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The Death Panel: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness Paperback – November 23, 2009

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 212 pages
  • Publisher: Comet Press; 1st edition (November 23, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0982097999
  • ISBN-13: 978-0982097991
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,843,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Sarah Palin is good for something after all. Her fearmongering over the health care mess coined a phrase that inadvertently gave Comet Press a terrific title for a crime-based anthology, in THE DEATH PANEL: MURDER, MAYHEM, AND MADNESS, edited by Cheryl Mullenax.

The loose theme yielded some tight writing. Thirteen stories are included, many from young upstarts rather than established vets, and this is a rare case where there's nary a dud among them. However, that assumes you have a strong stomach and a mind that's not easily offended. And if that sentence causes an eyebrow or two to twitch, are you in for a treat.

The fatal fun begins with Randy Chandler's "Lipstick Swastika," in which impotent hotel detective Trench investigates a fourth-floor guest of Twilight Towers: a buxom German woman who is rumored to be a N@zi war criminal. What happens when e'er the two shall meet was a wild, welcome surprise, setting the reader up for an expectation-shattering 200 pages to follow. As I read this first story, I thought Trench had franchise potential written all over him, and sure enough, the "About the Authors" section at the end confirms that Chandler beat me to the punch.

"The Neighbor" is next, and it's your first indication that the book doesn't flinch in the gore department. Brandon Ford tells the tale of two trailer park denizens, one of whom has a taste -- both physically and sexually -- for dead girls. Its gruesomeness is one-upped -- or three-upped, or whatever -- later with John Everson's "The Mouth," about a kink-seeking deviant who meets a mentally handicapped woman whose vagina is where her mouth is supposed to be, and vice versa. True love! The term "outrageous" doesn't even begin to cover this one.

After that punch to the gut, it's nice to have Simon Wood onboard with the playful "Parental Guidance," a jet-black comedy about a loving father who spills his secrets to a neighbor about making his son behave. It's too bad ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS isn't around anymore, because this clever number would be a shoo-in for an adaptation.

With sharp writing and a crisp design to match, the anthology makes a strong case for 2009's best. It's only Comet Press' third release, but already, the small-press label has distinguished itself as a reliable name brand. Pick it up, if you've got the balls. --Rod Lott

--Bookgasm, December 24, 2009

Comet Press follows up its fantastic short story collection Vile Things: Extreme Deviations of Horror (review) with The Death Panel: Murder, Mayhem and Madness. Like Vile Things, The Death Panel is edited by Cheryl Mullenax and she definitely knows how to pick `em! The Death Panel is chock full of vicious, ultra-violent and hardboiled short stories from authors Randy Chandler, Tim Curran, John Everson, Brandon Ford, Kelly M. Hudson, David James Keaton, Scott Nicholson, Tom Piccirilli, Zach Sherwood, David Tallerman, Fred Venturini, Erik Williams and Simon Wood.

The collection starts with a bang with Randy Chandler's Lipstick Swastika, a story with a `40s noir feel about a hotel security guard that suspects a buxom German blonde to be an escaped Nazi war criminal. The story is full of smoky rooms, irresistible broads, hard men and steamy sex contrasted against explosive violence.

The violence continues with Blood Sacrifices & The Catatonic Kid by Tom Piccirilli. This is about an older gentleman in a mental institution and the "The Catatonic Kid," who one day snaps and escapes the institution, leaving a bloody wake behind him. Things aren't always what they appear though, and the story features a you-will-never-see-it-coming twist! ...

... There is not one bad story contained between the pages of The Death Panel: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness. I eagerly read the noir-tinged and hard-boiled stories of crime, violence and horror and eagerly await Comet Press' next release, because they and editor Cheryl Mullenax are really making a name for themselves in the horror community! --Fatally Yours, January 13, 2010

From Monster Librarian

Not all of the stories in The Death Panel are horror, but they are all good. This is more of a hard boiled crime anthology, with some hard boiled horror thrown in the mix. I happen to be a fan of both genres, so I enjoyed the mix of private eyes, dirty cops, gangsters and the occasional monster. With a mix of favorite authors and those who are new to me, the stories range from straight up noir to supernatural crime. Favorites include: "Blood Sacrifices & The Catatonic Kid" by Tom Piccirilli, in which two residents break out of a mental hospital, with violent results. "The Neighbor" by Brandon Ford, asks "What happens when a lonely "trailer" wife thinks her neighbor is a serial killer? Do you really want to know?" In Fred Venturini's story "Detail", an ex-cop runs a discreet auto detailing business, and keeps secret files on his customers. When he meets a beautiful woman in trouble, his life gets out of control. John Everson's "The Mouth" is the story of a sadistic sex freak, always looking for a new thrill, who is pointed towards a girl known only as "The Mouth". This one is not for the easily offended. "Nine Cops Killed For A Goldfish Cracker" by David James Keaton is difficult to describe. It's a bizarre story of a man who needs to pay the rent, a goldfish with a thousand dollars in it's stomach, and all the cops who get in the way. I could go on and on, talking about Tim Curran, Kelly M. Hudson, Simon Wood, and the rest, but you should read these gems for yourself. If you are a horror fan who wants to expand your horizons, I highly recommend picking up The Death Panel.

