- Paperback: 332 pages
- Publisher: Grey Matter Press; 1 edition (June 6, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1940658667
- ISBN-13: 978-1940658667
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,925,374 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Peel Back the Skin: Anthology of Horror Stories Paperback – June 6, 2016
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"Every single story in the book is in a class of its own. Thematically, PEEL BACK THE SKIN is a thing of brilliance, each story complementing or enhancing the stories around it. Top-notch, accessible and entertaining dark fiction." -- Shane Douglas Keene, THIS IS HORROR
"This is a magnificent anthology that not only scares, but also questions what it means to be human. All the stories are well-crafted and feature the same observation, [that] the darkest and most terrible horror comes not out of supernatural encounters but from the twisted and mad human psyche." -- Martin Beltov, CODICES
"Every story is refined to a crystalline cut, their prose, their styles, their pacing and rhythms, absolutely pristine. But, beyond that, every story is inspired and engaging. Each serves as a gradual wade out into the depths of human sub-conscious; a trawling of the blackest, most polluted realms of our collective soul. The fearlessness with which the authors present extremely unsettling concepts is matched only by the subtlety of their rendering." -- George Daniel Lea, THE GINGERNUTS OF HORROR
"PEEL BACK THE SKIN investigates the horrific behavior of humanity, but does not revel in it. The entertainment is dark and pulpy, but never exploitive. PEEL BACK THE SKIN reveals why horror is necessary today." -- Karl Wolff, NY JOURNAL OF BOOKS
"PEEL BACK THE SKIN is a brutal feast of man as monster and you're on the menu. The most terrifying aspect of the book is that somewhere in these pages, you'll see yourself. Deep, dark and nasty, Maberry, Garton, Navarro and the rest deliver the goods." -- John C. Foster, author of Amazon bestseller MISTER WHITE: A DARK THRILLER
"It isn't often you read an anthology where all of the stories sing to you. PEEL BACK THE SKIN did. It is a feast of dark fiction that continues to shock and surprise. Quite possibly the best anthology I have read." -- Adrian Shotbolt, THE GRIM READER
"This collection of short stories serves both to entertain and provoke thought. I can recommend this collection of spooky delights as a great way to spend a few fall nights." -- Michele Galgana, FANGORIA
From the Author
PRAISE FOR GREY MATTER PRESS:
"In less than two years, Grey Matter Press has managed to establish itself as one of the premiere purveyors of horror fiction currently in existence via both a series of killer anthologies --SPLATTERLANDS, OMINOUS REALITIES, EQUILIBRIUM OVERTURNED -- and John F.D. Taff's harrowing novella collection THE END IN ALL BEGINNINGS." - FANGORIA
"The dark, all-encompassing theme seems to be the trademark of Grey Matter Press. When asked for a referral I often state without hesitation to the very press that has enchanted my reading attention." - Dave Gammon, HORROR NEWS
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I contend that a well written book, especially a collection, is much more satisfying than a movie. It can be read, reread, and the stories, characters, and emotions can be re-experienced through other lenses. A reader can connect with other plot elements, find new details and add to the character.
As readers, as communities of readers, it is often hard to understand why people live with their eyes glued to the television and movie screens when they have more options, limitless titles, and unparalleled talent waiting for them at their fingertips in the form of a book. Instead, people choose to not read.
Intriguing, exciting, surprising, startling, and even discomforting stories are part of our weapons in the war to fight aliteracy. Peel Back the Skin houses a particularly strong collection of these specimens.
“The REAL MONSTERS Are In Your Mirror” – what an apt tag line for this book!
While the stories differ widely, I crashed into reader-awe with many. Here were some, and just some of the highlights:
There were some characters and settings that cry out to be born again (Mystic by Jonathan Maberry, The Long Bright Descent by Erik Williams),
Twists and surprises ruled many stories (Family Bible by Ed Kurtz, The Shed by Joe McKinney, Orphans on the Air by James Lowder),
Paranormal delights coincide with us (Moth Frenzy by Lucy Taylor, Life or Whatever Passes for It by Durand Sheng Welsh).
Many of the stories also include references to other authors, creating a to-read list for anyone who's interested in making note of them.
I'm a life-long lover of both the horror genre and short story collections which is probably why I received a free advanced reader's copy of this book in exchange for a review. I enjoyed all of the stories in this anthology. The only problem I experienced was that some of the physical responses to pain momentarily kicked me out of certain stories and I had to remind myself of research suggesting that psychopaths don't register pain like normal people before I could go on. Keep that in mind while you read (that statement might spoil a couple of the stories...if so, I apologize).
The majority of stories depict human monsters. Tim Lebbon's 'The Protector' and Joe McKinney's 'The Shed' examines what happens when the monsters are close enough to be called family, while Yvonne Navarro's 'Superheated' and Ray Garton's 'Burning Leaves on an Autumn Day' explores the monsters who live nearby, on the periphery of the main characters' lives. 'Family Bible' by Ed Kurtz illustrates how mental problems may be taught and reinforced within the family while Graham Masterton's 'The Greatest Gift' shows us how two folks with psychological issues can feed each other's demons. The past comes hunting a group of former children in John McCallum Swain's 'Beholder' and Nancy Collin's 'Gator Lake' metes out justice to a monster far more dangerous than the title creature.
But a few stories do contain magical content. In Durand Sheng Welsh’s ‘Life, or Whatever Passes for It’, several legends come together to create a gruesome tale about the Fountain of Youth and 'Orphans of Air' by James Lowder imagines what could happen if corporate monsters had preternatural powers. Erik Williams' 'The Long Bright Descent' depicts a modern-take on an age-old battle between light and darkness.
Two stories stood out to me. I continued to work out William Meikle's ghostly tale, 'The Lady of the Minch', long after I'd finished the story. I was on my exercise bike and set this book aside as I pedaled and stared into space while this story played out for a second time, all the dots now connected. And Charles Austin Muir's surprise at the end of 'Party Monster' caught me off-guard. Juggling the multiple parts of the story, I wasn't expecting the final page when I reached it and hadn't worked my way toward the reasons why all of this went down.
I also enjoyed the psychological twists to some of these tales. Jonathan Maberry's 'Mystic' seems straight-up, until you ask yourself if the main character is really seeing dead people or is he suffering from mental delusions? The real monster of the story depends on how you answer that question. Is the Navajo skinwalker in Lucy Synder's 'Moth Frenzy' a real supernatural predator or is this a drug-and-trauma-induced psychological disorder responsible for creating the myth? You be the judge.