Kevin J. Kennedy’s Collected Halloween Horror Shorts review by: Mandy Tyra

A horrifically fun, top-notch Halloween anthology! This is Kevin J. Kennedy’s 3rd holiday themed anthology series and I sure hope he continues it on, he only accepts the highest quality stories from the finest crop of new writers, so I always know I’ll be pleased and thank you’d when I pick one up.
First he tinseled and lit our asses with his festive Christmas collection, then he had us hare-raised and hopped-up on his Easter shorts, and now it’s only apt that we get this BOOeautiful and darkly HELLarious Halloween assortment.
Tricks and treats that are bittersweet and hard to beat, just look at all that deadmeat ~ ok oookkk I’ll stop. Jeeez…tough crowd..

Cutting back on the quantity but never skimping out on the quality, he goes from 20 something stories down to 16 scary tales in this volume, yet it’s still over 300 pages.
With potential for a 17th terrifying entry if 3rd time resident forward guy Nev Murray cared to elaborate on “the troubles” of Northern Ireland that plagued his childhood.
I’m so intrigued!

And at only 16 tales, there is a good chance that this review of mine may not succumb to article status length this time.
Well, a fair chance anyway.

As always, the page counts are approximate. It’s not that I can’t count adequately enough, but depending on format and device, results may vary.
I’m most likely right though…. 😛

Black Widow ~ Christina Bergling 28pgs
College is a time for self discovery and growth but the only thing Dane cares to evolve is his libido and every Halloween he strives to love and leave a new slutty-costumed-up conquest.
He’s got a bucket list he’s trying to work his way through but wonders if there are any untapped get-ups left for his disposal. A random party invite sounds promiscuously promising. Oh the tangled webs to be wove..
I loathed that Dane character and loved what the author put him through. I’ve enjoyed all of Christina’s short stories in these collections, she’s a luminously bright new writer.

Mister Parker ~ Richard Chizmar 15pgs
Benjamin Parker is a middle school teacher, he’s also a bit of a loner and leads a very solitary, yet content, life. He detests Halloween due to a miserable and rotten childhood. He normally just locks himself away in his library and reads every Halloween but this year, this year…something is off.
This story was so sad, the build up was perfect for its short length, it kept me guessing about what it was really all about, leading to an ending I did NOT see coming.
It had a very non-fiction vibe to it which can be the most horrific of stories.
The first I’ve read from this author and reading his bio at the end, he co-wrote Gwendy’s Button Box with Stephen King. Wow!

Girlfriend ~ Andrew Lennon 19pgs
Simon is taking a lazy day, he was just dumped by his girlfriend Susan but is already looking towards the greener grassed bright side of it all. Ironically, he’s being harassed via mobile by said ex-girlfriend, begging for a 2nd chance. Baffled and annoyed, yet also kind of amused, he does his best to just let-it-all-hang-out and enjoy his new-found bachelorhood. Until things take a plunge to the shocking and stiflingly surreal. “Happy Halloween!”
I’ve always enjoyed Lennon’s imaginative writing style. I’ve read quite a bit of his work and he’s terrific.

Coffin Man ~ Mark Lukens 12pgs
Doting boyfriend Dennis accompanies his grieving girlfriend Tara to her hometown on Halloween, because her grandmother has died. They do not traditionally celebrate the fun holiday in that town but they do still decorate with an odd array of ornamentation. For preservation or…preparation, dunno but it is a very uninviting little town with an eerie Halloween legend.
The 2nd short I’ve read from Lukens, he says so much with so few pages. I see he has some highly rated/reviewed novel length books out there too. Read the synopsis for Devil’s Island ~ HOLY!

