Stuff I’ve Been Reading…

My all-time favorite author is Robert McCammon, and so I’m thoroughly giddy about the fact that right now I’m reading his latest, Mr. Slaughter. I’m also reading the first year of Popeye comic strips (which are far more engaging than I would’ve thought!) and I just finished Timecaster by Joe Kimball, which is a pen name for some guy I co-wrote a book with and whose initials are J.K., and which absolutely freakin’ rocks. More on all of those later.

Mama Fish by Rio Youers is a novella about a high school student named Patrick who develops a fascination with the “weird kid” at the school, Kelvin Fish. The story is about his efforts to befriend Kelvin, until…well, something happens. (It’s probably not a GOOD thing that happens, but I’ll avoid spoilers.) The story also jumps ahead to scenes of Patrick as an adult, dealing with his family and life in general.

Now, I wasn’t familiar with Youers’ work, so I didn’t know if I could trust this guy: Were these two parallel storylines actually going to connect in a meaningful way, or was I going to have to fly up to Canada and hunt Youers with a flamethrower? (I momentarily considered that I might have to fling the book across the room, but then remembered that I was reading it on my Kindle and elected not to go that route, should the need arise.)

It turns out that the stories do connect, and when they do it’s one of the biggest “WHOA!!!” moments I’ve read in quite some time. So I can give a big ol’ thumbs-up to Mama Fish, which you can get from Shroud Publishing.

Dark Jesters is the latest horror/comedy anthology from Novello Publishers. It’s a ten-tale collection, edited by Nick Cato and L.L. Soares and featuring Mark Justice, David Wilbanks, Jerrod Balzer, William Veselik, Matthew Fryer, Laura Cooney, Sam Battrick, Robert Guffey, James Roy Daley, and Rob Brooks. Held at gunpoint and forced to choose, I’d say that my favorite story was “The Plague of Gentlemen” by Matthew Fryer, but there are several genuinely funny tales in here.

I was surprised to discover that “Wolf Plugs” by Jerrod Balzer was NOT the most rectum-focused tale in the bunch. That honor goes to James Roy Daley’s “Curse of the Blind Eel.” The combined force of these two tales will lower your maturity level by at least three grades. “Deadneck Woman” is a sequel to Mark Justice’s “Deadneck Hootenanny,” and before you ask, yes, it DID demand a sequel.

If you’re looking for witty tales mixing the humorous and the macabre in the manner of Robert Bloch, this is probably not the anthology for you. There will be shame involved with enjoying this book. But if nobody can see what you’re reading, definitely give Dark Jesters a try, because it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

It’s at the Horror Mall.

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