Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories by Doug Murano & D. Alexander Ward #Review by TBraun_Author #Horror #Anthology

Book Review

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Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories (Release Date: June 2016)

From Bram Stoker Award-nominated publisher, Crystal Lake Publishing, and the editing duo who brought you the best-selling and critically acclaimed small-town Lovecraftian horror anthology Shadows Over Main Street, comes Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories–a disturbing journey into the beauty that rests inside the very heart of darkness.

Awe meets ache.
Terror becomes transcendence.
Regret gives way to rebirth.

Fifteen short stories and one poem span nearly every twisted corner of the horror and dark fiction genres:

A woman experiences an emotional reckoning inside a haunted house.

A father sees his daughter rescued after a cold case is solved, only to learn the tragic limits of his love.

A man awakens a vengeful spirit and learns the terrible price of settling scores.

A boy comes of age into awareness of a secret universe of Lovecraftian scale.

A young woman confronts the deathly price of existence inside a German concentration camp during the Holocaust.

And much, much more…

Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories features the most celebrated voices in dark fiction, as well as a number of exciting new talents: Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, Ramsey Campbell, Paul Tremblay, John F.D. Taff, Lisa Mannetti, Damien Angelica Walters, Josh Malerman, Christopher Coake, Mercedes M. Yardley, Brian Kirk, Stephanie M. Wytovich, Amanda Gowin, Richard Thomas, Maria Alexander and Kevin Lucia. Edited by Doug Murano and D. Alexander Ward.

With a foreword from Cemetery Dance magazine founder Richard Chizmar.

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My Thoughts…

The packaging of this anthology is top-notch, making the reading experience a pleasure. From the cover art and the artwork specific to each and every story (courtesy of Caitlin Hackett and Luke Spooner) to the textual editing, it’s obvious great care went into this collection. Also, the length of each story is perfect, as most can be finished in bits of spare time here and there or right before drifting off to sleep. An added bonus for those who have been following dark fiction: there are some familiar names (most notably, Clive Barker, a master of the macabre). You will notice other well-known authors, with some lesser knowns sprinkled in. This makes for a varied read, as each story has its own flavor, each having variable degrees of horror.

I found some stories to be emotionally, thematically, or circumstantially disturbing or of high intensity, but I can’t say that I was biting my nails or looking over my shoulder while reading. Keep in mind that I have a high tolerance for grim material, so you will have to make your own evaluations in this department. Nonetheless, I don’t have to be scared out of my wits to enjoy an enthralling yarn. My guess is that neither do you.

Speaking of which, there are some really well-written gems here, filled with vivid prose and page-turning elements. Mannetti’s “Arbeit Macht Frei”, is a heart-wrenching look at the aftermath of the holocaust and what humans are capable of when their humanity is stripped away. The poetic language and characterization is phenomenal. Another story that pulled me in was Coake’s “Dominion”. I was so invested in the main character and engaged in the description of the setting that I wasn’t bothered in the least when I sensed how it all was going to end up. The blending of reality and the supernatural was executed flawlessly. Yardley’s “Water Thy Bones”, for me, was one of the edgiest stories in the anthology. Her subject matter is powerfully evocative and her imagery raw yet beautiful. Thomas’s “Repent” takes a dirty cop and digs deep into his core, asking us to consider whether or not he’s worthy of redemption. A lot of gritty sentences pack a punch, building to a satisfying close. One other worth mentioning is Gowin’s “Cellar’s Dog”. This writer fleshed out several multi-dimensional characters in the span of a few pages, creating an entirely believable and moving story which will leave you feeling gutted by the final lines.

Of course we all bring our own tastes and personal experiences to the table when opening a book. If you are a devourer of short stories, this compilation is one worth picking up. For those of you with Kindle Unlimited, there is no excuse. You are bound to like many of these stories.

Rating… B+        

Available on Amazon   

6 thoughts on “Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories by Doug Murano & D. Alexander Ward #Review by TBraun_Author #Horror #Anthology

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