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Welcome to the Show

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17 horror Stories. One legendary music venue.

We all know the old cliché: Sex, drugs and rock and roll. Now, add demons, other dimensions, monsters, revenge, human sacrifice, and a dash of the truly inexplicable. This is the story of the (fictional) San Francisco music venue, The Shantyman.

In Welcome to the Show, seventeen of today's hottest writers of horror and dark fiction come together in devilish harmony to trace The Shantyman's history from its disturbing birth through its apocalyptic encore.

Featuring stories by Brian Keene, John Skipp, Mary SanGiovanni, Robert Ford, Max Booth III, Glenn Rolfe, Matt Hayward, Bryan Smith, Matt Serafini, Kelli Owen, Jonathan Janz, Patrick Lacey, Adam Cesare, Alan M Clark, Somer Canon, Rachel Autumn Deering and Jeff Strand.

Compiled by Matt Hayward. Edited by Doug Murano.

Bring your curiosity, but leave your inhibitions at the door. The show is about to begin…


Alan M Clark – What Sort of Rube Jonathan Janz – Night and Day and in Between John Skipp – In the Winter of No Love Patrick Lacey – Wolf with Diamond Eyes Bryan Smith – Pilgrimage Rachel Autumn Deering – A Tongue like Fire Glenn Rolfe – Master of Beyond Matt Hayward – Dark Stage Kelli Owen – Open Mic Night Matt Serafini – Beat on the Past Max Booth III – True Starmen Somer Canon – Just to be Seen Jeff Strand – Parody Robert Ford – Ascending Adam Cesare – The Southern Thing Brian Keene – Running Free Mary SanGiovanni – We Sang in Darkness

Proudly represented by Crystal Lake Publishing—Tales from the Darkest Depths.

220 pages, Kindle Edition

First published July 20, 2018

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Doug Murano

23 books75 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 61 reviews
Profile Image for Mort.
651 reviews1,312 followers
April 21, 2019
Well, damn!
17 stories and I liked 16 of them - impressive, to say the least.

There are some great writers involved with this anthology and some great stories about The Shantyman.
Solid stories by Janz, Skipp, Smith, Rolfe (probably one of the best I've read by him), Cesare, Keene and Sangiovanni, if I had to highlight them, but there are three more I want to mention.

PARODY by Jeff Strand - yeah, most of you know how much I love his work. This one was even more special: 'Weird Al' Jankovic...yip, I know way more of his songs and lyrics than any cool person knows (the Beach Boys inspired classic TRIGGER HAPPY and YOU DON'T LOVE ME ANY MORE sits pretty close to the top of my list) and I am one of those teens who not only watched but enjoyed his movie UHF (the way my taste have changed it will probably irritate the ever-living-fuck out of me these days.) But, as only Strand can, he made me laugh with this one.

TRUE STARMEN by Max Booth III - hell of a way to end that story - I LOVED it!

DARK STAGE by Matt Hayward - was my personal favorite in this book. I can't go into detail, but I can say Hell Yes!!

One of the better anthologies I've read - well worth the money!
Profile Image for Sadie Hartmann.
Author 23 books4,075 followers
June 30, 2020
If you follow my book reviews or read my blog, you'll know I'm a huge fan of anthologies. I love a big round-up of horror's best, especially in a themed anthology.
WELCOME TO THE SHOW centers on The Shantyman, a bar in the Tenderloin district of San Fransisco. The tales are told from The Shantyman's past and present and not one story is alike because of the wide variety of storytelling voices represented here.
I thought I would highlight some of my favorites from the collection:
NIGHT AND DAY AND IN BETWEEN by Jonathan Janz- Set in the 1920s, I loved the descriptions of hard-edged men & a woman named Clara singing in a sequined dress. This one starts out innocuous enough, a tough guy goes to a night club to watch an old flame perform but then by the end, things are so much more...insidious.

WOLF WITH DIAMOND EYES by Pat Lacey- This one scared me! It was one of those tales involving the occult with a curse that could be passed on in a verbal chant. Very creepy.

A TONGUE LIKE FIRE by Rachel Autumn Deering- This one got under my skin. In just a few pages, Rachel managed to tell a lasting tale of a father's grief and the power of words.

OPEN MIC NIGHT by Kelli Owen- This was Kelli's take on the "Devil at the Crossroads" legend and I loved it. I always show up for a femme fatale/noir atmosphere.

TRUE STARMEN by Max Booth III-Laugh-out-loud funny. Max Booth III calls the corner pocket in horror comedy. Loved it!

I also enjoyed the stories from Matt Serafini, Adam Cesare, Bob Ford, and Somer Canon
Some of the stories were not as successful for me, Bryan Smith's, for example, was an odd mix of body horror and psychedelic imagery. It was just, not for me. There were a few missteps in here-they were not necessarily bad stories, I just think they either didn't mesh well with the others or they just were not a brand of storytelling that appealed to me. But a standing ovation to Matt Hayward and Doug Murano for having this brilliant idea for a theme and then editing such a huge group of talented authors. Well done! One little, tiny knit-picking complaint would be that I didn't like the font used on the titles of each story and the several first words...it was weird and hard to read. (sorry)
I would highly recommend this anthology for fans of who enjoy heavy themes of music, lyrics, rock & roll and cultural influences mixed with classic horror tropes like ghosts, hauntings, paranormal occurrences, and the occult.
Profile Image for Char.
1,634 reviews1,487 followers
November 12, 2018
4.5/5 stars!

WELCOME TO THE SHOW is a themed anthology with all of the stories revolving around, (or involving in some way), a rock 'n' roll club named The Shantyman. That's it! There's no hard thread connecting all the tales other than the club itself. That makes WELCOME TO THE SHOW different because there's no one "bad guy" to blame things on. In this case, the "bad guy" is anyone or anything the writer wanted them to be. In this regard, I think the authors involved had a lot more leeway as far as the direction each story would take and I think that resulted in an above average anthology as far as the quality AND the variety of the stories within.

I can't get into all of them here, because I don't want this review to be as long as the book itself, but the ones that stood out the most to me were:

WHAT SORT OF RUBE by Alan M. Clark. A was a perfect start to this book, providing a bit of history and setting the tone. (I've never read any of Clark's work before, but he's on my radar now.)

NIGHT AND DAY AND IN BETWEEN by Jonathan Janz. This story went in a totally different direction than what I had expected. Loved it!

TRUE STARMEN by Max Booth. I'm not sure that it was supposed to, but this story cracked me the hell me up! It's the first time The Shantyman hosted pod-casters instead of a band, and the results just made me laugh.

OPEN MIC NIGHT by Kelli Owen. The 27 Club-you know, those singers and musicians that never made it past that age? I thought this anthology would be a shoe-in for stories about that club, but this was the only one. I was glad because it made this tale stand out even more.

PARODY by Jeff Strand. Zany Chester and his plans to be the next Weird Al fizzle out before they even got started. (It's birdies, not bodies!) Chester had to go to a few back up plans, actually, and none of them were pretty.

DARK STAGE by Matt Hayward. This tale spoke to me in a personal way which made it that much more horrifying at the end.

A TONGUE LIKE FIRE by Rachel Autumn Deering. The end was NOT what I was expecting at the beginning. Usually I can see that coming..in this case I saw something coming, but not what I got. Well done!

Brian Keene's tale RUNNING FREE made me laugh at the premise before it got all serious. (A man trying to run himself to death by heart attack, thereby evading death from the cancer already running through his body. Come on, that's kind of funny! [All right, I know I'm messed up.]) Anyway, this story didn't go the way I thought it would and I loved how it tied into previous tales in this book.

WE SING IN DARKNESS by Mary SanGiovanni. This story had everything that I've come to expect from Mary's work. A terrifying future where music is banned is only the beginning.

I enjoyed this collection and even though it was a little uneven throughout, the variety and quality more than made up for that. I liked that everyone didn't have quite the same view was to what was going on at The Shantyman because that allowed for more creativity in the tales. Variety is the spice of life and all that, you know?

I read a lot of collections and anthologies over the course of a year and there is no doubt in my mind that WELCOME TO THE SHOW will be among the best I've read this year. For this reason, I highly recommend it!

You can get your copy here: https://amzn.to/2RQ6a50

*11.12.18 We are currently reading this book, along with most of the authors in the Horror Aficionados Group at Goodreads. Feel free to join us, read along, and ask questions of the writers, if you like! (Our read continues until the end of this month.) Here's a link: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...*

**I bought this book with my hard earned cash and these opinions are my own.*
Profile Image for Cameron Chaney.
Author 6 books1,837 followers
April 2, 2019
This book was sent to me from Crystal Lake Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Full video review to come soon!

