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Brain Dead Blues isn't perfect, but then, perfection is hard to reach, especially straight out the gate.
That doesn't mean this collection isn't worthy--it is. I had a great time working my way through these stories.
Starting with "God is in the Radio" Hayward starts the book telling us how upset he is about the current state of rock n roll. As a fellow musician, I totally feel his pain.
"In the Woods" and "Critter" are fun, while "Meeting Gregory" shows us Hayward's potential (and very high ceiling).
The highlight of the collection was a story I read in its initial pressing in Dark Moon Digest-–"That's the Price you Pay." Great re-read, and still my favorite by Hayward yet
"The Faery Tree" is probably my second favorite in the bunch.
Finally, that brings me to "King of the Gypsies":
Damn, This one started off as an ode to the guy Ritchie movie, Snatch. Bare-knuckle boxing, gypsies, cool nicknames, and a sidekick named, Tommy. After the first few pages, this one pulled me in so hard, I hadn't been anticipating a fight like this since the night I waited to see if Tyson could take Holyfield the second time around. But like that late '90's fight, the results left me feeling down.
This story could have been an so amazing if Hayward went straight with the fighter storyline, but he instead goes for the horror angle and brings in a monster. Damn. This should have thrilled me, a fellow horror author/fan, but it took something special and dropped it into the complacent box of tricks. Still, I really enjoyed the hell out of the story. It just didn't need the monster addition.
Overall, an enjoyable collection that all horror fans should take a stab at. Grab a copy, and get ready for a great ride.
I give BRAIN DEAD BLUES 4 stars!
I can't wait to read Hayward's debut novel, What Do Monsters Fear: A Novel of Psychological Horror , and follow that up with his collaboration with Patrick Lacey.
Matt Hayward starts the book off on a high note with God Is In The Radio, a novella. Bill Jennings is making a comeback. He meets John Carpenter who teaches him to play the devil's music. Bill plays and the people in the crowd almost orgasm. The crowd wants more. They will stop at nothing to hear more music from Bill Jennings. This novella had an awesome ending!
Critter is about a young girl and a small creepy animal. The young girl uses the creepy critter to exact revenge on her neighborhood rival. The critter is hungry! I need a critter in my life!
Cordyceps is a unique story about a virus or parasite that spreads like ants. Awesome story!
In The Woods, We Wait is about a man who follows his wife into the woods. He is bitten and returns home. The main character recalls his own account of the events before he goes back into the woods. He hears the melody. This story was okay.
Meeting Gregory is one of my favorite stories in this collection. It is a ghost story of sorts, and the ending will leave you teary eyed!
That's The Price You Pay is about an antique owner who collects strange things. He buys and sets up a special mirror in the back of his shop. This mirror lets vampires see their reflections. Great story!
Hunger Pains is a zombie tale set outside of Memphis. Henry is a large man who is always hungry. He is trapped in his barn surrounded by zombies when two guys drive up in a Jeep. Henry eventually escapes with the two men. The ending was amazing!
The Faery Tree is about an Irish folklore. Patrick is paralyzed in a car wreck. His mother makes a deal with the faeries, but they require a human sacrifice. His mother disappears, so Patrick makes a deal with the faeries to bring her back. That ending will get you! This is a great short story!
King Of The Gypsies is a werewolf story. It is also a bare-knuckled boxing story. A man hasn't fought in a decade, but his wife is pregnant and he needs the money. He only wants to fight one last time. This story has some bite!
Swan Song Of Robert Enslin is about a band who wants to become famous. Frank Carpenter (from God In The Radio) gives the guitarist his 1957 Gibson Les Paul gold top. What would a band do to become successful? Would they sell their souls to the Devil?
No One Gets Out Alive is a cool take on the one child policy! Kids are taken away (sacrificed) on their 13th birthdays. The town seems ordinary on the surface, but each family only has one child. The kids are going to try and make their big escape from town. Will they survive? This is a very cool story!
An Angel And A Reaper is about Grace and Fred, an older couple who travels to a marsh area to see the will-o'-the-wisp. What they find there is far more than they bargained for!
This short story collection is amazing! You will not find a bad story in this collection. After finishing a story, I had to start the next one. I was hooked from the first page! This collection will have you reading late into the night. Each story is great, but I think my favorite might be Meeting Gregory. This is the first time I have read Matt Heyward, but it will not be my last.
I highly recommend this short story collection to fans of horror!