Sunday, February 12, 2012

Book Review: The Devil's Coattails Edited by Jason V. Brock and William F. Nolan

The Devil's Coattails Edited by Jason V. Brock and William F. Nolan
Hardcover 288 pages
Published by Cycatrix Press

Featuring: Ramsey Campbell, Jason V Brock, Dan O'Bannon, John Shirley, William F. Nolan, Melanie Tem, Jerry E. Airth, J. Brundage, James Robert Smith, Norman Corwin, Steve Rasnic Tem, R. C. Matheson, Earl Hamner, Sunni K Brock, Nancy Kilpatrick, Paul J. Salamoff, Marc Scott Zicree, W. H. Pugmire & Maryanne K. Snyder, Richard Selzer, Gary A. Braunbeck, and Paul G. Bens, Jr. Illustrated and with a cover by Vincent Chong.

There are thousands upon thousands of horror fiction anthologies featuring over a bazillion horror stories. What separates one book from the masses, that is what editors should consider before starting one of these projects. During the 80's (the publishing glory days for horror) some of the best anthologies were classics like Doug Winter's Prime Evil, Kirk McCauley's Dark Forces and the Night Visions/Shadows series edited by Charles Grant were among the best.

The Grant anthologies come to mind here, when I was a young horror reader I got excited each time I went to horror section and saw the latest edition of Shadows or Night Vision ( which continued for a few editions after Grant's death). I couldn't wait to open the book and see who was in the table of contents. After reading the first anthology (the Bleeding Edge) edited by Brock and Nolan I was excited when they said they were already working on a second book.

That was great news to me, the Bleeding Edge was in many ways the most solid and ground breaking anthology in the genre of Dark and weird fiction in some time. First it was amazing quality of paper and production. It is the kinda of book you want to take care of, It looked the treasure that it was. Second, the authors represented spanned several generations ranging from 60's favorite Ray Bradbury to 80's fav John Shirley, but don't worry young hip-snappers like Cody Goodfellow and Lisa Morton are also represented. Last and probably more importantly was the bold decsion to include several formats from Screenplays, teleplays, poems, fragments and not slaving simply to the idea of a straight prose collection.

The second book by the duo is not as diverse in formats (it does have a poem by Nolan and teleplay by Twilight Zone expert Mark Zicree). Almost the entire book is filled masterpieces, and I can only say two stories didn't work for me, both by authors whose work I respect. I love Gary Braunbeck, and consider his horror novel Prodigal Blues to be a masterpiece, but his story in this book lost. I admit it probably went over my head, and that being at the end. The WH Pugmire appears to be set in his personal mythos and I felt a bit lost, I intend to go back and read it after I have explotred more of his work.

The three best stories in my opinion were “Best Firends” by Melanie Tem, "Invisible” by Nancy Kilpatrick and "If you Love Me" by Paul Bens Jr. Tem's “Best Friends” is a Stoker award worthy Ghost story about a woman haunted by the ghost of someone who is still very much alive. Kilpatrick's “Invisible” is a good story for people who complain about the service at restaurants might give them a lot to think about. “If you Love Me” is a deeply haunting tale about changing attitudes about AIDS in the gay community, it is a a brutal heart breaker and perfectly caps off the end of the book.

This is a beautiful, amazing and special book. The problem is this is a serious collectors item. It is a $150 dollar book and it looks like it. It ain't cheap. Not sure if Brock and team are planning Trade editions ever. I hope so because the masses should read this book.

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