Welcome to the Show is a horror anthology edited by Doug Murano and created/compiled by Matt Hayward, a new rock star of horror. Each story featured in these pages revolves around a fictional San Francisco music venue called The Shantyman, a place that is all about the music... and the evil, of course. Demonic dealings, ghostly possession, alternate dimensions, murder and mayhem; The Shantyman has it all, making for a great night out with your friends!

Regardless of the fact that anthologies are generally an uneven fare, they are my favorite kinds of books to read. How else can you sample a multitude of authors and consume many different styles in a single volume? I have been introduced to several great authors thanks to anthologies, and Welcome to the Show did just that.

There are some familiar voices here--authors I have read many times throughout my horror education--but there were many I had only heard of in passing but never had the chance to read. For example, John Skipp, Brian Keene, Rachel Autumn Deering, and Jonathan Janz are authors that have been recommended to me time and time again. But had I ever read them? Nope. Sitting down with this book finally gave the the opportunity to give each of these authors a try. My final consensus: while not all these stories are going to be for everyone, I was fairly pleased with what I read.

Here are a few of my favorites:

1. WOLF WITH THE DIAMOND EYES by Patrick Lacey: Lacey is an author I'm very familiar with. I have read a few of his books, so it is safe to say he is a favorite of mine. His love of the genre shines through in everything he writes, his Shantyman story included. If you are a fan of giallo films and Italian prog rock, you will find a lot to like about Wolf With the Diamond Eyes.

2. PILGRIMAGE by Bryan Smith: Mr. Smith is an author I have heard other horror fans gush about again and again. Honestly, I can see why. This story was just plain fun. He writes dialogue with a catchy beat, one that makes the story flow right along without pause.

3. A TONGUE LIKE FIRE by Rachel Autumn Deering: Beautiful, shocking, and tragic. This is horror with a wild, beating heart.

4. DARK STAGE by Matt Hayward: Another story that made me feel some things. Just when you think The Shantyman might have some redeeming qualities, you see the downside.

5. OPEN MIC NIGHT by Kelli Owen: An ingenious take on the real-life early deaths of musicians and how they connect to The Shantyman. Brilliant!

6. PARODY by Jeff Strand: When it comes to Jeff Stand's stories, I always know he is going to make me die laughing. He is a stand-up comedian disguised as a horror writer. It is always a pleasure to read him.

7. ASCENDING by Robert Ford: Wow! I had never heard of Ford before reading this story, but now I must read everything he has written. This started out as a tender love story... but the foreboding sense of dread just below the surface said otherwise.

8. THE SOUTHERN THING by Adam Cesare: I have been a fan of Cesare's for years... despite having never read his books. I love his YouTube videos and reviews, and he's just a cool dude in general. But when it comes to his work--while I have been dying to read it--I just haven't had the chance until now. The Southern Thing is perhaps the strangest story in this whole book, which is saying something. Is that a bad thing? Of course not! I thought this story was going one way, but then it went a totally unexpected direction at the last second. Pretty warped stuff. I dig it.

9. RUNNING FREE by Brian Keene: This one made me depressed for some reason. I don't know if that was the intention or not, but it stirred up some feelings in me. Not that I'm complaining. Any story that makes that kind of impact on me deserves to be in my favorites.

10. WE SING IN DARKNESS by Mary SanGiovanni: I'm not usually a fan of apocalyptic horror, but combine it with cosmic horror and you have yourself a recipe for something unique. This was a great way to wrap up the anthology!

Overall, I have to give Welcome to the Show a high recommendation. I was quite impressed. The stories compliment each other beautifully while maintaining their individuality. Go read it!
Profile Image for Frank Errington.
738 reviews57 followers
August 3, 2018
Review copy

Welcome To the Show is a shared world anthology. They don't always work, but this one's premise is simple enough and every one of the seventeen stories in the collection is true to the theme.

There's a well-known club in San Francisco where nearly everyone who's anyone has played at one time or another. The place is called The Shantyman. The thing is, despite its legendary status, the place has experienced its fair share of tragedy and there are tales to be told.

I wondered about the origin of the club's name, having never heard of a Shantyman before. If you're at a loss, too, take a moment to Google the term. Once you know it, the name makes perfect sense.

The table of contents is a veritable who's who of my favorite horror writers and a few I enjoyed reading for the first time.

What Sort of Rube by Alan M Clark - Alan does a wonderful job of setting the stage for the anthology. It's the story of a man named Beverly who performs at the Shantyman and also sells stories to magazines. He meets a beggar in the alley outside the club and asks for a story in exchange for a meal. This is that story.

Night and Day and in Between by Jonathan Janz - George Raft, but not that George Raft shows up at the club, looking for Clara, the current headliner. But as we'll learn she's so much more than a singer. This one has a delightful twist in keeping with what we know of the curse.

In the Winter of No Love by John Skipp - A great opening line from John...

"The street was a neon nightmare, a low-rent Disneyland of sleaze down which Marcie tromped in army boots. It was cold— at least for California, with the chill November wind blowing in off the ocean— and in her ankle-length coat of ratty fur, she felt like the least-naked woman on the strip."

Being old enough to remember the late sixties, Skipp took me all the way back with a very enjoyable tale.

Wolf with Diamond Eyes by Patrick Lacey - Vincenzo Lucille is living a nightmare. Now seventy-two, he's the only member of an Italian prog rock band to survive a fateful performance at The Shantyman and he's finally ready to tell his story.

Pilgrimage by Bryan Smith - A tour bus, a stop at The Shantyman, a stranger with a special blend of weed...it all leads to a very strange trip, indeed. One of my favorites in a book of terrific tales.

A Tongue like Fire by Rachel Autumn Deering - Words have meaning...and consequences.

Master of Beyond by Glenn Rolfe - Bringing a Ouiji board to a place like The Shantyman. Not exactly a good idea.

Dark Stage by Matt Hayward - As evidenced in Matt's story, The Shantyman isn't always dark. Sometimes a bit of light shines down, but occasionally even in light, there is darkness.

Open Mic Night by Kelli Owen - Loved this story. Kelli presents her take on the "27 Club" and its link to The Shantyman.

Beat on the Past by Matt Serafini - A punk band, an old photograph, and the usual strangeness of The Shantyman.

True Starmen by Max Booth III - If you're not reading Max Booth, your missing out. His description of hipsters is priceless...

"Thick neckbeards coated in Dorito dust. Semen-stained fedoras. Sarcastic T-shirts too small for the massive guts bulging out of them."

BTW, I'm officially old. I thought for certain shoegazing had to be a made up thing. But once again, thanks to Google, I learned something new.

Just to be Seen by Somer Canon - One of the stranger tales in a collection of strange stories.

Parody by Jeff Strand - It's time for Zany Chester. A wickedly funny tale that could only be told by Jeff Strand.

Ascending by Robert Ford -I've been a big fan of Bob's work for some time now. His style, the way he puts his words together. I just love it. At first, I thought this was going to be a touching love story, but then I recalled this was The Shantyman and Bob did not disappoint.

The Southern Thing by Adam Cesare - Its been sometime since I've read an Adam Cesare story. My fault, not his. This is a good one. A quick story, which packs quite a punch.

Running Free by Brian Keene - Best story in the anthology. Brian hits it out of the park. Wonderfully told. Complete in every way.

We Sang in Darkness by Mary SanGiovanni - And we end, appropriately enough, with a bit of Cosmic Horror from the wonderful Mary SanGiovanni.

In conclusion, let me say how much I love a good shared world anthology. This isn't that, nope. It's a GREAT shared world anthology. Without a doubt, Welcome to the Show is my favorite antho so far in 2018.

Welcome to the Show: 17 Horror Stories - One Legendary Venue from Crystal Lake Publishing is available now in both paperback an for the Kindle. If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read it at no additional charge. Also, if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for FREE using the Kindle Owners Lending Library.
Profile Image for Tim Meyer.
Author 52 books988 followers
August 19, 2018
I don't read a lot of anthologies, but I couldn't pass this one up. Lotta talent in these pages and I found the shared universe angle intriguing. Some stories were better than others, but there really wasn't a bad one in the bunch. John Skipp's "In the Winter of No Love" was a real standout, by far my favorite of the lot. Definitely grab this if you're a fan of the horror genre; there's a little bit of something for everyone.
Profile Image for Michael Hicks.
Author 35 books433 followers
August 11, 2018
Although themed anthologies are common in today's publishing, they are, more often than not, focused on a concept or ephemeral idea, like the recent Lost Highways anthology, also from Crystal Lake Publishing, where each story played on the concept of life on the road. Rarer are those anthologies, at least outside of media tie-in properties, where the stories are united by a shared world concept, with the focus aimed toward a singular location. Matt Hayward's Welcome to the Show could have very easily been a basic themed anthology built around the premise of music, and likely that alone would have been a very successful and creative endeavor. Thankfully, Hayward had grander ambitions here, creating his own shared-world property for some of horror's best authors to come in and play.

