-Hunter Shea (from his introduction)
You never know what to expect from Terry M. West. A horror author who has delivered the scares for three decades, West chases his dark muse in any direction it goes. Old school creature feature, psychological horror, suspense, B-Movie cheese, humor, dystopia, and extreme horror so dark that it will leave a mark inside-- West refuses categorization. But the one constant to his work: it is always one Hell of a ride. GRUESOME: A Gathering of Nightmares, collects some of his best fiction. Included in this 150,000 word collection: Don't the Monsters All Get Scarier at Closing Time, Honger, Morsel, Turning Face, Picaro, It Makes You Sad, The Rose Man, Southern-Fried Hex (featuring the brand new tale, Cecil & Bubba meet a Drunk Gypsy), Hair and Blood Machine, Honger 2, All of the Flesh Served.
Includes an introduction by the one and only Hunter Shea.
The older tales presented in Gruesome have been re-edited, polished, and in some cases expanded with all new material.
Right down to the title, which could have been lifted from a lost episode, "Don't The Monsters All Get Scarier At Closing Time" reads like a darker, more violent episode of the Twilight Zone. You know there's a bit twist coming, right from the start, but watching the story develop through its two characters is where the magic happens. The climax pays off perfectly, with just the right amount of horror, gore, and monstrosity.
"Honger" is a sad, violent tale, an otherwise simple story of monstrous cannibalism, but with a solid backstory and well-developed mythology. After a slow build of character and mythology, the final third of the story races along, only becoming darker, bloodier, and even more chilling with each development. As for the climax, West always nails his endings, and this is no exception.
"Morsel" is a sad, trippy little tale, featuring a salesman who is questioning his life, regretting lost opportunities, and looking for a moment's pleasure with a call girl. There is a lot of emotion here, with the pre-coitus dialogue really setting the stage. I felt like the final twist was a bit of a cheat, robbing the story of some of its horror, but it was a hell of a lot of fun getting there.
Marking a definite change in tone, "Turning Face" is a blackly humorous tale about an Earth-born demon who chooses to serve Satan as a wrestling villain. It's an altogether odd story, with a lot of great flourishes, but it's the demonic take on the nuclear family that resonated with me the strongest.
"Picaro" is the most insidious kind of extreme horror, a story that opens on a grotesque note, but which then lulls you into a false sense of complacency before allowing all Hell to break loose. There's actually a clever bit of misdirection within it, making you think you're reading a violent crime thriller before West pulls the rug out, revealing that trap door to Hell beneath it.
"It Makes You Sad" was a difficult story to read, with the narrative bouncing between present action and past memories, with the combination adding uncomfortable weight to the story. You know from the start that the young man's visit to a strip club won't end well, but it's the why that sucker punches you in the gut.
"The Rose Man" was probably my least favorite in the collection, but I did like it's progression, the symbolism of the roses, and the Rose Man himself.
Three tales in one, "Southern-Fried Hex" proves that West can do comedy just as well as he can horror, with a pair of Deep South slackers who turn to a life of paranormal investigation after being cursed by a gypsy. These are stories that have a very 80s feel to them, and that nostalgia certainly contributes to the entertainment. It's a cheesy read that will have your eyes rolling as often as it does widening, and it's just chock full of moments to make you smile.
Okay, so "Hair and Blood Machine" has a small town psycho, a carnival killer, and a blood-drenched night of blood and brutality. What more could you ask for? If you said a well-told tale that focuses as much on character as carnage, with a long lead-in to set the stage and establish the atmosphere, selling us on the climax to come, then you need to read this. "Would you die for me?" is an easy question to answer . . . "Would you kill for me?" takes a little more thought.
Just as violent as the original, "Honger 2" is a story that's full of bloodshed, cannibalism, and brutality. West never shies away from Chloe's hunger for human flesh, but deals with the entire experience of wanting, fearing, enjoying, and rationalizing the experience. What makes this book even more engaging than the first is how her hunger brings her into contact with a pair of amateur snuff pornographers who see in her the perfect victim for their latest client's dark, perverse demands. It probably comes as no surprise that she doesn't play the victim well, and it make for a suitably glorious and grotesque finale.
That brings us to the concluding tale, "All of the Flesh Served." To be honest, I found it a strange choice for a finale, being more sci-fi than horror, but it does demonstrate how far West's narrative talents have come over the years. It is also his most socially aware story, with some interesting commentary on politics, religion, the media, and terrorism driving the dystopian future. I found myself liking it in spite of my initial reservations, and appreciating its depth.
Clocking in at a whopping 600 pages, Gruesome: A Gathering of Nightmares really does have something to offer for every reader.
Kindle Edition, 600 pages
Published March 31st 2018 by Pleasant Storm Entertainment
The WTF Weekend gang is group of readers and reviewers who enjoy Weird, Taboo, and Forbidden fiction that is most definitely NSFW. Join us every Saturday and Sunday for more twisted tales . . . and if you have a review to contribute, please contact us!