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RED STAINS
Edited By JACK HUNTER (Creation Press; 1992)

If nothing else, this gross-out anthology, an early publication by England’s infamous Creation Press, definitely lives up to its billing. It contains (as the back cover proclaims) “Tales of the Darkest Biological Extremes and the Psycho-Sexual Imagination…A Lexicon of Lesions; Bible of Blood.” Not all of these 16 stories are winners--many, in fact, read like high school-level creative writing exercises. But great writing is not what this book promises.

     I was won over by the inclusion of Ramsey Campbell’s often-reprinted 1981 sickie “Again.” The story is a longtime favorite of mine, an evocation of unspeakable perversion set amidst an incredibly vivid atmosphere of grit and decay. Other standouts: Tony Reed’s “Monsters,” which unnervingly juxtaposes the naïve innocence of children exploring an old dark house with the psychotic activities one of those kids now carries on as an adult, and David Conway’s apocalyptic “Eloise,” wherein incest, genetic experimentation and psychosis fuse.

     The infamous James Havoc contributes “Love Comes in Fragments,” a brief, fitfully gruesome chunk of bile about a supernatural serial killer who runs with a gang called the Teenage Timberwolves (the inspiration for the similarly titled graphic novel). Adele Olivia Gladwell, D.F. Lewis and Jeremy Reed each provide short, exotic fragments (“A Change Came O’er the Spirit of My Dream,” “Hotel de Filles” and “When the whip Comes Down,” respectively), all rife with erotic and sadistic imagery.

     “Inspiration” by Steve Clark and “Passion” by John Smith also contain some arrestingly fecund passages. So does RED HEDZ author Michael Paul Peter Philbin’s “Vixen-Naked Ultra-Luncheon,” which is downright Cronenbergian in its exhaustive retinue of psycho-biological horrors.

     “Tourniquet” by Terence Sellers, an excerpt from the book THE CORRECT SADIST, is related by a (real?) dominatrix describing her freakiest acts. Not bad, but it’s all-too clear the piece is a fragment of a (presumably) more complete whole. I found Paul Buck’s “Research” particularly interminable (among other irritants, the tale suffers from the ever-obnoxious affliction of selective indentation) up until the final pages, which round out the tale with a jolting bit of nastiness. “CATALEPSY No. 1” by Aaron Williamson is essentially a lengthy prose poem, and only marginally successful.

     The best is saved for last. That would be Paul Marks’ “…And the Sun Shone by Night,” in my view the wildest, nastiest, most mind-scraping story of the entire collection. It has a man tortured in profoundly horrific fashion in an animal experimentation laboratory. The story grows increasingly gruesome as it advances, and what ultimately happens to the protagonist is revolting and revelatory, and simply must be read to be disbelieved!

     

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