Welcome to the Show isn't just about the music or the soundtrack of these characters lives. It's about the Shantyman, a dive-bar with a seriously warped history. Over the course of its existence, the Shantyman has been the starting point to some of music's most popular performers. It has also been the site of massacres, suicides, hauntings, and, quite possibly, the apocalypse, depending on which particular reality that world's Shantyman resides in. The Shantyman is, in short, a place of legend.

In this reality, at least, the Shantyman is also a hell of an excuse to show off the horror genre's elasticity and showcase some of the best writers in the business. The table of contents alone is a billet of who's who in horror, presenting veteran authors and younger up-and-comers who have already made impressive names for themselves. Brian Keene, Mary SanGiovanni, John Skipp, Bob Ford, Adam Cesare, Patrick Lacey, Matt Serafini, Glenn Rolfe, Kelli Owen, Jonathan Janz, Somer Canon, Rachel Autumn Deering, Jeff Strand, and more. It's a sheer smorgasbord, an anthology curator's wet dream, of horror writers all sandwiched together between two covers.

Between seventeen authors we get demons, ghosts, vampires, killers, psychopaths, and inter-dimensional Eldritch forces. There's romances and lost loves, time travel, kidnappings, cults, science experiments gone awry, and even a few laughs. Max Booth III opens up the Shantyman's doors for a live podcast show and a discussion about pegging (if you're unfamiliar with pegging, I'd advise you to not Google that at work). Jeff Strand, an author who routinely pens horror stories with a comedic bent, presents one of the most seriously uncomfortable stories about a man who thinks he's funny but isn't. His story, "Parody," is a painful read, akin to watching a highway pile-up in slow motion, as Zany Chester tries to take over the Shantyman's stage and out-do "Weird Al" Yankovic with disastrous, decidedly not zany, results.

Disaster and the Shantyman, unfortunately, go hand in hand. Throughout, characters suffer disasters big and small, personal and otherworldly. Rolfe gives us an encounter with evil in "Master of Beyond," as a few employees use their time off to play with Ouija board, which is, of course, always the best idea ever. Skipp's "In the Winter of No Love" is a fantastically written tale of love, drugs, and rock and roll in the waning days of the 1960's sexual revolution. "Open Mic Night" by Kelli Owen touches on my favorite music topics in her exploration of the 27 Club. The Shantyman is home to curses and cures, oftentimes more one than the other, and sometimes those forces are inextricably entwined as Matt Hayward demonstrates in his "Dark Stage," as the Shantyman's sound engineer is forced to retire from his crippling arthritis.

Over the course of Welcome to the Show, these authors explore the past, present, and future of the Shantyman. Some do their own thing, others build on the works they share space with, but throughout there exists a clear continuity that gives the Shantyman a sense of realness, a sense of history, a depth of existence. Brian Keene encapsulates this beautifully in the final moments of his short story, "Running Free," about a mobster who finds out he has cancer and takes up running, hoping he'll die of a heart attack instead. Even after mankind's experiments with sound and vibrations have accidentally ripped open holes to other dimensions and music has been outlawed, the Shantyman still stands and draws in - or perhaps lures is more apt - those seeking the soulful connection and magic of music. Mary SanGiovanni takes us into the dive bar's near future in "We Sang in Darkness," a story that showcases her strong talents as a Lovecraftian writer.

The Shantyman is real. It exists, because it has been given life by the authors here. Each have conspired to erect this portal through space and time, and they've opened its doors for all to enter, particularly - especially - the unwary and the uncertain. Visiting the Shantyman, you'll find that this establishment's acts are at their best when they quietly sneak up on you and surprise, as Adam Cesare does in "The Southern Thing." As an idea, the Shantyman is certainly one that feels fresh, unique, and wholly welcome, the kind of idea that has so much potential you can't help but want more. I certainly hope the Shantyman's doors haven't been closed quite yet. I'd like to enjoy a few more shows still, and there are a few particular performers I'd love to see showcased in a return engagement. Maybe one day, if the cosmos align just so. For those visiting the Shantyman for the first time, welcome, and enjoy the show.

[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title from the publisher, Crystal Lake Publishing.]
July 7, 2018
There were a few crucial things that attracted me to Welcome To The Show: 17 Horror Stories – One Legendary Venue and led to me asking the publisher, Crystal Lake Publishing, for a review copy of the anthology. The first thing was the impressive number of first-class, and even legendary, horror authors that were listed as having stories published in the anthology; any collection that includes the likes of Jeff Strand, John Skipp, Rachel Autumn Deering, Max Booth III and especially Brian Keene, is guaranteed to provide some high-quality horror tales. The second thing that got my attention was the idea of all of the stories in some way revolving around the same location – in this case, a dingy and mysterious club in San Francisco called The Shantyman. I have a particular fondness for anthologies and collections that have authors working around a shared character, location or theme, particularly as they don’t seem to happen as often anymore, and the idea of having so many stories intersect with this club and its inhabitants seemed like an especially inspired idea.

Thirdly, as always, was the anthology’s cover art which is always something I highlight. I’ve really liked the cover illustrations for previous Crystal Lake Publishing titles that I’ve read, and the artist deserves to be commended, because this is one of the best that I’ve seen from the publisher. The shadow-soaked entrance to The Shantyman lurks in the middle of the piece, enticing in both the reader, and unfortunate souls that can be seen dancing within the club, and blood-red neon lights announce the anthology’s title. A garish, blood-spattered flyer for the club, seemingly blowing away in the wind, is a clever device used to list the authors and editors in the collection. It’s a gorgeous piece of art that obviously took a lot of skill and creativity, and I’d quite happily pay for a print to place on wall of my study.

Looking then at the content within the anthology itself, there are a total of seventeen short stories, and one of the strengths of this anthology is the variety of types of Horror it encompasses, ranging from Quiet Horror to Cosmic Horror and even the occasional hint of Splatterpunk. There’s also a nice mixture of approaches to the stories involving The Shantyman, with tales that involve time-travelling serial killers, post-apocalyptic alien invasions, traditional-style ghost stories, and quiet, psychological horror. It’s a highly impressive and wide-ranging anthology that shows that the editors weren’t afraid to embrace the entire spectrum of the Horror genre, and accordingly not be limited by a particular approach. Usually when I review an anthology, it’s my standard practice to only to highlight stories that I particularly enjoyed, or which affected me in a certain way; that was rather difficult in the case of Welcome To The Show because the quality of all of the stories was incredibly high. There were some stories, however, that particularly stuck with me after I’d finished reading. Night and Day and In Between by Jonathan Janz is one of the first stories in the collection, and it’s a deeply atmospheric piece of writing that twists and turns as you read it; it starts out feeling like a standard piece of noir detective fiction, with a PI sent to find a missing woman who sings in The Shantyman, only for Janz to start playing with your perceptions, making you question the reliability of the narrator, with a twist ending that I really enjoyed. Pilgrimage is written by Bryan Smith, and impressed me with the creativity on show; it’s another story that plays with reader expectations, and introduces an antagonist with a distinct and rather memorable method of killing that reminded me of a certain set of villains from modern Doctor Who.

Just over a third of the way into the anthology, you encounter A Tongue Like Fire by Rachel Autumn Deering. Not only is this by far the best of the stories to be found within Welcome To The Show, it is perhaps the finest piece of horror short fiction that I have ever read; it’s been over a week since I finished reading the anthology, and this story continues to haunt me, especially the ending. Detailing its contents risks ruining the tense atmosphere that Deering deftly constructs, but it deals with the nature of loss and grief in a very personal, very raw way, looking at the depths and paths that a parent’s grief will take them, and the story as a whole is heart-breaking. Dark Stage, written by Matt Hayward, is another story that takes a very personal turn, looking at the ravages of old age and how health can deteriorate; and the desire to once again be pain free. It has an interesting take on the ‘Bargain with the Devil’ trope that I haven’t seen done previously, and I look forward to reading more stories from the author. Kelli Owen provides a slow-paced and atmospheric slice of horror with Open Mic Night, skilfully riffing on the ‘27 Club’, the idea that there is a conspiracy around how a number of famous and talented musicians have died at the age of 27, at the peak of their fame; Owens introduces an occult element to the conspiracy theory and centres it around a mysterious stranger who visits The Shantyman to see these talented individuals, and the desperate attempts by a staff member to stop these deaths from occurring.

