Sunday, April 21, 2019


Think this guy can't scare you? Think again.

Last night, I was perusing my collection of horror anthologies—a collection of collections!—when I alighted on The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, from 2002 (and purchased somewhere around that time). Having recently become interested in the fiction of Thomas Ligotti, his name on the cover caught my attention and I flipped to the table of contents.

That's when I spotted it... a Ramsey Campbell story with a title that was altogether new to me!

For context, I've been a fan of Campbell's work since my teens, getting to know him first as one of Stephen King's most talented contemporaries, then as one of the modern masters of Lovecraftian mythos fiction (kind of a backwards “reeling in” of his actual career trajectory). But whatever the subject matter, Campbell is an uncontested master of the short story form, and his inclusion in an anthology is usually reason enough for me to pick it up.  Campbell’s short stories are so well regarded, in fact, that whenever he’s collected, his name usually has pride of place among the first two or three mentioned on the cover.

Not so, for some reason, with this particular edition of Best New Horror. Which is odd, because the story in question, “All For Sale”, is an absolute beast.

I can’t say too much about it, because it’s short and compact and I don’t want to spoil any aspect of it for you. Suffice it to say that "All For Sale" is goddamn terrifying. An incredibly effective slice of all-too-possible life… the way the bottom can drop out from underneath you in one sickening moment, the way the rational mind can sometimes have trouble keeping up with the reality of a horrifying situation... the mounting tension, the unforgiving hopelessness that resolves into a visceral dread... it's a fucking masterpiece.

In trying to think why this story hasn't been more widely anthologized, I kept coming up blank. It's lean, it's mean, it works like gangbusters, and it packs a powerful punch, the kind that bruises for days... It’s got everything you would think anthology editors love about short genre fiction. Also, it’s got deep literary roots, which, if I elaborate, will give away too much, so for now, I won’t. And so, for now, as far as I can tell, the only two places you can find it are in the above-mentioned Best New Horror (2002) and in a prohibitively expensive and difficult to come by all-Campbell collection, Told by the Dead (2003).

Or, thanks to Google Books’ inability to go through every single anthology in their system to make sure that complete stories don’t slip through their random-page-omission method of “respecting” publishers’ copyright claims… you can read it here and now, on the web, for free.

I recognize that this is not ideal, particularly for Mr. Campbell, who—despite being widely and justifiably recognized as a leading figure in horror, or dark fantasy, or “the weird”, or whatever nomenclature has been assigned to this most primal and powerful of literary forms of late—is not immune from the vicissitudes of fiscal fortune. However, seeing as I am not responsible for Google’s boo-boo in this instance, and seeing as I believe Campbell’s work (in general and this piece, specifically) is of such high quality that anyone reading it is all but certain to seek out more of it—via venues that are more financially remunerative for author and publishers both—I feel justified in pointing it out.

Enjoy! And, if you’re new to the work of Ramsey Campbell… you’re welcome.

Yer old pal Jerky


In early 2018, Netflix offered up one of their more intriguing original programs since the first season of Stranger Things. Produced and partially directed by David Fincher, Mindhunter brought viewers sexy, decompressed story-telling at its episodic best. A sexy, chilling, well acted, beautifully mounted, and relatively truthful exploration of the role played by fine, upstanding young white men from the suburbs (men who just happen to be a little cracked in the head regarding certain things) in the development of the FBI's profiling techniques. It also features the best Ed Kemper impersonation ever committed to celluloid!

I realize some of these "reviews" are ridiculously short, but the truth is, I'm using this blog as a way to remind myself of the movies I've seen, the books I've read, the comics I've perused, and the music I've listened to... or at least those that have left an impression on me. Mindhunter, while good, only just made the "remarks-worthy" cut by thismuch.


A tour-de-force of over-the-top storytelling. An instant classic, DEMONS has the odd quality of being completely off-the-wall insane, and yet totally making airtight sense in terms of the rules it lays out for the reality in which the events depicted take place.

A 21st century schizoid take on Alfred Bester's bonkers sci-fi masterpiece The Stars My Destination (aka Tiger! Tiger!), Jason Shiga's DEMON is technically (and commercially) split into four volumes, but the story of protagonist Jimmy Yee's life and/or lives (which is already giving away too much) progresses from one part to the next in a propulsive, unbroken narrative of revelation, destruction and bloodshed. All this, while simultaneously engaging in some serious philosophical discussions relating to all the Big Questions, like, why do we exist? and, what is the true nature of the mind/body divide? and, what gives life meaning?

I had the good fortune of having this series recommended to me by someone whose opinion in such matters I trust implicitly--comics legend Stephen Bissette, of Swamp Thing and Taboo infamy--so I purchased the first volume despite the artwork not being my cup of tea, and despite not knowing a single goddamn thing about the story. I was maybe ten pages in before I knew that I'd be picking up the other three volumes on my next visit to my favorite (and by far Toronto's finest) comics shop, The Beguiling.

I honestly believe that going into DEMON fresh is the best way to experience it, because it begins as a puzzle box and then, just when you think it might be getting too complex or bizarre or impossible to understand, it all starts making (a ridiculous kind of) sense. This ongoing roll-out of DEMON's many revelations is intensely satisfying on a number of levels. Also, remember that if you purchase it via my Amazon affiliate link, I get a few shekels in my begging cup!

Finally, for those of you who feel the need to know a bit more about the book(s) before plunking down your hard-earned dollars--pussies, in other words--this here is a decent but spoiler-filled rundown of Jimmy's crazed, debauched saga. 

Enjoy! I know I sure did!