Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published December 6th 2019
Putting the Ho-Ho-Ho into Horror
Hey, it's Christmas! And what better way to celebrate than by reading a Christmas book! Well, I have looked at some more, uhh, interesting Christmas books in the past. In that list (no, seriously, go ahead and read it – you'll find some awesome gift ideas!) I mentioned two horror Christmas-themed anthologies.
Guess what? Black Hare Press have released another one! Eerie Christmas edited by Ben Thomas & D. Kershaw (2019).
This is a mighty tome! Not only over 300 pages in length, but there are over 40 stories here. What that means if you find one that does not appeal, then it won't be long before you will have another one. It's not like a collection of drabbles; these are full-length short stories (sorry for the contradiction in terms) and that implies more fully developed stories and characterisations.
There is quite the mixture here. Encompassing many aspects of the horror and fantasy genres. From straight forth scares to a Canon the Barbarian pastiche involving named weapons and a very angry Santa and an insanity that has to be read to be believed.
But as there are so many, I am going to give a top ten of my favourite pieces. These are not the only good tales and, to be honest, restricting myself to ten was quite difficult. I could give a list of honourable mentions, but, again, that would not feel right. But I will mention 'Rudolph The Avenger', the aforementioned Conan story. It is just so weird and it stands out as so different… Possibly could have been in the top ten but… Yeah, it's weird. It's strange. And worth reading.
Before I hit the top 10, let me say there were very few errors in this book: an extra or missing word, some missing punctuation, missing italics, but not many at all. Black Hare press continues to be top-notch with their editing and formatting. Considering I found more mistakes in the last book I bought published by Random House says something for their fine quality control. The page borders are a nice, festive touch. And, really, there were only a handful of stories that did not grab me (and two I simply did not like). This is a very fine collection.
'Flashing Plastic Lights' by Charlotte O'Farrell What starts as a standard story of one-up-manship at Christmas – done so often in Christmas comedies and TV movies over the years – takes a decidedly horrific turn in what is a nicely written tale to open the book. The style is laid back and conversational… and then the ending. And the last line just sets it off so brilliantly. Great way to start this book.
'Merry Christmas, Mummy' by D.M. Burdett This is the first poem in the book and, well, simply put, it's down-right creepy. That last line makes it. And the tone is perfect for a child… A great one-two punch to open this fine collection.
'Next Christmas Eve' by G.Allen Wilbanks
This is a story with a twist I did not see coming at all. I thought I had an idea of it, but, nope, I was wrong. This is one of the saddest stories in the book, one that actually brought a lump to my throat as I read the last few pages. Very well done.
'Christmas Hack' by Alice Lam This tale was one I was not sure about, but the fact it made me go back and read it again straight away told me that it got to me. It's hard to describe without giving away the ending, really, but sometimes the family Christmases do not always go down the way anyone expects. The ending was built to nicely, and then a final twist in the tail.
'The Wish' by Joel R. Hunt This is a flash fiction piece, less than a page long, but I laughed at the ending and the fact that it is a really nice riposte to the old Wizzard song just makes it so perfect without belabouring the point. Cool story.
'Going For The Gold' by Stuart Conover
A piece of flash fiction, less than a page in length about an ice sculpture team that really wanted to win. Short, sharp, shiny and strange – just the way I like them!
'Deep In The Grotto' by Jason Holden
A shorter tale, this story was actually the way I pictured the North Pole and Santa's Workshop when I was a teenager. It is presented so magnificently, including the way Santa knew he was portrayed outside the Workshop. This could be all too real…
'I'll Be Home' by N.M. Brown
This was one that I picked the ending as soon as that song came on the radio. I didn't quite guess the rest of where the ending was, though. However, I am a reader (and writer) of horror fiction, and so maybe it's just people like me who pick these things. Still, a really well-written tale. "His head hung low, as if the tie around his neck held an anchor too heavy for him to carry." So well-written…
'Dear Santa' by Terry Miller
Okay, another shorter tale, and one that completely caught me by surprise. I did not see the ending of this one coming at all. Short and yet so good. Maybe it could have done with a hint of Tommy's parents' nature, but that's just a quibble here.
'The Good List' by Wondra Vanian
This started off with the feel of a standard Christmas fable, with a bad man and Santa and elves… and then it took a rather grisly turn that I did see coming… and then it ended in an even more disturbing manner. The final denouement about Susie's life was… freaky. Love a tale with that subtle twist that surprises me.
So, there you have it, the ten best in what is really a fine collection of ghastly, grisly and disturbing horror and fantasy Christmas-themed stories. Go on, get it. Support an independent publisher. Independent publishers are the only places a lot of really talented writers are getting their work out there, because the big boys get so many submissions and have much more to lose. Support independent publishers. You might even find a fine novella from an independent publisher worth buying and reading!
And, with that, happy holidays!
And nothing is scarier than a flashmob of dancing Santas...