Contains: Sex, Violence, Strong Language and Gore --Monster Librarian, January 15, 2010

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Max on March 8, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
My expectations from this book wasn't too high - I just wanted to read something between noir and horror, not searching for masterpieces. But this compilation absolutely BLOW my head - I can't say that a single story is better or worse than another.

Other advantages:
- Plenty of genres. Every story is unique, there you can find and full brutal splatterpunk, and practically "bloodless" suspense story.
- High level of writer's craft. I dare to say that it's like a "Hall of Fame" for dark fiction authors. Tom Piccirilli, Randy Chandler, Tim Curran, John Everson...

You won't be disappointed by the Death Panel, I promise.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jacob Gustafson on June 7, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Death Panel is a collection of dark crime/thriller/horror stories that covers alot of ground. Some of the stories are hard boiled detective riffs like the wonderful Detail by Fred Venturini about an ex-cop that specializes in cleaning out cars and keeping his mouth shut. Others are hybrid detective/horror stories like What Makes and Angel Cry by Kelly M. Hudson about a bar on the line between heaven and hell while others are just plain strange like John Everson's The Mouth about a sexually obsessed man and a woman with genitalia where her mouth should be and her mouth where her genitalia should be. Weird, gross, and most importantly memorable sum up the collection. Of course top honors goes to Tim Curran, whom also wrote the best story in Vile Things, this time out with Fly By Night, a great horror/detective hybrid that left me begging for more. The great thing about Comet Press and the Death Panel is that most of the stories here are by unknown or underground authors while also including known writers as well, this time Tom Piccirilli and John Everson. It seems that the Death Panel specializes in damn good writing whether its an unknown or a best seller and all the stories collected here are new as well. All from 2009 or 2008 which is also a pleasure. I can't tell you how many short collections I've bought only to find out all the stories have been published somewhere else 10 years ago. Not so here.

The Death Panel is a fun fast paced read with wonderful stories throughout. Just like with Vile Things, not all of the stories are gems, but all of them were fun to read and enjoyable. Many of the same authors from Vile Things have entries here and will have entries in Comet Press's forthcoming Sick Things, a collection of creature shorts, which just shows Comet Press's dedication to publishing new talent and maintaining a stable of amazing authors. Recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By William M Miller on May 30, 2011
Format: Paperback
This violent and dark collection is one of the better anthologies I've read in a while, and is strictly for adults only. The diversity of the stories is sure to keep the reader on their toes. Highlights include tales by Tom Piccirilli, Randy Chandler, Brandon Ford, Tim Curran, and Fred Venturini. A special story - the book's guilty pleasure -- "The Mouth", is written by John Everson, and not to be read by anyone with a weak stomach. Fans of Edward Lee's hardcore stories will be right at home with "The Mouth". Even my least favorite stories here are above average, so you are sure to have a good time with all of them. "The Death Panel" is a quick read and definitely recommended.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A. Hempel on February 19, 2010
Format: Paperback
While this book probably wouldn't be the best to give Grandma for her birthday, it might be just the kind of twisted stress relief you might need for a visit with extended family. The stories cover a wide swath of the horror genre, so while not every single story was something I enjoyed, if you're at all a fan of a good demented read, this is for you.

My favorite story in the mix is David James Keaton's "Nine Cops Killed for a Goldfish Cracker." Although certainly not devoid of slaughter (as the title makes perfectly clear) the story has the only narrator I felt myself really rooting for. There's much more to the story than cops and crackers, and Keaton's sense of language is of a different degree of sophistication than the rest of the anthology's tales. I'm hoping to see a collection of this writer's stories out sometime soon. If the rest of his stuff is this good, he'll be a hit fast -- you'll want to be able to say you liked him before everyone had heard of him.

This isn't to say the other stories aren't a good read, though I did find myself more than once annoyed that it seems women exist in these stories only to be killed. I wasn't so much offended as a feminist but as a reader. Knowing what's coming from the first pronoun is annoying.

The story destined to burn its way into your brain is "The Mouth," by John Everson. I described its basic premise to my mother, who screamed and told me to stop. While the story does have a dark (very dark -- very, very dark) humor to it, the story's language felt somewhat rough around the edges -- not in terms of foulness, which doesn't offend me, but that it might have benefited from a few more rounds of revision.
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