I'm the editor, and a contributing author, and I've rated this book 5 stars with plenty of bias (but I would not have put it out had I thought it deseI'm the editor, and a contributing author, and I've rated this book 5 stars with plenty of bias (but I would not have put it out had I thought it deserved less.) Your mileage may vary. As a dark fiction writer and recovering addict, this collection has been a dream of mine. Here's a lengthy breakdown of what I liked about it:
A Wicked Thirst– Kealan Patrick Burke The alcoholic in “A Wicked Thirst” has an unquenchable thirst for drink. His incessant drinking has caused a trail of devastation in his path. It follows him like a specter, and the specter’s thirst is just as strong. Tooth decay is a sign of a rotting spirit, and it fits so perfect on this character, for alcoholics, like the one in “A Wicked Thirst,” often rot from the inside out. This story packs a powerful opening punch. I’ve read much of Kealan’s work (KIN, to me, is a lesson in how to write horror) and this is quite simply vintage KPB.
The One in the Middle<– Jessica McHugh I researched addiction-themed horror novels before putting together Garden of Fiends, and one novel blew my freaking mind - The Green Kangaroos, from Jessica McHugh. “The One in the Middle” is an excerpt but also serves as a stand-alone story. It’s a speculative story about a culture that revolves around a heroin-like substance called Atlys (works best when injected into the testicles). My only fear is that after reading this story, the readers’ eyeballs may be too bloody to read any further. One day, when there is finally enough time, I want to read every single word McHugh has ever published.
Everywhere You’ve Bled and Everywhere You Will – Max Booth III Speaking of blood…. Max Booth’s story is about a recovering heroin addict who relapses after a bizarre turn of events and an infatuated (and quite creepy) girlfriend. It includes a bleeding penis, spiders, and Max’s unmistakable wit. His clever turn of phrase and unique perspective is clear in his social media posts, in his LitReactor articles, and in his recent Darkfuse release, “The Nightly Disease”. Once I started reading Everywhere You’ve Bled, I could not stop. I kept smiling in my head and felt that warm glow you get when you know you’re reading something special.
First, Just Bite A Finger- Johann Thorsson Johann is from Iceland. That makes him automatically complex and more interesting and cooler than you or I. This flash fiction piece is a lightning shot across the page. An addict keeps convincing herself she can quit her bizarre addiction - “She could quit if she wanted to and she did, and went until Thursday evening”. While my plan for Garden of Fiends was longer works, this submission was ‘un-turn-downable’.
Torment of the Fallen– Glen Krisch Scarecrows, rats, and syringes are the ingredients for this Glen Krisch 'Halloween and Heroin' story. A young girl, who has been nicknamed ‘JennyHalloween’ in the dark corners of internet chatrooms, has lived as an outcast all her life for she can see demons. Her father has left her, but she hears rumors of a man who can see demons and goes on a quest to find him, guarding against hope that this indeed is her father. When you see real demons, sometimes the demon of addiction is all that will hold them back.
John FD Taff- Last Call Garden of Fiends would not have existed without John’s support and I’m thrilled that he submitted a story. John’s been called ‘The King Of Pain’, not because he writes gore, but because he is in touch with the nuances of human emotion. Last Call is about the type of alcoholic I am quite familiar with – one who frequents AA meetings, can’t stay sober, and often shows up drunk. His sponsor offers him one last chance at sobriety by visiting the most unusual of places: a liquor store. Of course, shortcuts and half-measures for sobriety don’t always stick. (Spoiler-free comments end here.)
Garden of Fiends-Mark Matthews My own story in the collection. It takes place in the Milk-Blood universe, and is a homage to all the parents of addicts who will do everything they can to save their children from addiction. During my work as a substance abuse therapist, I’ve seen their faces. I felt the intensity of their suffering. A parent of an addict lives in constant fear of getting a phone call from the hospital to come identify their child’s body. One such father is Gregory Snyder. After his daughter, Tara, keeps relapsing on Heroin, he takes drastic measures to protect her. He thinks he’s cut out her disease, but he’s only made it spread. Pretty soon, there are addicts all over the city of Detroit trying to get his daughter high.
Returns-Jack Ketchum Ketchum didn’t write this short story to serve as the perfect ending to Garden of Fiends, but he might as well have. This is a sweet, somber story about a Ghost visiting his alcoholic ex-lover, watching her drink herself to death, and trying to find his purpose for his return to his old life. Ketchum is perhaps the shiniest example of how horror writers are in touch with the fragile human spirit. The tragic pain of what it means to be human is present in Ketchum’s stories, and it is on full display in Returns. I’m so grateful to have another one of my writing heroes included in Garden of Fiends.
