Reviewed by Ian Hunter
JournalStone have a blurb beneath their logo that says “Your Link to Artistic Talent” and artistic talent is certainly on offer here in Laird Barron’s fourth collection of short stories, which are split into three distinct sections called “Golden Age of Slashing”, “Swift to Chase” and “Tomahawk” and within these sections we have stories with such distinct titles as “Andy Kaufman Creeping Through the Trees”, “The Worms Crawl In”, and “Tomahawk Park Survivors Raffle”, and we also get a cracker of an introduction by Paul Trembley. Barron is an exiled Alaskan, many of the stories take place in Alaska with Barron evoking the wildness, bleakness and harshness of that landscape in many of the stories, although we do get tales that are set in an apartment block, even one set in a dystopian future involving a cyborg dog and its master set in a future society which has almost copied the Roman days on old in its structure. There are stories set in high schools given a Lovecraftian twist, hunts for beasties in wild Alaska, occult rituals that go wrong, and one of those standard horror tropes – the “you don’t want to go there” story.
Throughout this collection, Barron shows his mastery of several styles throughout from literary fiction to hardboiled noir and psychological horror, and there is also a fair bit of experimental writing with regard to structure and the way the story is told, and of course, Barron is well known for his own brand of cosmic horror which gets an airing here. He’s also not afraid to have characters appear in several stories, and put them through the wringer, although for them, the chances of surviving yet again do diminish
Highly original, and packed full of great characters, great plots and a fair smattering or maybe that should be splattering of sex, and violence, this is horror for grown ups, recommended.