Moving towards the end of the anthology, we come to True Starmen by Max Booth III. I have come across Mr Booth’s horror fiction before, and I knew going in that I’d find a darkly humorous tale with a wicked edge to it, and I was not disappointed. Telling the story of a strange cult arriving at The Shantyman, purportedly to attend a podcast, Booth expertly plays up the bizarre and black comedy in that idea, before pulling the rug out from under your feet with an abrupt ending that is simultaneously disorientating and hilarious and had me desperately stifling laughter on a packed train to London. Just as disorientating, and with a comedic edge to it that is so dark as to be almost impenetrable, is Parody by Jeff Strand, who provides the tale of a musician trying to break into the music circuit at The Shantyman by performing unique song parodies; Strand writes beautiful prose, and he easily takes the reader into the mind of a desperate and distinctly unhinged performer determined to be noticed no matter what. I was absolutely notexpecting the story to take the turn that it did, and it took several re-reads to appreciate just how subtly Strand had built up to those final few moments in the story.

The two tales that end the anthology are some of the best in the collection, and were well chosen by the editors. Firstly comes Running Free by Brian Keene, a breezy, almost casual first-person story of a dying mobster who decides to try and kill himself in a rather unique way once he finds out that he has an incurable condition. Keene’s pacing is pitch-perfect here, cleverly laying out the protagonists’ plan to kill himself in the first few pages, and then drawing out the tension as attempt after attempt fails; I became engrossed in the story, Keene creating a protagonist who’s genuinely likeable despite his occupation, and it was a genuine shock when the overt horror elements of the story slowly began to appear. The ending to the story is deliciously ambiguous, and it deserves multiple rereads to really get the most out of it. Finally, Mary SanGiovanni closes out the collection with We Sang In Darkness, a brilliant piece of cosmic horror which sees a small group trapped in the ruins of The Shantyman in the middle of the apocalypse. At first believing themselves to be alone, they encounter a strange alien creature in a enclosure on the stage of the club, and slowly but surely reality begins to warp around them, particularly for the unfortunate protagonist. It’s a deeply creepy and slow-burning story that I loved, because almost nothing is explained – there’s little clue as to what is causing the apocalypse or its strange, music-related trigger, and only the faintest inkling as to what the creature is, or why it’s confined to the club. Even the ending is satisfyingly mysterious, the protagonist left with little idea what has happened, and only the slightest shreds of their sanity left intact.

A deeply impressive and highly accomplished horror anthology, Welcome To The Show features some highly inventive takes on the horror genre, readily taking advantage of the intriguing theme of a shared location in the mysterious and blood-soaked boards of The Shantyman. The stories contained within the anthology effortlessly range across a broad spectrum of subgenres, and there’s something in it for every reader of horror fiction regardless of their tastes. The quality of the collection is obvious from the moment you see the cover art, and the tales within are consistently high-quality, both in terms of their prose and the depth and breadth of imagination on display. Deserving to be on the shelf of any discerning horror fan, Welcome To The Show might just be the best anthology that Crystal Lake Publishing has ever published, and highlights just how much of a mark the publisher is making on the genre
Profile Image for Stephanie.
Author 131 books90 followers
July 26, 2018
Seventeen stories fill these pages, all linked together by their common setting – The Shantyman, a bar and club, cursed, home to demons and vampires, aliens and madmen across the decades. Each story brings its own visitors to The Shantyman - customers, staff and performers – none of them leave in the same way, if at all.
This is a strong selection and a collection in which all clamour for the title of ‘favourite’. Some though did exert a slightly stronger pull, including What Sort of Rube – a good choice for an opener and one which paints The Shantyman immediately in dark tones. A crippled victim of misfortune and cannibalism attempts to dissuade a musician from performing at the club by telling him how the venue came to be cursed in the first place. The musician heeds the warning and leaves, he survives. Many in the following stories do not. After this, you know something will always go wrong at The Shantyman. Night and Day and in Between is a tale of vampiric love, romance dining on an opened vein, In the Winter of No Love takes you on a trip of disintegration and oblivion, whilst murder is played out to the music in Wolf with Diamond Eyes. Pilgrimage brings you the most unfortunate time-traveller ever, picked up by members of the Manson Family to become ‘practise’ material whilst A Tongue Like Fire feeds a story of grief and suicide. From the attempted demonic takeover in Master of Beyond, the poisoned chalice of a cure to all ills in Dark Stage and the curse of a contract with the devil in Open Mic Night, The Shantyman shows how time fails to dull the impact of its cursed nature. True Starmen with its cult ending, the desperate ‘wannabe’ in Parody, the nightmare of discovering the reality of a previously online relationship in Ascending, the death throes of a relationship in Beat on This, the madness and obsession of Just to be Seen all continue the dark influences which touch the lives of the club’s patrons. The anthology finishes strongly with The Southern Thing and Running Free, but my own personal overall favourite must be We Sang in Darkness, a very dark story which plays with your mind. Do you believe in the alien creature or is that being simply the image the main character created to reflect his own descent into madness and cannibalism? Having re-read it, I’m still not certain and I don’t mind that at all.
An excellent collection of original stories and refreshing twists on traditional tropes. Sometimes a curse can deliver good things …
Profile Image for Cobwebby Eldritch Reading Reindeer .
5,125 reviews271 followers
July 31, 2018
Review: WELCOME TO THE SHOW. (Anthology compiled by Matt Hayward and edited by Doug Murano)

If I should ever be asked to identify my single favourite Crystal Lake Publishing anthology, I couldn't answer--for I deeply admire each and every one. This publisher consistently chooses authors, editors, and artists who produce work of the highest quality.

WELCOME TO THE SHOW is a themed Anthology, set in the venue of an unusual (and long-lasting) nightclub tucked away in a not-so-classy neighborhood in San Francisco, the kind of club that one only discovers if one is meant to be there. Whether one is musician, performer, staff, or audience, one is never there "accidentally."

The Shantyman, as it is named, refers to those sailors of earlier centuries whose role was to raise morale and inspire labouring sailors by singing inspiring, bawdy, or humorous sea chantys, much as contemporary camp counselors lead campfire songs. But The Shantyman is neither a cultural venue nor a haven for the avant-garde. What The Shantyman serves are found only in deepest darkness, as the reader will discover as each new page is turned...Welcome, my friends, to The Shantyman....
Profile Image for Darrell Grizzle.
Author 10 books58 followers
August 3, 2018
“Welcome to the Show” is a superb collection of widely-divergent horror stories, centered on a common locale, a mysterious (and fictional) San Francisco nightclub called The Shantyman. The nightclub has been home to a diverse range of musical styles as well as a diverse range of horrors. Some of the stories have supernatural elements; some do not. The stories range from shocking to subtle; from heartbreaking (“A Tongue Like Fire” by Rachel Autumn Deering) to paranoid (“We Sang in Darkness” by Mary SanGiovanni) to monstrous (“Ascending” by Robert Ford). One standout story is the darkly comedic and uber-creepy “Parody” by Jeff Strand, in which Strand finally makes good literary use of his encyclopedic knowledge of “Weird Al” Yankovic songs. “Weird Al” is also referenced in “Running Free” by Brian Keene, a story that deftly blends a humorous premise with truly chilling horror. All in all, “Welcome to the Show” is an excellent anthology, highly recommended for all fans of great horror literature.
Profile Image for Mylene.
275 reviews1 follower
September 6, 2018
Welcome to.....

A great urban legend that just didn’t quite work. So, here’s the thing.... Alan M Clark starts us off with a little bit of history. Excellent story and I couldn’t wait for more. I knew I was going to read tales from Jonathan Janz, Bryan Smith, Adam Cesare, Matt Hayward, Brian Keene, Glenn Rolfe, Patrick Lacey, John Skipp, Jeff Strand, and many more of my favourite horror writers. As stand alone stories, some were better than others. What didn’t mesh for me was the stories never connected very well. There never seem to be an agreement on what evil really possesses The Shantyman and the stories never really connected with the original tale.

Alan M Clark killed it with the actual urban legend.
Stand-alone story winner goes to: Adam Cesare
Followed closely by: Kelli Owen
Also great reads by: Bryan Smith, Jeff Strand, Brian Keene, and John Skipp.
Profile Image for Kenneth McKinley.
Author 2 books207 followers
December 13, 2018
WELCOME TO THE SHOW is a collection of tales surrounding the fabled San Franciscan concert hall, The Shantyman. In my opinion, rock and horror go together like peas and carrots, so this should be right up my alley. Without further ado, lets jump right in -

What Sort of Rube - Alan M. Clark

Absolutely loved this one. Such a great voice and I found myself completely engrossed in it. A jealous father, island cannibals, and and old world curse? How can you not love it? This is my first time reading anything by Clark, but I’ll be seeking out more of his work.

5 out of 5 stars

Night and Day and In Between - Jonathan Janz

Raft has been tracking Clara for three months. He finds her performing at the Shantyman, but in his way is the evil proprietor, Summers. Summers has a little surprise for Raft...and Raft has one for him. A fun, twisted tale from Janz where the characters shine. I'd love to see a continuation of their story.

