Bookshots: 'Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories' edited by Doug Murano and D. Alexander Ward

Bookshots: 'Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories' edited by Doug Murano and D. Alexa

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


Title: 

Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories

Who wrote it?

Open[s] up that wondrous space that dark fiction at its best inhabits, where it’s just you and the story and whatever is scratching at your window...

Stephane M Wyotovich, Brian Kirk, Lisa Mannetti, Neil Gaiman, Christopher Coake, Mercedes M. Yardley, Paul Tremblay, Damien Angelica Walters, Richard Thomas, Clive Barker, John F. D. Taff, Amanda Gowin, Kevin Lucia, Maria ALexander, Josh Malerman, Ramsey Campbell. Edited by Doug Murano and D. Alexander Ward, with a forward by Richard Chizmar.

Plot-in-a-Box:

A collection of twisted and heartbreaking horror tales that explores what lies beneath this skin we’re in.

Invent a new title for this book:

Is That a Knife in Your Heart or Are You Just Dying to See Me?

Read this if you like(d):

Anything by any of the illuminati within—from the provenance-heavy Clive Barker, Paul Tremblay and Neil Gaiman, to new blood like Mercedes M. Yardley, Amanda Gowin, Josh Malerman and others.

Meet the book’s lead(s):

A doomed 12 year old boy, a grieving supermom, a satanic cop, a dad trying to reconnect with his broken daughter, a vengeful brother, a quarry monster…. you name it. If it bleeds, it leads.

Said lead(s) would be portrayed in a movie by: 

Sarah Paulson, clearly, in several roles. Ditto Jessica Lange as the grown up Susan from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, in Neil Gaiman’s sexy "The Problem with Susan," a story that confirms that none of us have ever really survived Narnia. Matt Damon as the satanic cop in Richard Thomas’s cyclonically weird “Repent”, no question. Rose Byrne as the mom in Damien Angelica Walters's  exquisitely structured, “On the Other Side of the Door, Everything Changes.” Tom Hardy, maybe—as the stand-up comic dad whose daughter leaves the house on her own two feet and comes back six years later in a box—and still alive—in Brian Kirk’s unflinchingly black “Picking Splinters from a Sex Slave.” Daughter would be played by Haylee Steinfeld. J-Law, of course, in Amanda Gowin’s “Cellar’s Dog.” Ian McKennen and Milo Parker as the uncle and nephew, in Ramsey Campbell’s jaw dropping “The Place of Revelation.”

Setting: would you want to live there?

Doesn’t matter. We all do. Whether it’s the mean streets of  Chicago, or suburban Illinois, or Liverpool, UK, or New York, or Appalachia, or London—these dark veins are in all of us just waiting to open.

What was your favorite sentence?

Every story had a jewel line, honest. But these two, for me at least, perhaps best represent the overriding theme of the collection.

Your mind had to tell you a story about what you saw, but in time you won’t need it. You’ll see what’s really there.

From Ramsey Campbell’s,  "The Place of Revelation"


And from Josh Malerman’s transcendent, “The One you Live with”: 

Have you met her yet?

The Verdict:

This is the kind of collection that gets its teeth into you and won’t let go. It is a horde of hungry shadows, from Wyotovich’s weird and wandering “The Morning After Was Filled With Bone,” about a woman stripped to the core by love, to John F.D. Taff’s heartbreaking collision course down memory lane, “Cards for his Spokes, Coins for His Fare," to Lisa Manetti’s holocaust shocker, “Arbeit Macht Frei.”  Newcomers like Mercedes M. Yardley with her weirdly sensuous tale of cutting, and Christopher Coake’s, “Dominion,” a revenge tale set in the flickering shadows of an eternal Independence Day hold their own against heavyweights Ramsey Campbell’s transcendent twist on the creepy uncle tale, and Clive Barker’s unbearably tight tale of letting the right one go, in “Coming into Grief.”

There is inky glimmer to these dark tales—kudos to the editors for collating some of the most beautifully written stories I’ve read in a long time. From the controlled pace of Kevin Lucia’s gorgeous, haunting, “When We all Meet at the Ofrenda," to Tremblay’s innovative and ambitiously creepy haunted house story, to the surgical precision of the characters in Maria Alexander’s “Hey Little Sister,” and Amanda Gowin’s chilling authentic “Cellar’s dog”—together they open up that wondrous space that dark fiction at its best inhabits, where it’s just you and the story and whatever is scratching at your window, and where no one can hear you scream. And you will.

Image of Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories
Author: Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell
Price: $9.95
Publisher: Crystal Lake Publishing (2016)
Binding: Paperback, pages
JS Breukelaar

Review by JS Breukelaar

JS Breukelaar is the author of the novels, American Monster, and Aletheia (forthcoming, Crystal Lake Publishing). Her fiction and poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Lamplight Magazine, Gamut, Lightspeed, Juked, Prick of the Spindle, and Opium among others. Her work has also been anthologized in Women Writing the Weird, States of Terror, and elsewhere. She travels in space and time between Sydney, San Diego and New York. You can also find her at twitter.com/jsbreukelaar and www.thelivingsuitcase.com.

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