The Devil’s Fruit ~ Suzanne Fox 18pgs
Apple bobbing for bedpost notches…..?? It’s a real game, for Josh and Sam anyway, who have the point system and handicaps all worked out in their favor. It could have been and most likely would have been a sure thing if only they….well, let’s just say…did their own shopping; how bout them apples. But hey, either way it’s still destined to be one killer paaaarty!
Suzanne has a lot of class, and sass. Her stories are thrilling little page turners. She fondles…errr I mean dabbles in erotic fiction too. Her story in the X-mas collection….wheeew hot Hot HOT.

The Halloween Playground ~ Christopher Motz 20pgs
Marty is a drunk, the belligerent and intolerant kind that is annoyed by anyone and everyone, which only makes him drink more. So, it’s all their fault, obviously. Looking to make some changes, not within himself so much as at the expense of others, he’s planning the Halloween yard display to end all Halloween yard displays. He’s tired of being a background bit player, he’s gonna be the star attraction, talk of the town.
Oh man what a wicked wicked tale!
And Motz’s Pine Lakes should be required reading for any lover of the creepy and captivating edge-of-the-bed vivid dream inducing page turner. To quote myself in that review “Mind blowingly EXCELLENT!!”

Jenny Greentooth ~ James Matthew Byers 6pgs
What a catchy and extremely well versed poem about a witch going about her own witchy business. James writes such elaborate, hilarious, and demented poetry, his jelly bean one from the Easter collection was amazing!

Don’t Fear the Reaper ~ Steven Stacy 53pgs
This story was a love letter homage to John Carpenter’s Halloween, it read like a sister companion piece. Michael Myers is an iconic badass fictional character with many fans, so it’s not outside the realm to believe that a diehard fan (who is unbalanced and deranged enough) would turn copycat. Amber is tired of the wait, she’s ready for the 3rd act reveal and her friends really should be taking this all a bit more seriously. Pfft teenagers…
Steven Stacy is a name I remember vividly from the Easter collection. Not only was his story, The Echoes of the Bunny-Man, fantastic but it was made even more powerful when tied in with his bio. Two excellent stories that keep a similar tone; the strong and empowered female heroine who’s had too much heartache in her young life but still refuses to be the victim and the overall page length with many characters and much development ~ and that’s where the similarities end. A popcorn flick of a good time read!

A Story of Amber ~ Mark Cassell 23pgs
Brothers Chuck and Dillion were farm kids who experienced an unexplainable freakish event in their fields one Halloween. They are all grown up now and have unfortunately drifted apart. You’ve heard of gemstones having healing properties, well, what if the opposite was true…
Oh that antagonistic Amber, a beauty to be wary of as it unifies and evades.
So damn unique, I had NO idea what was going on here I just knew that I was digging it.
Mark is a very highly regarded indie author with quite a few highly regarded works out there. I have only read two short stories of his, so far, but I can totally see why. His writing is like alternate (yet not bizarro) dimension kind of stuff, multi layered with precise attention to detail. I really need to check out more from him. His Shadow Fabric Mythos series is….yep, you guessed it, very highly regarded.

Trick Turned Treat ~ Briana Robertson 36pgs
Incredibly vain and over-empowered…yet insecure…Chicory, fears aging. She has a sure-fire skin care regimen recipe for that though. And lucky for her, ingredients aren’t too terribly hard to come by for a woman of her cold and calculating feminine wiles.
So brutal, so…unnerving. I think I’m in mourning.
I went absolutely baby-bat-shit crazy for her Easter antho tale Baby Blues, it was so real and raw, I very much related. I could actually relate to certain elements of this one as well.
Briana is in my head, anxious to find out what we’re thinking next.

Pumpkin Rex ~ Lisa Morton 12pgs
High Schooler Devin loves Halloween and has saved up to buy the best, most traditional and distinguished, costume he could manage. His friend Maxx talks him into going to a rave, not overly enthused about it but hoping he’ll at least meet a cool girl, turns out it’s morphing into the rave of the millennia and some old traditions never die.
Lisa is a bonafide Halloween enthusiast expert, she has a nonfiction book out called Trick or Treat that explores the origins and pop culture fusion of this feared and revered, whimsically macabre holiday.