4 out of 5 stars

In the Winter of No Love - John Skipp

The Shantyman likes to chew them up and spit them out in the Summer of Love. I can't decide if this is a real head trip or real head scratcher. Not really my kind of story.

2 out of 5

Wolf With Diamond Eyes - Patrick Lacey

A journalist is granted an interview with the last living member of the infamous Italian progressive rock band, Harpie. Vincenzo has been a recluse for the last twenty years, out of the public eye ever since that fateful night of their last performance at the Shantyman. That performance ended with 30 people dead, including all of the band members besides Vincenzo and he hasn't spoke a word about what happened that night, until now. What he has to say about that night of horror, of how his lead singer got involved in black magic on a previous tour of Europe, and how he brought back something terrible for that last night at the Shantyman. Lacey does a nice job weaving a tale that uses the black magic angle that many rock bands used to stand out from the crowd of other bands, and leaves you wanting more.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Pilgrimage - Bryan Smith

Be careful of what the guy next to you passes your way to try. Because at the Shantyman, that ain't just any 'ol doobie. It's some heavy shit, man. Smith builds some nice character development before he slams us over the edge in this one. What a trip.

4 out of 5 stars

A Tongue Like Fire - Rachel Autumn Deering

Freedom of speech protects our right to use our words and express ourselves, but what about when our expressions hurt other people. A thought-provoking tale.

4 out of 5 stars

Master of Beyond - Glenn Rolfe

Ouija boards and the Shantyman? Not a good combination the night before a Headbanger's Ball concert.

4 out of 5 stars

Dark Stage - Matt Hayward

The Shantyman's soundman, Fred, isn't aging like a fine wine. In fact, his arthritis is so debilitating, he will have to quit his job. That is, until a stranger shows up for open mic night.

4 out of 5 stars

Open Mic Night - Kelli Owen

A noir dressed demon appears at the Shantyman for open mic night the day after a big musical star dies at the age of 27. Every time. Owen's fantastic version of The Devil Went Down to Georgia-type story of trading your soul/life for fame.

5 out of 5 stars

Beat on the Past - Matt Serafini

Time stands still for no one. Not the punk rock band, Brainpan. Not for their fans. Not for the love between them.

2.5 out of 5 stars

True Starmen - Max Booth III

If it walks, talks and looks like a cult, it's probably a cult.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Just to be Seen - Somer Canon

Groupies aren't a modern thing. They've been around since the beginning of the Shantyman. And their ghosts are still here.

4 out of 5 stars

Parody - Jeff Strand

A Weird Al Yankovich wannabe's debut at the Shantyman doesn't go like he envisioned it would.

3 out of 5 stars

Ascending - Robert Ford

Do online relationships ever turn out to be as good as you expected. Not in Naz's case and especially when he stumbles into the Shantyman.

4 out of 5 stars

The Southern Thing - Adam Cesare

Ain't nothing like the real thing. Damn, I didn't see that ending coming.

4.5 out of 5 stars

Running Free - Brian Keene

A wise guy with a death wish and the Shantyman as a backdrop. An engaging story with a weird ending and makes you wonder why the Shantyman was even included.

3 out of 5 stars

We Sang in Darkness - Mary SanGiovanni

A decent tale about a Lovecraftian threat to our society as we know it. Music of any kind is banned because it has the ability to open doors between our world and others and letting in an array of alien life that will destroy us.

4 out of 5 stars

Overall: 3.75 out of 5 star

A solid collection with a couple of gems in there. My two favorites are Alan Clark's and Kelli Owen's stories. For me, those two stood out about the rest. Adam Cesare's was right up there too. I thought the Shantyman made for an interesting backdrop to tell haunted tales. I enjoyed seeing each author use it and then paint their own creation. I also liked how there were many different time periods used by the authors. That made it more interesting than everything being set in modern day. It seemed to breathe life into the Shantyman by giving it a checkered "history". The down sides were kind of surprising. Two authors that I was really looking forward to reading actually turned in the weakest offerings - John Skipp and Brian Keene. Skipp's was just a head trippy mess that was a chore to get through and Keene's felt like he already had a story completed that had nothing to do with The Shantyman and then went back and cut and pasted it in so that it would fit the criteria. It was clunky and felt odd and out of focus. A couple others had that same disjointed quality like they pulled a story out of their archives, blew the dust off it, and inserted the venue within in it here and there so they could use the story.

All in all, a solid offering with some quality reads. Definitely worth your time.
8 reviews
August 2, 2018
Bring your curiosity, but leave your inhibitions at the door. The show is about to begin…

Sex, drugs, and Rock and Roll. It's the age-old cliché with music venues being considered places of hedonism and excess. But what if these places weren't only filled with people looking for a good time but also with the supernatural, the unexplainable, and the psychotic. The seventeen stories collected in Matt Hayward and Doug Murano's anthology, Welcome to the Show centre around The Shantyman, a fictional music venue in San Francisco and, by the time you've finished the book, it will feel so real, you'll want to visit it.

Like its real equivalents like Whisky A Go Go and The Roxy, The Shantyman is given a rich history with a host of unusual characters and unexplainable events. The collection opens with several historical stories that detail The Shantyman's past. "What Sort of Rube" by Alan M. Clarke, "Night and Day and in Between" by Jonathan Janz, and "In the Winter of No Love" by John Skipp all take us to different eras in the venue's history and perfectly demonstrate the strange and disturbing occurrences that gave The Shantyman its reputation as a place where anything can happen. The three stories bring together cannibals, vampires, and drugs to serve as the perfect foundation for the rest of the collection.

Three later stories, "Pilgrimage" by Bryan Smith, "Beat on the Past" by Matt Serafini, and "Just to be Seen" by Somer Canon also play with time and time travel and show how this is a place haunted by its twisted history. Yet, Smith's story is particularly effective as it shows how the present can also invade the past as a group of friends are sent to the 1960s and 1970s to meet some very notorious figures.

Several stories take place closer to today but they feature similarly strange occurrences. 'Dark Stage' by Matt Hayward, "Running Free" by Brian Keene, and "Open Mic Night" by Kelli Owen all feature characters that are brought face-to-face with their own mortality and the spirits and demons that go with it. Hayward's story features a man who is in chronic pain, Keene's story is about a man who is trying to give himself a heart attack so that he doesn't die of cancer, and Owen's story is about the notorious '27 Club', in which famous musicians die at the age of 27. All are masterfully written and fit together perfectly.

The Shantyman not only attracts spirits and demons, it also attracts the strange and disturbed. "The Southern Thing " by Adam Cesare begins with an innocent conversation between two men that meet in the club but ends in a way we could never have predicted. Likewise, one of the most disturbing and memorable stories is "Parody" by Jeff Strand. In this story, the narrator, Zany Chester, wants to perform a 'Weird Al' Yankovic-style parody of George Michael's Faith but it doesn't go to plan. It's a fantastically written story that captures our modern obsession with getting our fifteen minutes of fame. It's also a story about psychosis and the dangers of opening the floor for anyone to perform.

As we might expect, the collection features several tales of the occult including "Wolf with Diamond Eyes" by Patrick Lacey and "Master of Beyond" by Glenn Rolfe. Both demonstrate the close link between Rock and Roll and the supernatural. "True Starmen" by Max Booth III is another gem. The story is constructed as a conversation between employees in the club about the clientele on one certain night but it's a well-constructed and deftly humourous take on the link between Rock and Roll and the cult.

Several stories in the collection also act as more realistic cautionary tales of the hedonistic Rock and Roll lifestyle. "A Tongue like Fire" by Rachel Autumn Deering and "Ascending" by Robert Ford are both truly terrifying and show what can happen in our own lives if we act on a whim or don't think of the consequences of our actions. Although Ford's story ends with a supernatural twist, it shows how desperate people today can be when they rely on the internet. Similarly, Deering's story warns us about the dangers of fandom.

The collection ends with "We Sang in Darkness" by Mary SanGiovani, which gives us a glimpse into the future of The Shantyman. This is a place where music and singing have been banned because they open up wormholes to alien worlds. The narrator of this story is trapped in the venue with one of the aliens and a dead body. It's a story that ultimately leads us to question everything we have been told in the story and the narrator's sanity.

Very often, such horror collections are too disparate and disjointed, revealing that each of the writers didn't have access to the rest of the collection at the time of writing. This, however, doesn't feel like that. Each of the stories is very distinct but they all work together perfectly as a whole. In addition, every story is strong and the collection brings together more experienced horror writers and newer writers. The result is a comprehensive collection that perfectly creates a fictional world and a fictional place. In fact, this world is so rich, another anthology based on The Shantyman could be published that could add to the world created in this collection and it could be completely different. I would certainly be interested in reading more about the Shantyman. Once again, Crystal Lake Publishing has shown why it's at the forefront of horror publishing.

