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Shadow Masters: An Anthology from The Horror Zine Paperback – May 26, 2013
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About the Author
Meet the Editor, Jeani Rector:
While most people go to Disneyland while in Southern California, Jeani Rector went to the Fangoria Weekend of Horror there instead. She grew up watching the Bob Wilkins Creature Feature on television and lived in a house that had the walls covered with framed Universal Monsters posters. It is all in good fun and actually, most people who know Jeani personally are of the opinion that she is a very normal person. She just writes abnormal stories. Doesn’t everybody?
Jeani Rector is the founder and editor of The Horror Zine and has had her stories featured in magazines such as Aphelion, Midnight Street, Strange Weird and Wonderful, Dark River Press, Macabre Cadaver, Ax Wound, Horrormasters, Morbid Outlook, Horror in Words, Black Petals, 63Channels, Death Head Grin, Hackwriters, Bewildering Stories, Ultraverse, and others.
Her historical fiction novel about the black plague titled Pestilence: A Medieval Tale of Plague was released in 2012 from The Horror Zine Books.
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SHADOW MASTERS isn't a very big book--only 342 pages--but with over 30 stories, it feels massive. And within those 30+ stories are some incredible talents. I guess I could showcase the name authors, the ones you'll recognize, the ones you'll buy this book for, like Bentley Little, whose story "The End of the Trail" is brilliantly weird and so very well-written. Or there's Yvonne Navarro's "Holodomor Girl", which is without question the darkest thing in this collection, and so good. I could talk about Simon Clark's "The Tin House" or Melanie Tem's "The Classmate", which feels like a terribly deranged world masquerading as our normal everyday one and not doing a very good job of it--this might be my second favorite story here--or there's Elizabeth Massie's "Wet Birds", But I don't have to, because you know these authors, and when you purchase this book, it'll be those names that drew you in.
Luckily, though, SHADOW MASTERS has so much more to offer and, while the names may not be immediately recognizable (they weren't to me, anyway), their talent is just as solid, and their stories every bit the equal of those bigger names.
Rick McQuiston's "Don't Feed the Dog" is a very short, but powerful story about denial, death and dinnertime that demands a second reading, while Tim Jeffreys's "The Cellar" leaves all the best bits to your imagination, and is an even more powerful story because of it.
James Marlow's "The Thing That Was Not There" is an excellent opener and sets the tone for the rest of the stories that follow while Christopher Hivner's "I Am the Feeder" and Horror Zine co-editor Dean H. Wild's story "Foundlings" share a similar theme, but are each very much their own stories.
Devon Carey's "Fearful Symmetry" read like something from Clive Barker at his most inventive and Jonathan Chapman's "The Wood Witch" was easily one of the most enjoyable reads of the collection. Not because of the incredibly dark content, but because of Chapman's style. That dude can write!
The collection is aptly titled. There's a darkness that permeates these stories--which is fitting, I guess; they ARE horror stories--but it's more than just because they're horror stories. There are themes of hopelessness, despair and regret that run throughout many of them, adding to the feel of the book as a whole. This is not a happy collection. But if it was, I probably wouldn't have enjoyed it as much as I did. Jeani Rector is an editor who knows her stuff and she has put together a 5-star collection of long-time horror talents with some up and comers who are sure to make big names for themselves, very soon. SHADOWS MASTERS was, for me, the epitome of why I love horror anthologies in the first place.
The beginning of Shadow Masters started with their volume What Fears Become, the first anthology. Shadow Masters carries on the grand scheme with the works of Bentley Little, Scott Nicholson, Melanie Tem, Bruce Memblatt, Simon Clark, Ronald Malfi, Jeff Bennington. You should understand there are a total of 37 stories, so many bites and so many nightmares.
Now, time for my favorites. The blood licker of Red Velvet by Shaun Meeks. The return to the novel The Red Church in The Hung Preacher by Scott Nicholson. A black man's past and the karma of his crime in Abandoned by Bruce Memblatt. The frustrating and irritating same-oh same-oh in The Cellar by Tim Jeffreys (the thing in the cellar just can't shut up!). The (nightmare from hell) Housewarming by Ronald Malfi. And finally, the man who thought he could steal from the dead in Them Ol' Negro Blues by JG Flaherty.
So here you have it, friends, this is my introduction to goading you in downloading Shadow Masters. Get the entire collection with What Fears Become. WFB adds the names of Graham Masterton, Ramsey Campbell, Joe R. himself, Piers Anthony. Visit the Horror Zine web site and find out what they are. Now it's time to hit the Click button and start your bite into horror. Hope it takes good, Bon appetite!
Shadow Masters is a meaty anthology, running 342 pages, so I can't review all the stories. I will discuss the ones that stood out to me.
"The Thing that Was Not There" by James Marlow is a weird tale, but weird in a good way. It makes me wonder: is it in the character's mind or really happening? A good Rod Serling-type.
Then there's "Same Sex Vampire Wedding." Who wouldn't like a story with that title? Lesbians and Vampires in the same story, in a world where being a vampire is common but illegal. I had to laugh at how needles do not deal with drugs, but instead are "vampire parapheralia."
"The Church" by Matthew Wilson is a sad but touching story. Set in England (I think) in World War II, a young man is trying to live with his head held high despite the fact that his father committed suicide. Oh yeah, and there's also a haunted church. I think this story works on every level.
Another touching story is "The Wood Witch" by Jonathan Chapman. Two kids have a terrible home life, so bad that one of them chooses to go live with the witch in the woods instead of living with her family. Which is worse? (no pun intended in the word which).
What makes Shadow Masters different from most anthos is that there are a lot of best-selling authors in this book alongside unknowns. You'll see Bentley Little and Scott Nicholson in there, along with Elizabeth Massie, Simon Clark and a lot of other well known names.
All in all, I found this book very absorbing. It's exciting and it kept me awake past my bedtime because I couldn't stop reading, wondering what the next story would hold. Like all anthologies, some stories are better than others but overall it's really good, and for the most part, I loved this book.