This is the second anthology I have read in recent weeks. I said with the last one that you either love them or hate them. Again my biggest problem is the fact that if they are loaded with stories it takes me a while to get through them because I tend to read a couple of novels in between times as well to break up the monotony of constant short stories.
Kill For A Copy intrigued me for a couple of reasons. Number one, there are a lot of stories in this one from authors I have never read before. I am always on the hunt for new people to read so short stories are a perfect way to introduce yourself to someone’s writing. You get to see what the style is like without having to spend a few days reading a full novel and then if you like what you read: you go buy!
The second reason was because this is published by Dark Chapter Press. I have mentioned them in the past as being an upcoming young British press working very hard to make a name for themselves in the fantastically large world of publishing. I think they do great stuff and think you will see a lot more of them in the future.
Anyway… on to the stories. These are my thoughts on the seventeen tales of darkness that lie between the covers!
FOREWORD BY SHAUN HUTSON
I am well and truly going to shoot myself in both feet by admitting I have never had the privilege yet of reading anything by Shaun Hutson. I know, I know, that makes me weird, right? Well let me tell you that after reading his foreword in this book I am going to rectify that. Maybe I should have a conversation with Shaun to see what he recommends I start with from his huge catalogue because this man talks sense.
He basically says a short story should contain no more or no less words than the writer thinks it should to tell the story effectively. Should that be ten words or ten thousand. He actually says there should be no bullshit within. No unnecessary, long winded writing with lots of info you don’t need to read in a short story. I think anyone who wants to learn how to write a short story should take this advice very seriously. It certainly makes sense to me.
HOME, SWEET HOME BY JACK ROLLINS
Keith and Amanda have just moved into their new house in Tilwick. The house is close to some of Amanda’s friends so they will have people around them that at least she knows. Keith isn’t so sure they have made the right decision. There is some sort of evil in the neighbourhood that he really doesn’t want to be near. Keith finds a suitcase in his garage full of tools that appear to be covered in blood. He also finds a human jaw bone. Maybe his suspicions are correct.
This story is superb but weird at the same time. It reads almost like a continuation of another story because of things you find out about the area and its history and it’s mysterious King like person who lives in a nearby castle. That can cause a bit of confusion sometimes. However, Jack Rollins writing is superb as always. He completely sucks you in to his stories and you will not want to blink until it is over. Superb way to open an anthology.
BON APPETIT BY STUART KEANE
This story begins with a man quite clearly butchering a body. A human body. He starts by taking some skin off an arm to use it like crackling. You originally think he is doing this for himself, in his own kitchen. That is until a waitress comes in with the next order. She also tells him that one of the patrons is complaining about his steak being too chewy. This is not a restaurant you want to complain in. You may just end up on the menu.
This is absolutely gross. Read this with an empty stomach. It would have had full marks for me if it hadn’t been for a sexual side to it. I just didn’t like that part.
OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND BY DAVID BASNET
This is a flash fiction piece. A man starts to see shadows in his eyesight. He goes to see an optician who says his eyesight is fine and his brain will get used to the shadows in time. He doubts this when he starts to see people with no skin on their faces. He ends up being committed to an asylum but is he really the one who is mad?
This is good short. Sweet and to the point. A man who thinks he’s going mad when really he is correct in what he is seeing and is quite happy to be locked away. Again good writing that keeps you interested from the very beginning.
BLYND HAUS BY ROBERT J STAVA
Ricardo and Billy have managed to get themselves a job helping Mr Curtis to fix a roof on a funeral home. When they start to remove the old roof they discover a secret room full of specimen jars with “things” in them and lots of other weird things including journals. Ricardo steals one of these journals when they finish for the day. What he reads in the journal is disturbing to say the least. It is all to do with some ancient evil that seems to have been led by a local priest. The priest contacts Ricardo to get the journal back and so begins a battle between good and evil that, by the looks of things has lasted for centuries.
Old fashioned, scary story that is reminiscent of a lot of the old horror films from the 80’s that if you haven’t watched, you really need to.
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR BY SHARON L HIGA
Jeff is hitching rides to get across country. The old lady he is riding with needs to leave him at a crossroads because she is no longer going his way. As he is just about to settle down for the night, another car pulls up and luckily for him, the driver is going exactly where he needs to go. Jeff settles down for the ride and, feeling comfortable, falls asleep. That was the biggest mistake he could make.
Normally the driver needs to be wary of what sort of person he picks up at the side of the road. Sometimes, the person looking for the lift needs to be wary. This is a very effective short story with again wonderful writing. It starts quickly and ends quickly and left me feeling a little uneasy.
SILVER BULLETS BY STEVE JENNER
Blandford Parker owns a rather grand house and seems to be a man of many means. He is also secretly a master of the occult. He is about to perform a ritual of some sort but needs a couple of artefacts to help with this. He enlists the help of Roland Sami and Thaddeus Field to get the artefacts for him. They have to travel across the world to get them and have no idea what they are either acquiring or, getting involved in. Once Parker has everything he needs, he can perform the ritual. A ritual that none of them know what the outcome will be.
I mostly enjoyed this story. It had a really good build up and the tension was growing nicely as the story progressed but it all fell a bit flat for me towards the end.
AM I DEAD? BY JOSEF DECORY
This is a story about a young boy called Cody who is 15. He likes to play tricks on his older brother and younger sister. They are all scared of an evil force in the basement and never want to do the laundry. Today is Cody’s turn to do the laundry. He offers to pay his sister and brother if they will do it for him. While they are in the basement his father visits him in spirit. His Father has just died but they don’t know yet.