The First Shot ~ J.C. Michael 17pgs
Jealousy, scorn, and indifference lead a young woman to play a spiteful prank on Halloween. Encouraged by the voice of her racist and bigoted (aaand very deceased) grandfather, she watches from afar to see how her little show will play out.
It wasn’t until the end that I saw Oh Wow, this is a prequel to the grippingly awesome You Only Get One Shot novella that J.C. co-wrote with Kevin! So of course I had to go back and read it again with that in mind. YES, great story and I loved learning a bit of backstory for that big bad bitch. I hope he writes some more tales, adding even more layers to her mysterious and cold-blooded character.

Hallowed Be Thy ~ Stuart Keane 48pgs
Venturing back to the ominous Lake Whisper (that other S.K. has Castle Rock, this S.K. has Lake Whisper) yet again, we met sweet-natured Jack. He’s stoked cause he’s got a hot date with a gorgeous gal named Emma. It’s the sweetest Halloween treat he could possibly imagine….buuut this is Lake Whisper where salty and sour are the more predominant essences.
I’ve read almost everything by Stuart Keane, he is a brilliant writer with a BIG future ahead of him.

Dressed For Success ~ Peter Oliver Wonder 11pgs
Troy finds a mysterious and untouched make-up kit tossed by a trash can at a local novelty stop. He’s oddly drawn to it and enjoys the different characters he can create and perform. You know how you feel like a different person when in costume, just unabashedly uninhibited and game for anything?? Well, Troy surpasses that infantile feeling when he dons his custom-made costume. Playing dress-up is so out-of-this-world euphoric.
Peter writes sharp and fun little stories. He’s been in all 3 anthologies and all 3 of his tales were stand-out memorable. He also has a new novella out called Puckered that he co-wrote with one of my very favorite writers, David Owain Hughes. I must read that soon!

The Halloween Phantoms ~ John R. Little 22pgs
Forlorn and damn near despondent Ellen is just going through the motions while still trying to take good care of her daughter. Halloween holds no fun or excitement for her and she’s especially not in the mood for any neighborhood boo games.
Oooh this was such a terrific and highly emotional story, very sad and disturbing. This is one that sticks with you…

Halloweenland ~ Kevin J. Kennedy 30pgs
Zak and Wendy are a couple of 13-year-old long time best friends that are on the cusp of a burgeoning and quite adorable little bout of puppy love. A Halloween carnival is coming to town and they are beyond excited, it’s very much their favorite time of year. This ain’t your family fun time kind of operation though; the carnies are weird, games are rigged, prizes are scant, and the stakes are high!
An action adventure coming of age tale with a dollop of pumpkin spice. Yep, it was a blast to read
and Kevin says it’s going to be a whole carnival series with different authors putting their spin on it. How interesting, I can see this going in many different directions.

That’s all of them and I did try really hard to pick a top 3 but even with my standard inflation, I still couldn’t manage to narrow it down to single digits. They are all pretty damn fantastic and top 3 worthy!

Ok Kevin, sooo….I have a proposition for you. 😀 😀
If you continue to do these 3 holidays collections yearly (inviting back your usual suspects as well as introducing us to new 1st time offenders), then I will continue to read and review them. However, and this is a dealbreaker, you must also add in a Mother’s Day and a Father’s Day anthology ~ that’d really make for some killer family fun time stories!
Yea…cause I can’t really think of any other UK/US crossover holiday’s, well, unless….hmmm do you guys celebrate Thanksgiving and Independence day??
Perfect, so, it’s settled. A cyber-shake (…down) deal, that is contractually binding. 😉
You made the right decision.
Cheerios!

Oh and completely off topic but still quite pertinent, it seems Cadbury creme eggs are not just for Easter anymore!! Screme Eggs are all the rage aaas my willpower whimpers, I’m just not strong enough to resist. Boo. :/

 

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