Thank you to Crystal Lake Publishing for sending me an advanced review copy.
Profile Image for Kelly| Just Another Horror Reader .
434 reviews292 followers
February 7, 2020
I really enjoyed this anthology. I’m a music lover and these stories revolving around the fictional club, The Shantyman, really worked for me. A few stand outs are Matt Hayward’s Dark Stage, Jeff Strand’s Parody, Bob Ford’s Ascending and Adam Cesare’s The Southern Thing. This is a must read for any horror fan!
Profile Image for Jim Coniglio.
63 reviews5 followers
July 25, 2018
I have read several anthologies so far this year, and hands down WELCOME TO THE SHOW has been the best. Matt Hayward and Doug Murano have pulled together a who's-who of the top writers around today to weave an unforgettable narrative around the fictional showroom, The Shantyman.

This collection of 17 unique stories has something for everyone. Ghosts, demons, time travel, vampires, curses, rips in the fabric of space,,,it is all here. You might think, "how can all these types of stories fit together?". Well they do, and terrifically at that. Each story seems to build off the one before it. Every story either begins or ends at The Shantyman, a venue that has hosted many of Rock n Roll's elite through the years. A place that has a notorious history for strange events, starting in the early parts of our century and into the near future.

Let's take a look at the stories that are on stage at The Shantyman.

What Sort of Rube by Alan M. Clark
One of the earliest tales of The Shantyman. A warning is given to a musician, but will he heed it in time to save his life?

Night and Day and In Between by Jonathan Janz
A private eye gets more than he bargained for when he tracks a missing girl to The Shantyman.

In The Winter of No Love by John Skipp
1969 in San Fransisco. One girl's journey is about to change in ways she never expected.

Wolf with Diamond Eyes by Patrick Lacey
What happened at Harpie's last show, and how does it tie into their last album, a soundtrack to The Wolf with Diamond Eyes.

Pilgrimage by Bryan Smith
Three friends learn that time and space work differently in the shadow of The Shantyman.

A Tongue Like Fire by Rachel Autumn Deering
Hexx, a singer with a dark message, gets more from an interview than she expected.

Master of Beyond by Glenn Rolfe
Ouiji boards are never a good idea, especially at The Shantyman.

Dark Stage by Matt Hayward
Fred is ready to retire from The Shantyman. That is, until he encounters a man in black on open-mic night.

Open Mic Night by Kelli Owens
Can the legendary "27 club" be true. Some of the biggest rockers in history all died at age 27. One visitor to The Shantyman may be involved.

Beat The Past by Matt Serafini
Moira and Pete at at The Shantyman to see Brainpan, a band that disappeared after their last concert 10 years ago. Pete's perception of the world around him is about to change.

True Starmen by Max Booth III
A strange podcast with an even stranger audience is about to take place at The Shantyman.

Just To Be Seen by Somer Canon
A girl, a musician, and a kiss. A young fan would do anything for the artist she loves.

Parody by Jeff Strand
Zany Chester longed for his chance to make it big. The stage of The Shantyman was just the place.

Ascending by Robert Ford
Nazir thought he would be meeting the girl of his dreams in San Francisco. Sometimes a promise of love is hard to keep.

The Southern Thing by Adam Cesare
A super fan of the Southern Rock band The Truckers wishes he was a more "authentic" fan. An encounter at The Shantyman just might give him that chance.

Running Free by Brian Keene
A Made Man is dying from cancer, but that is not the way he wants to go out. A visit to The Shantyman might be what the doctor ordered.

Just a quick word about this story. If you are a fan of Brian Keene this story will be a stand out for you. Brian brings his own mythology into that of The Shantyman. A key character from Brian's mythos makes an appearance and several other works are referenced. Also several characters from earlier stories in this anthology pop in to say hi.

and last, but definitely not least....

We Sang In Darkness by Mary SanGiovanni
Mary SanGiovanni closes out this anthology with a tale about what would happen if music broke the world. Some friends visit The Shantyman one last time and find a frightening surprise.

You can read through this entire book and not think that you are reading a collection of various stories. Each one builds off the last. Events carry over and are mentioned in other stories. The Shantyman is not just a building, it is a living, breathing entity that pulls all these tales together.

My hat is off to Matt Hayward and Doug Murano for putting together this amazing collection of work and to Crystal Lake Publishing who is quickly becoming the go-to publisher for top-notch anthologies. (Lost Highways, C.H.U.D. Lives, Behold and more)

So pull on your leather jacket, grab a beer and push your way through the crowd. The show at The Shantyman is about to begin and you will want to be in the front row.
Profile Image for David Watson.
434 reviews20 followers
July 29, 2018
You've probably read anthologies in the past that have mixed horror and music but this one is a little different. Welcome To The Show includes 17 horror stories that are all set in a fictional San Francisco night club called The Shantyman. Edited by Matt Hayward and Doug Murano this book takes you from The Shantyman's disturbing origins right up to it's apocalyptic future. Demons, vampires, other dimensions and the end of the world, its all here under one roof.

One story I liked here was Parody by Jeff Strand. Showing that this anthology has it all this was a funny story about a Weird Al wannabe. Zany Chester was hoping to make it big by singing his own 80's song parodies and hopefully open mic night at The Shantyman will be his big break. Things don't go according to plan though but at the least everyone will remember Chester's performance. This is a simple fun story but what I really liked was the attention to detail in Chester's character. It's obvious that Chester is delusional but the fun part is trying to tell the difference between Chester's reality and the real world. Jeff Strand really show's he's a great writer with this one.

Another good one was Running Free by Brian Keene. This one is about a man who is dying of cancer who takes up running in hopes of dying of a heart attack instead of cancer because if the cancer kills him his family can't collect on his life insurance policy. The problem is he is starting to have visions of dark clouds hanging over people and try as he might he can't seem to bring on his demise. You have to give this story points for originality, there is a lot going on here and I found myself loving the main character even though he's a real bad person. Most of all I like how this story blends real life horror with fictional style horror.

My favorite story in the book was We Sang In Darkness by Mary SanGiovanni. This one is different from the others in the book. It's set in a dark future world where music is banned and aliens are part of society. This was beautifully written a lot of meaning in this one that is left to interpretation. What I liked most about it though was how music gets used as a form of communication between aliens and humans who can't understand the other's language. There is also a great jaw dropping shock ending here that fit the mood of the story perfectly.

The stories in Welcome To The Show were kind of hit and miss. There were plenty of gems but a few of them left me rolling my eyes. That being said I loved how this anthology creates it's own mythology with each story adding something original to it. The mood seems to change throughout the book as well with some stories being funny while others were dark, The Shantyman is a place where anything goes. The editor's had a nice concept in mind and the way the stories were connected it almost felt like a novel. Crystal Lake publishing puts out some great horror anthologies and this is no exception.
Profile Image for Debbi Smith.
406 reviews5 followers
August 3, 2018
Anyone want to go have a drink , listen to some music at the Shantyman? I guarantee you're life will never be the same!
What an amazing bunch of stories! From shanghied sailors to the future world, the show must go on. All the stories are amazing but Open Mic has got to be my favorite.
This is one anthology you absolutely must read. It's fantastic.
Profile Image for David.
26 reviews7 followers
November 30, 2018
Great read.

Loved this Anthology. As a musician these stories really struck a nerve and inspired my music. Buy this book, do it!
Profile Image for JohnWayne Comunale.
5 reviews5 followers
October 16, 2018
I really dug the concept of this anthology in which all the stories have to do with a long cursed music venue in San Francisco called The Shantyman. The stories don't connect to each other in any way, but they're not supposed to. Each author lays out a different take on the what evil lurks within the club. I looked at it as snippets of different time periods the club existed, which allowed you to see this dark force change and morph throughout. Very cool anthology with excellent, solid stories
Profile Image for GracieKat.
272 reviews79 followers
August 6, 2018
I love rock and roll. I love listening to it and I love reading about it. The music genre has spawned its fair share of legends, urban legends and murder all by itself. So naturally I love horror stories that feature it. Although I've read a few novel-length stories that are very good it seems to lend itself to the short story form in particular. Although The Shantyman is fictional it seems to be based on the Whiskey A Go Go in Los Angeles. It's just a guess though.

So grab a drink, kick back and relax...the show's about to start...

What Sort of Rube - Alan M. Clark
I really liked the 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner' feel to this story. As though the old seafarer is compelled to warn people of The Shantyman, perhaps for eternity.

Night and Day and In Between - Jonathan Janz
I liked the story. It had a very good rough and tumble private eye feel to it. The twist at the end was surprising and I wasn't really expecting it.