This story did absolutely nothing for me. It didn’t seem to go anywhere and didn’t offer any horror of note for me I’m afraid.
BOVINE RULE BY S.L. DIXON
Don’t even know where to start with this one. A group of people are stuck inside a cafe, being kept hostage buy a herd of cows outside the cafe. They have no way of getting out. Do the cows have a way of getting in?
Sorry this story just did absolutely nothing for me at all. It was not believable. It was not realistic. It was really bizarre.
REDWOOD BY ANGUS FENTON
Anthony Clement is riding through the Wild West when he comes across a town called Redwood and decides to stay for the night in the only hotel in town. As a storm hits Redwood, Clement goes to bed but the landlady Scarlett, begs Clement to stay with them to protect them. He doesn’t think they need protecting just from a storm and goes to bed. Next morning Scarlett shows him bones and blood outside the hotel and warns him not to leave because of a beast on the loose. He doesn’t believe what Scarlett is telling him and decides to carry on his way. He should have listened.
This is a really good story set in the Wild West. Presumably no one knows what the beast is but it terrorises the town every time a storm comes. One of my favourite stories in the book without doubt. Very well written, building tension perfectly. The pace is perfect and the story flows so very well.
BEDLAM BETTY BY BRIAN BARR
Jason is a young lad who starts working for a man called Carl Manzetti who is a horror comic god in Jason’s eyes. Carl is impressed with Jason’s work and decides to give him one of his old characters, Bedlam Betty, to develop into a new comic character. Carl hasn’t been able to use Betty for twenty years due to copyright issues. Or so people think. Jason makes up three issues of the comic when somehow, Betty comes to life. It turns out Betty has always been alive. Jason just didn’t know. Carl knew though.
Good story but a bit predictable. The writing rescues it for me though. Well-paced and very well written.
TACTILE LIVING BY AUDREY E.L. COOTS
Brittany is addicted to a computer game called Tactile Living. It’s similar to the Sims. A virtual world where she has everything exactly how she would like it to be. Perfect and much better than her mundane life as a nurse. She falls asleep one night wishing she could have the life from the game. When she wakes up, she’s in the game and she can’t escape.
This is another good story and one of the longer ones in the book. Obviously not an original idea. Tron springs to mind but this one has a more adult and scary feel to it. It is another though that I just felt could have been developed a bit more and given a bit more substance and horror.
TIME IT RIGHT BY WILLIAM G. CHANDLER JR
Darren and his brother Robert are locked in a basement. They were on a double date the previous night and something captured them and has them trapped. They’re trying to escape before the monster gets them but aren’t having much success. They can hear police sirens coming but will they get to them in time?
I loved this story. Two brothers wrapped with fear with seemingly no way out. You can feel the tension. You can feel the fear. You can feel the hopelessness. You won’t want this one to be interrupted.
THE HERALD OF OUR TIMES BY MATTHEW TEAH
Themis wakes up and feels the presence in her room. She has no idea what it is or where it’s from but she knows it isn’t human. She is on the International Space Station. The presence is known as The Herald. He educates Themis to make her aware that the Heralds kind have been watching Earth for millennia and now it’s time to destroy it. Themis is the only hope of survival for the Earth and all who live there.
Superb. Absolutely superb. Beautifully written. Perfectly paced. Wonderful story. That’s all I need to say.
TO SEE THE WELL BY LUC HAASBROEK
David Emerson is a sculptor, but not very successful at it. He hears of an ancient well that grants wishes. He visits it and ask it for talent. Within 13 years he is a millionaire, but with ailing health both physical and mental. He wants his life back, but through all these years he forgot there was a price to pay for the talent he was given for free.
Old plot done loads of times before. Nothing original. Nothing to make me go wow in either the writing or the plot. Sorry but just did not like this.
THE COMA BY STEFAN LAVERY
Stephen Hawthorn has a beautiful wife Sarah. She watches mundane television and he listens to stuff through his headphones. The stuff he hears in his headphones are voices. Voices of a brain surgeon who is trying to convince him his life is not real and he is in a coma. Once he kills Sarah though he will wake up. Is it true?
Strange one this one. But effective. One minute you believe it’s just voices. The next you believe it’s true. Well written. Keeps you glued to the story and makes you desperate to find out the truth.
MADNESS IN DEATH VALLEY BY M.R. WALLACE
This is a very short short. It is a narrative from a letter found by the bedside of a man who has just been on a camping trip. Can’t say anymore.
Loved this. Again dealing with the old madness or did it really happen scenario.
HELL AWAITS BY FEIND GOTTES
Jack has been possessed by a demon that makes him systematically murder his family and render himself unable to kill himself. He is left with a message to give to the devil when he makes it to hell.
Superb ending to the anthology. Horrific, brutal, bloody, gory greatness.
To Summarise: So there you have it. My take on the individual stories that make up Kill For A Copy. Again I have really enjoyed this anthology. Some of the stories were absolutely superb and some not so. That’s what you get with an anthology though. That’s why they are such a good way for you to make your mind up if you want to read more from a particular author. Again I am only one person. The ones I loved, you may not love so much and the ones I didn’t love so much, well you may think they are fantastic. Pay your money and take your chance.
Reviewed by: @nevmurray