I was a bit reluctant to take on this massive collection. I mean it's twice the size of the average book I read, but when I saw the introduction was written by Hunter Shea, I just had to add this to my reading list and I couldn't be happier that I did. Gruesome: A Gathering of Nightmares is everything I look for in a horror collection.
Don't the Monsters All get Scarier at Closing Time - "Could you love something so hideous and offensive that it made you ill to look at it?" We are off to a terrific start with this "ugly" story of Russell who just received his divorce papers and is drowning his sorrows a few towns over. That way he doesn't have to listen to his friend's lame attempts at commiseration. He should have stuck with his friends.
Honger - A dark and twisted tale of a curse where a few times a year, when the hunger comes upon you, you must feed. If you allow your victim to live, they will likely feed on you and that's the only way you can die. The story covers generations. "Back in the days of prohibition, I frequented many blind pigs (or speakeasies, if you don't want to be too colorful). The booze did nothing for me, but they were good places to spot an easy meal." A truly gruesome story filled with surprises, including a reference to one of my favorite adult animated films from the seventies, "Fritz the Cat."
Morsel - There is an extreme content warning at the beginning of this story and it certainly lives up to that word of caution. I loved this tale of a man looking for a little love on the road.
Turning Face - A wrestling tale with an excellent opening line. "Marcus Aurelius Tojo Smith was an earthbound demon in service to Hell, but that didn't make him a bad guy." His wrestling persona was, "Hailing from parts unknown! He is the terror of Texas! The scourge of the South! Beware the Crimson Demon!" If you were ever a fan of professional wrestling, you won't be able to resist this story.
Picaro - When he came home and found Sweet Daddy dead, Binh Pham had to leave and he had to get far away. He couldn't drive, his narcolepsy could prove deadly were he to fall asleep at the wheel. A bus ride could have the unwanted consequence of ending up who-knows-where if he were to succumb to his condition on the road. So sticking his thumb out seemed to be the logical choice. I love a good hitch-hiking story. You just never know where the tale will take you. This one took Binh to a diner where he meets Paul. Maybe he would have been better off with Sweet Daddy.
It Makes You Sad - Another extreme content warning. This is a story of Kevin, a thirty-year-old virgin. That alone is enough to make you sad, but it gets worse.
The Rose Man - A wildly imaginative tale of a vagrant who sells roses by a busy Houston highway. But, much like a thorn, this description merely pricks the surface of this story.
Southern-Fried Hex - The adventures of Cecil and Bubba. Get ready for the weird. Cecil Edward McGee has been charged with keeping his cousin Garrard company for the day. When the two accidentally run over a gypsy's beloved dog, the result is a curse, "You will be plagued by the strange and evil until the end of your days." Crazy fun.
Hair and Blood Machine - If you're old enough to remember the carnivals of old, the ones with the oddities trailers or freak shows, then you're really going to get a kick out of this story.
Honger 2 - See my comments on Honger. More of the same. And this story has a fun little kicker at the end.
All of the Flesh Served - An apocalyptic tale. Frightening in its parallels to the times in which we live. "The 45th wasn't a prophet. He was a narcissistic fascist who plundered first our country and then our world for all he could. He let industrialists pollute the air, land, and water. He let people grow sick and die while he and his affluent cabal grew wealthier. He used hate. And he used it well. He encouraged people to despise and fear each other solely on creed and color. He set brother against brother, state against state, nation against nation. Until it was all undone. He was a monster."
Terry M. West may not be a household name, but he should be. His writing is as good as any I've read this year. He is an author that deserves your attention. His characters all ring true. Every one of them in every story. I would have given Gruesome: A Gathering of Nightmares a solid five stars, but this collection could stand a thorough proofreading.
Proofreading issues aside, I completely recommend adding this to your TBR pile.
Gruesome: A Gathering of Nightmares is available in both paperback and for the Kindle. If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read it at no additional charge. Also, if you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for FREE using the Kindle Owners Lending Library.
From the author's bio - Terry M. West is an American horror author. His best-known works: What Price Gory, Car Nex, Dreg, and his Night Things series. He was a finalist for 2 International Horror Guild Awards. Terry was born in Texas, lived in New York for two decades and he currently hangs his hat in California. He has a wife, Regina, son, Terrence, three dogs, and an enormous horror comic, book, and movie collection.