite finished. Well done.
Halloween Lights by Anna Taborska
The plot isn’t new but the writing of it is unique and intriguing. Written as if Anna wore a camera on her shoulder, the reader is there all the way. Exquisite.
Delete Contact? by E. J. Tett
Clever pacing and avoiding the obvious ending added to the pleasure of reading this gem. Poignant for me with my inability to delete my departed father from my contacts.
Ghost of Roses by Debra Young
When Kyle’s soul mate lover died his mind plays tricks making him unapproachable to concerned friends. But this is no soppy story, it is superbly written, evidenced by clever sensual Show especially in the use of sense of smell and in colour. Thank you, Debra! Also in the metaphors: guilt, an iceberg in his soul, vast, slow, and deeply buried…
In my top three in this anthology.
The Bus Station by Jeani Rector
A humdinger of a ghost-or-is-it tale. A young man kills, but nothing is simple as people, or their bodies, come and go. By the end it becomes clear –mostly. The narrative is engaging along with an expert employment of pace. A terrific read.
Cockroaches by Jeani Rector
It seemed to me that cockroaches deserved my respect for being able to outlive humans, and all mammals, in the event of a global catastrophe such as nuclear war. Luckily, I don’t live in a number 17 as do the unfortunate characters in this story. Capturing the exuberance of youth, Jeani Rector masterfully crafts this story so that it is more than just a horror tale,