Horror Review: Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories edited by Doug Murano & D. Alexander Ward

Already recognized as a successful indie publisher, with a Bram Stoker Award nomination and a slew of well-reviewed titles over the past few years, Crystal Lake has really stepped up their game with Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories. While there were a few entries I didn't care for, it was more a matter of personal taste/triggers than literary quality.

Doug Murano & D. Alexander Ward have pulled together an impressive mix of authors here, and that diversity is big part of what makes it such an interesting read. I won't dwell on those that didn't work for me - instead, I'll just share a few words on what I felt to be the standout pieces.

Picking Splinters from a Sex Slave” by Brian Kirk really sets the tone for this collection. It's one of the darkest, saddest stories I have ever read, with the father's inappropriate humor putting a perfect edge on the drama.

“Arbeit Macht Frei” was another dark tale, this time rooted in the real life horrors of a Nazi concentration camp, with Lisa Mannetti sharing a story of teenage selfishness and absolutely rotten timing.

“Water Thy Bones” by Mercedes M. Yardley was one of the high points of the collection, an odd sort of tale that explores the beautiful side of horror - which, as it turns out, is bone deep (not skin deep). It wasn't only an interesting story, but and interestingly told story.

“A Haunted House is a Wheel Upon Which Some Are Broken” initially seemed misplaced in the collection, being a dark sort of choose your own adventure tale, but as each choice exposes a different room and a different history, Paul Tremblay proves himself a clever addition.

“Coming to Grief” was a difficult story to gauge. As a story on its own, I appreciated it's take on childhood fears and the adult grieving process it, but knowing that it was written by Clive Barker created expectations to which it could not live up.

“Cards for His Spokes, Coins for His Fare” felt very much like a Stephen King or John Saul tale, with John F.D. Taff really distinguishing himself. It's a subtle story that takes a while to develop, but I really liked where it ended up.

“The Place of Revelation” by Ramsey Campbell closes the collection on a high note, with the story of a young boy and his ability to see things that feels like a vintage Campbell tale. It has plot, character, atmosphere, and more.

As the title says, Gutted really is a collection of Beautiful Horror Stories that isn't afraid to look for light in the strangest of places, even as it embraces the appeal of the darkness.

Paperback, 380 pages
Expected publication: June 24th 2016 by Crystal Lake Publishing

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.