In March of this year, Rick passed away suddenly of a heart attack, leaving his wife and sons in a difficult situation. Already suffering from some financial struggles, he had allowed his life insurance to lapse, leaving his family with no help for funeral expenses or life to follow. When he heard the news, Christopher Golden reached out to dozen of authors and artists, asking them to contribute to a charitable anthology, with the proceeds going to Rick's family.
Much to his delight, nearly every one of them agreed to take place, hence the 2 volume Mister October collection, An Anthology in Memory of Rick Hautala.
Personally, I found Volume I a bit uneven, with a number of stories that just didn't work for me, but some definite highlights included:
FEEDERS AND EATERS by Neil Gaiman. Could there be a better way to kick off an anthology than with the signature feel and narrative sound of a Neil Gaiman tale? This is a great story, creepy and understated, with a great final scene.
A GUY WALKS INTO A BAR by Matthew Costello. Sometimes it's the suggestion of horror, and sometimes it's the expectation of a twist that makes a story. This one plays to both, slowly building the sense of dread.
TIGHT LITTLE STITCHES IN A DEAD MAN’S BACK by Joe R. Lansdale. This was one of my favorite stories of both volumes. It's a post-apocalyptic tale where the horrors of monstrous, tentacle-like roses and barren ocean floors, populated with crawling whales, pale in comparison to a tattoo drawn in mourning for a couple's lost daughter.
THE YEAR THE MUSIC DIED by F. Paul Wilson. In a story that adds a X-files sort of paranoia to an episode of the Twilight Zone, this one re-imagines the death of rock 'n roll's early heroes as not a series of unfortunate accidents, but a carefully orchestrated political conspiracy.
PROPERTY CONDEMNED—A Story of Pine Deep by Jonathan Maberry. As a fan of the Pine Deep trilogy, I was looking forward to this one, and it didn't disappoint. It's a haunted house story that takes a Stephen King sort of look at the dynamics of a childhood friendship, as well as the horrors awaiting them on the other side of adulthood. It's a sad tale, but a powerful one.
By contrast, Volume II was just a solid collection from start to finish, making it hard to limit myself to just a few highlights, but they are:
TOM REQUIEM by Clive Barker. Okay, as it turns out, there is one better way to kick off an anthology than with Neil Gaiman tale. This one reminds me of the Barker I fell in love with all those years ago, through the slender volumes of the Books of Blood.
HOLOGRAM SKULL COVER by Jeff Strand. This is just a fun tale, and one that's built around those trashy, glorious old covers of Rick's work that I mentioned above.
DEVOTION by J. F. Gonzalez. I wasn't sure about this one at first - it just seemed to so ordinary - but it turned out to have a great twist at the end (which I won't spoil here).
BREATHE MY NAME by Christopher Golden. The best stories are those that speak to our deepest, most closely held fears . . . the ones that make us squirm and sweat as we imagine what the characters are suffering. This is one of those stories.
JOHNSTOWN by Brian Keene. This was a sad, melancholy sort of tale, and not at all what I expected from him - a great, understated sort of read.
JUST BREATHE by Tim Lebbon. This was one of my favorite stories of both volumes. It has an innocent, desperate sort of feel to it that reminds me of the opening chapters of Pet Semetary - before, of course, that went so very, very wrong for Gage's parents. I thought the ending was going somewhere much darker, but I liked the revelation here.
ILLIMITABLE DOMINION by Kim Newman. Wow. This one reads like a catalog of old horror movies and b-movies, with a dark sort of geek banter connecting it all, but when life starts imitating art . . . well, you can probably guess just how that's going to go.
HOTLINE by Jack Ketchum. When old partners reconnect over a suicide hotline, the pain of helplessness becomes that much harder to bear. A short story, but a powerful one/
IT’S… by Amber Benson. Another short one, but an interesting look inside the head of a deranged, psycho stalker.
GHOST TRAP by Rick Hautala. What better way to end a collection than with a story from the man himself. It all starts with a body . . . and ends with another on the way.
Paperback, 404 pages \ 376 pages
Published November 8th 2013 by JournalStone