*There you go, my incredibly biased review of the stories inside and my reason for five stars.*...more
There is so much to love about this short, incredibly engaging read. Characters with much more depth than your usual bag of bones for a work so short.There is so much to love about this short, incredibly engaging read. Characters with much more depth than your usual bag of bones for a work so short. Dialogue that sounds so true. A setting brought to life. Jokes about 'the farmers daughter' was part of my adolescent mythology growing up, and I read this with a silent smirk and then in silent awe as Taff did, indeed, make the Farmers Daughter mythology something much more grande. From the tiny details of an odd relationship to larger explanations of the universe, this book had me thinking, 'damn, that was so cool how he did that.' Taff doesn't just write a great story, he writes a great sentence, and this story is a perfect example. ...more
This book was offered to me as a member of the Horror Writers Association, and I grabbed the whole Double Barrel Horror collection after reading one oThis book was offered to me as a member of the Horror Writers Association, and I grabbed the whole Double Barrel Horror collection after reading one of the double shots. Was very glad I did. A great mix of tales, many of them visceral. Stories of perpetrators having the tables turned on them, some with a clear Ketchum influence. Others are revenge tales that slice and dice, shredding your skin and pinning your organs against the wall. There is a mix of the insidious and the subtle, with clever plot twists, which compliment the gut-splattering visceral attacks. Double Barrel is a sensory onslaught....more
This book was incredible. Joe Hill has created something special here and I felt like a bad-ass reviewer for getting an arc from the publisher. A longThis book was incredible. Joe Hill has created something special here and I felt like a bad-ass reviewer for getting an arc from the publisher. A long read, that seems short since each moment is enjoyable.
There is the typical King family wit, the pop culture references, but there's a voice all his own here, and this may be Joe Hills chance to have somebody (somewhere say,) "Did you know Stephen King is Joe Hill's father?" rather than the reverse. An incredibly interesting premise, and unique apocalyptic word-building, but a great premise only works with plot and character. You will remember the characters in The Fireman. They are distinct, and will burn into your memory. Just when you think you know what the book is about, it pivots. The nature of humans, the unspoken spaces that keep spouses apart, the power of group-think, the destructiveness of group-think and mobs with stones in their mouths and pitch-forks. The Fireman is one of those I'd be happy to pay over 10 bucks for the kindle version (i'm usually a 'never over 10 bucks for a kindle book' reader)....more
There's an adage, I am pretty sure I heard it from Jack Ketchum first, that a writer should "never be afraid to go there." Well, when I read Nicole'sThere's an adage, I am pretty sure I heard it from Jack Ketchum first, that a writer should "never be afraid to go there." Well, when I read Nicole's work (we are not on a first name basis, but, seems to fit for some reason...) she is never be afraid to go there since she's already there, and comfortable being there, and does it with confidence and style.
The Sadist Bible is an incredible piece of work. Cosmic. Transgressive. Suspenseful. Many deep layers, and tunnels, and escape hatches, and secret rooms; lots of places and interpretations to get lost in. The book begins with real people with deep, completely believable conflicts, planning a same-sex tryst/suicide pact that evolves into something that ends so fantastical, cosmic, apocalyptic even, that it was mind-blowing with its imagery and the places it takes both reader and characters. I read this shortly after I read her Bram Stoker nominated Mr. Suicide. The Sadist's Bible seems like the feminine twin to the masculine driven Mr. Suicide, but I felt this piece was more crisp, maybe even more accessible, as much due to its length or anything. It never once let my attention or focus slip the way Mr. Suicide did at times, nor was there an extra word to be found.
Both books deal with an attempt to escape our existence, or transcend, and a deep spiritual angst, but done so with a visceral degradation of the physical self. I loved the passages written from God. Well, maybe not God as you or I know it/him, but God in the reality of this book. Passages from the assumed Sadist's Bible will stick with you. There's an attention to detail here, and an artist who respects her work tremendously. It's the reader who benefits.
There needs to be more books written like this. The kind that beg for a reread and a book club....more
Got Your Back is a highly recommended story. Started off with a scene that reminded me right away of Kafka's Metamorphosis, only in the case of McIlevGot Your Back is a highly recommended story. Started off with a scene that reminded me right away of Kafka's Metamorphosis, only in the case of McIleveen's story, the narrator eventually learns the cause and reason for his fate. His backbone has gone missing. He's an invertebrate. Off to the hospital, where the spineless character is a jerk to his wife, feels bad about it, is a jerk some more, and a whole history of character defects are revealed in riveting fashion as visitors start to appear. Told with wit and a great tone, the isolation of a hospital room and internal dialogue keeps us trapped in the hospital bed right along with the main character. How to reach redemption, through surgery or other means, becomes the question. The writing is smooth, never gets in the way of the story, and I picked up my kindle with joy each time....more