In the Winter of No Love - John Skipp
I can only picture the band as a cross between Black Sabbath and Iron Butterfly. Another very good one.

Wolf with Diamond Eyes - Patrick Lacey
I liked this. Whenever I review movies I always pay close attention to the soundtracks and I loved the idea behind this story. I have spoken to people who don't think movie soundtracks are 'real' music. I bought the movie Urban Legends: Bloody Mary just for the end credit song - "I Will Always be There" by Niki Haris. That song alone raises the ending of the movie from a fluff jump-scare to something a bit more.

Pilgrimage - Bryan Smith
I loved this story. I can't say that I cared for the character of Karla very well. I hope she enjoyed her...'tour. Hehehe

A Tongue Like Fire - Rachel Autumn Deering
I'm a little unsure of this story. It's very good and very powerful. It also touches on a subject that's been raging for a very long time but it's a bit of a complicated concept to resolve in one short story. It does offer an interesting facet to it, however.

Master of Beyond - Glenn Rolfe
While I wouldn't call this story the weirdest in the bunch (I think that honour goes to 'Parody') it was definitely a bit different. In most of the other stories the evil of The Shantyman seems a bit more subtle this story is straight up demonic. Which is a nice change of pace if a little jarring.

Dark Stage - Matt Hayward
I can totally sympathize with Fred.To have to stop doing what you love because of pain can be depressing to say the least. As it is though I don't really see the downside of his solution.

Open Mic Night - Kelli Owen
This story was my favorite of the bunch. It made an interesting twist on the 27 Club and the Robert Johnson legend to very good effect. And who knows? Maybe they're right.

Beat on the Past - Matt Serafini
This story didn't really grab me. I likeed the changing picture but the story just seemed flat to me. Others might like it better, though.

True Starmen - Max Booth III
I could see where this was going but the ending is left just open enough to engage your imagination. Typically I don't care for such an open-ended tale but in this case it worked well.

Just to be Seen - Somer Canon
What's worse than an enemy? A fan willing to go to any lengths for their idols. It does make me wonder who the mysterious woman was. A random stranger? The woman she would have been? It's certainly interesting to think about.

Parody - Jeff Strand
This story left me a bit cold as well. It sounded like it was supposed to be a commentary on stardom desperation but never really got there for me. Again, it's probably just one that I didn't click with, other people might like it better.

Ascending - Robert Ford
I really started out liking this story. It was mysterious and really drew me in. I can't say that I was too crazy about the ending, though.

The Southern Thing - Adam Cesare
This one didn't really click with me either. It seemed improbable, to say the least. I can't say much more without ruining the ending but it actually took me a reread of the paragraph to understand what exactly had happened.

Running Free - Brian Keene
A very good story. I would have liked a tiny bit of explanation as to what the things were. If they denoted evil and if so why wouldn't they be inside the bar?

We Sang in Darkness - Mary SanGiovanni
A good commentary on the state of things today along with a great story.

All in all I'd say this was a great collection to pick up, especially if you're into music. Even if you're not I'm more than sure you'll find at least a story or two to grab you. Well worth the price of admission to The Shantyman.

Received from Crystal Lake Publishing for review consideration
Profile Image for Jamie.
141 reviews23 followers
October 20, 2019
Until recently, I feel like I’ve somehow been living blind to the fact that horror anthologies exist. I’m not sure how I overlooked so many, but thankfully there are several on my shelves now, with more to come. I love these books-- the mix of voices allows a chance to discover new authors, but also showcases what some of my favorites are capable of when it comes to short fiction.

While many horror anthologies focus on a central theme, WELCOME TO THE SHOW is unique in that all of the stories are based on the same venue. I loved the mix of stories in this book, each with ties to the location, but with a style and a tale of their own. While I enjoyed them all, there were several standouts, which I’ve narrowed down to my Top 5. I’m listing them here in the order that I read them, with some brief thoughts on each:

-PILGRIMAGE by Bryan Smith: This is the first piece of writing I’ve read from Bryan, and it certainly won’t be last. I loved the overall vibe of this story, as well as the dialogue and character interactions. The last few pages brought on a twist that I was not originally expecting and left me haunted at the end.

-DARK STAGE by Matt Hayward: A haunting story about a man who finds an unexpected sort of healing through a stranger’s music. If you’ve read Matt’s work, you know that his writing is awesome, but that he’s especially a master when it comes to describing music and its effect. That’s what I loved most about this story-- the description of this character’s experience with the music. It’s just several paragraphs that leave a lasting impact, especially if you’re a music lover. You’ll be enveloped in thoughts of how certain songs or musical moments have swept you away.

-OPEN MIC NIGHT by Kelli Owen: I loved the overall concept and subject matter in this story. Kelli created an engrossing tale about supernatural forces surrounding the “27 Club”. I took my time savoring the words in this story and thought the ending was stellar as well.

-ASCENDING by Robert Ford: Bob’s stories have me hooked from the beginning line, and this one is no exception. A love story rooted in horror, with references to some musical giants, including some great dialogue based on lyrics or lines from musicians. It also has an ending that I didn’t see coming.

-RUNNING FREE by Brian Keene: This is the part where I make a shameful admission…this story is my introduction to Keene’s writing. I have several of his books on my shelf, and due to my current book hoarding status, I just haven’t read them yet. You can bet that I’ll be working them into the rotation soon, however. This story was great from beginning to end. It has creepiness, heart, and a touch of humor in the right places. Without spoiling exactly how, I’ll say that this one has ties to some other stories in the anthology (aside from venue), which I really loved.

Overall, a fantastic concept and a 5-star mix of stories that I’d highly recommend to horror fans, especially if you love a dash of rock and roll mixed in to what you’re reading. Consider The Shantyman added to my list of fictional venues I’d like to frequent.
Profile Image for Noelle Kelly.
187 reviews9 followers
August 3, 2018
Best read anytime you feel a longing for a late night in The Shantyman. You may never want to leave.

My Thoughts on the Book

Welcome to The Show is like a brilliant rock song with crashing crescendos and banging stories – it’s bloody excellent.

What Sort of Rube

This story starts off the collection when a beggar promises to tell Beverly a tale that will sell to the papers. Beverly is taken on a voyage of imagination and terror.

Night and Day and In Between

The beautiful voice of Clara lures punters to The Shantyman in this bloody tale of love.

In the Winter of No Love

I loved the description of a low-rent Disneyland in this offering. Hooker Marie goes to pay her ex Dewie a visit when his band gigs at The Shantyman. She finds a party like no other.

Wolf with Diamond Eyes

Aging rock star Vincenzo shares the story behind a massacre at The Shantyman to a journalist. A tale of black magic, the occult and curses.


This starts as a fun tale of tour buses and weed and winds up in a night of time travel in the company of the Manson family.

A Tongue Like Fire

Popstar Jessica discovers just how much power she has in her voice after a post-show visit from Harvey. This piece is full of grief, terrible pain and sadness.

Master of Beyond

Ouija boards are never a good idea, but playing at the Shantyman has deadly consequences.

Dark Stage

Harry has a conspiracy theory that revolves around the beautiful, unaging Marla who has a hunger for young and talented stars.

Beat on the Past

Moira and Pete try to resurrect the past and their relationship. Will a night at The Shantyman heal or kill their hopes?

True Starmen

The Starmen play The Shantyman with their cult following in tow. Bob and Martin speculate about murderous cults of the past. Terror is hinted at in this tale and blasts the reader with the ending.


Zany Chester is stuck in the 80’s and takes to the stage of The Shantyman to entertain the crowd. A bloody, surprising and amusing tale.


Naz and Layla start an online romance but is Layla everything she promises. Dark deceipt and unusual surprises await Naz at The Shantyman.

The Southern Thing

A new guy in town visits The Shantyman to help him find his place in a new city, he makes himself comfortable in no time. Uncomfortable and visceral, slow-burning horror.

Running Free

After a secret life of dodgy dealings, Mikey is handed a death sentence but The Shantyman might be his final destination. A tale of life, death and running from hell.

We Sang in Darkness

This story has raw and weird imagery. Alien creatures and people trapped in cages frequent a Shantyman of the future. A dark and gruesome tale.

Another awesome anthology from Crystal Lake Publishing, in fact my favourite one so far!
Profile Image for Russell Coy.
Author 3 books18 followers
August 20, 2018
I tend to cherry-pick these days when it comes to anthologies--there's too many great stories out there for me to stick with one that doesn't excite me after a page or two. I didn't skip anything in this one, though. Welcome To The Show is a compilation album with no bad songs.

Given the limited setting--a storied music venue in San Francisco's Tenderloin district--you might expect it to suffer from the repetition blues. Quite the opposite. It offers an insanely wide variety of subjects, styles, tones, and emotions, from some of the best practitioners in the modern horror scene. Whatever your scary sweet spot is, you're likely to find something in here that hits it.

I had a great time at The Shantyman, and wouldn't hesitate to say this is one of the best anthologies I've ever read, and my favorite book of 2018 so far.

Five stars, highest recommendation!
Profile Image for John Collins.
196 reviews5 followers
October 25, 2018
The best anthology of 2016, and I read several, in my opinion. There is not a weak story in the group. Standouts from Jonathan Janz, John Skipp, Max Booth III, Mary SanGiovanni and Somer Canon are amazing but the best of the bunch comes from Matt Hayward. Touching and mysterious, it hit all the right notes.
Profile Image for Yvonne.
669 reviews26 followers
August 4, 2018
Based in San Francisco, The Shantyman had been around for years, so long that its history was oozing out of the walls. Now the doors of the club have been opened, come in, sit down and Welcome to the Show.
For this review I am going to choose some of my favourites.
Night and Day and in Between by Jonathan Janz: The year is 1926, Raft a PI has been hired to find Clara. His leads take him to The Shantyman, where a singer matching Clara’s description is performing. The early scenes in the club, were just how I imagine a speakeasy. The sultry blonde, singing seductively accompanied by a piano. What starts out as a simple missing person case soon takes a turn to the dark side when Clara’s secret is revealed.
Pilgrimage by Bryan Smith: Jason, George and Karla were sightseeing, stopping outside the Shantyman to learn its history, they decide to get off the bus and get a feel of the place. What they don’t factor in is the odd, stoned passenger that joins them. Things get stranger when the drug they take, takes them to different times. The story continues around Jason and his time in the club. What wasn’t expected was him running into 2 infamous people from history.
Master of Beyond by Glenn Rolfe: Sean now the owner of the club decides with his staff to play with a Ouija board. Jillian the manager wants no part of it and leaves, but the following day not only has she got to deal with a big concert but also what was called. All I will say is that there is a reason why I will not play with Ouija boards and this story enforces this.
Open Mic Night by Kelli Owen: We have all heard of the 27 club, Hendrix, Joplin, Morrison to name a few. This story is how the famous became members of it and Harry is the one man who can stop it, but he needs the help of Gwen who works the bar on open mic. I enjoy the speculation of the 27 club and this story puts a different spin on it.
Just to be Seen by Somer Canon: The story of a fan and her infatuation with the singer Will Fontaine. This story could be real live account as there are some fans that have such a stalker obsession it could result in death.
I have been spoilt by Crystal Lake Publishing, the anthologies published have all had some great stories and this book is no different. Welcome to the Show has 17 stories, each with a different insight of what goes on behind The Shantyman’s four walls

Profile Image for John J Questore.
Author 2 books24 followers
April 18, 2019
WELCOME TO THE SHOW is another anthology from Crystal Lake Publishing that revolves around a theme. Not only does it contain sex, drugs, and rock and roll, but all of the stories revolve around a dive called The Shantyman, a place in The Tenderloin that has a sordid history, and, as legend has it, gave the start to a lot of famous musicians.

Without giving away too much, I’ll give you my thoughts on each story.

What Sort of Rube by Alan M. Clark - We start with a story within a story. A magazine story writer meets a beggar outside The Shantyman, and learns a story that’s being told, not only for the magazine, but to try to save his life - but does he take heed? 4 of 5

Night and Day and In Between by Jonathan Janz - What Raft, a PI, finds when looking for a lost girl, is something out of a nightmare. 5 of 5

In The Winter of No Love by John Skip - 1969, a girl goes on a journey during the Summer of Love. Not one of my favorites. 2 of 5

Wolf with Diamond Eyes - The Harpie’s last show was legendary for the murders that took place. Vincenzo Lucille is the last surviving member of the Italian progressive rock band, and is now ready to tell the real story as to what happened that night. 5 of 5

Pilgrimage by Bryan Smith - This story started out great, and had potential - until the “unfinished” ending. Three friends learn about time and space when visiting The Shantyman. 2 of 5

A Tongue Like Fire by Rachael Autumn Deering - A singer learns that her dark message can bring unwanted consequences when a interviewer turns out not to be what she thought. 4 of 5

Master of the Beyond by Glenn Rolfe - If you haven’t learned by now that using a Ouija board isn’t a good idea, then you need to read this story. 4 of 5

Dark Stage by Matt Hayward - Fred’s arthritis is so bad, he needs to retire from working at The Shantyman. That is until a man in black sings at open mic night. 3 of 5

Open Mic Night by Kelli Owen - Anyone who has any knowledge of music has heard of the “27 Club” - some of the biggest rockers in history have died at the age of 27. Is there truth to the legend, and does a mysterious visitor to The Shantyman have something to do with it? 5 of 5

Beat the Past by Matt Serafini - A couple go to see their favorite band Brainpan that disappeared after their last concert. In an attempt to rekindle their relationship, things change. 2 of 5

True Starmen by Max Booth III - Stories about cults basically write themselves, but what happens when a cult decides to hold a live podcast at The Shantyman? 4 of 5

Just To Be Seen by Somer Canon - What a young girl will do for the artist she loves. I’ll be honest, I’m not quite sure what the ending meant. 3 of 5

Parody by Jeff Strand - Zany Chester fancies himself the second coming of Weird Al, and chooses The Shantyman to make his debut. A weird, dark comedy. 5 of 5

Ascending by Robert Ford - Sometimes those people you meet on dating sites, aren’t always who the seem. A cautionary tale. 4 of 5

The Southern Thing by Adam Cesare - A yankee is a huge fan of the Southern rock band The Truckers, but feels like a phony because of his roots - that is until he discovers a way to be more “authentic”. 5 of 5

Running Free by Brian Keene - This has to be my favorite of the group. Brian tells the story of a Made Man who is dying of cancer, but tries to give himself a heart attack by running in order to have the insurance payout to his family. The cool thing about Brian’s story is that many characters from earlier stories make an appearance, as well as a character from Brian’s other stories. 5 of 5

We Sing in the Darkness by Mary SanGiovanni - Music broke the world by allowing creatures from other dimensions to visit. Some friends visit The Shantyman and are locked in with one of them. 3 of 5

Crystal Lake Publishing is very quickly becoming the king of anthologies. If you want to sample stories form authors you may not have heard of, this is the place to visit.

So, put on your jeans, get your leather out, pop the cap of an IPA, and enjoy the latest show at The Shantyman - just don’t expect it to be “normal”.
Profile Image for Elke.
1,377 reviews39 followers
December 27, 2018
At first, I was very skeptical about reading this anthology - I'm not that much into short stories, and I don't like 'music-themed' stories. But once I read the list of authors collected in this volume, I knew I had to give it a try, and I also liked the idea of a common place for the stories to share. Now I am so glad I took the chance and visited the Shantyman!

The book starts right off with a solid five star piece: Alan M. Clark's introductory story 'What Sort of Rube' tells us about the dark history of The Shantyman, a music venue in San Francisco.

The following stories all take place in the Shantyman, but that is their only connection. There are all kinds of evil creatures making their appearance, above all those of the human kind, and all facettes of the horror genre are represented - be it sad, funny or straight out scary (or all of them at once), supernatural or not, from historical to futuristic. The diversity of the anthology - and the quality of each of its stories - is simply stunning.

If I had to choose just one favorite story, I guess it would be the introduction, but because it is so hard to decide I'll make a short list of favorites: I especially enjoyed reading 'A Tongue like Fire' by Rachel Autumn Deering and 'Open Mic Night' by Kelli Owen, both very surprising and with a sad angle that I found refreshing (OK that sounds weird somehow).
On the other hand, 'True Starmen' by Max Booth III and 'The Southern Thing' by Adam Cesare were extremely funny which created a nice balance.
Oh, and 'Ascending' added such a nice romantic touch *sigh*.
Not to forget the last story 'We Sang in Darkness' by Mary SanGiovanni, which adds a touch of scifi and creates a creepy X-Files atmosphere.

I am still reveling in the afterglow of having read the finest horror anthology so far... Highest recommendation!
August 1, 2018
I received this book in exchange for a review. The review is my own.
I love themed anthologies, especially when they have one central character or place. In the case of Welcome to the Show, that place is The Shantyman. A club that has seen more than its share of bad things happen. There was not one story in this book that I didn’t like. It was well written, well edited, and well worth the read.
Profile Image for Trisha Leslie.
4 reviews2 followers
August 7, 2018
Been hugely looking forward to this since I first heard about it and it did not disappoint! Clever and really well put together anthology from some of the biggest and best. Each story had its own unique style of telling tales of the mysterious Shantyman. A place and people I could picture. Definitely not to be missed
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