I use collections pretty much as a shopping list. And there is nothing I love more than the feeling of discovering what a new author (to me anyway) has to offer, and I find that through these collections I’ve found a great many writers that have now become a staples of my reading and bookshelves.
What we have here from Glenn Rolfe are 12 stories which cover a whole host of ideas and sub genres of horror, we’ve some that read like the B-movies of old, we’ve the dark and twisty, we’ve the down right disturbing and the horrific, whilst also having the peculiar and uncanny. It’s a deeply rich collection, but for me it was also a mixed collection too.
Glenn Rolfe comes to me as a highly recommended writer (thanks Janine Pipe and Joshua Marsella) and his book ‘Blood and Rain’ has been floating around my Twitter and Instagram feed for a while now, but I’m always one to pick up a short story collection first (if one is available) because if I pick up your novel and I’m not into it, I probably will be less likely to pick up other work when I see it. The caveat me picking up a collection first is that if I like some of the stories I might just be inclined to pick up other work from that author on that basis – to see what the author could do with a longer and more focused story.
And that is the case with Slush – there was enough here to make me want to discover more of Glenn Rolfe’s work and I’ll be picking up the highly recommended Blood and Rain soon.
So on with the review.
Skull of Snakes – here we have a very cool adolescent story where a group of friends discover a cursed coin and soon death and destruction follow like a tsunami. The story was pretty cool and brought to mind memories of the time it’s set in (the late 80’s) and this visualised perfectly by Rolfe with references to BMX’s, The Simpson, Wrestling and a whole host of others (side note – I do love me some popular culture references in my fiction). I really enjoyed the whole Native American vibe that is subtly woven into this piece and the back story of where this coin came from. It’s like ‘The Body’ by Stephen King, but with a much higher bodycount. The problem I had with this story though is that it was littered with typos – if it wasn’t for the story and that I enjoyed it, this type of attention to detail might, might have put me off. The typos did affect the way I read it as when they’d dump me out of the story, it seemed to interrupt the flow for me – but I cracked on nevertheless and really enjoyed this one.
‘This day had sucked the innocence from all of us.’
Sweet 16 – a tale of all consuming young love, tinged with the fear of betrayal, of unspeakable acts and how much a person will sacrifice for love. This story hit home hard, it was such a beautifully haunting story with a melancholic conclusion. It was poetic whilst also being brutal and the two work together in harmony making a short story that delivers on every level.
Jackie Boy – this is a beautifully macabre tale and one of my favourite in the collection. Jackie Boy is a story that is full of innocence yet has a deep and terrifying undercurrent that’s just waiting to grab your ankle and pull you under. It centres on a young boy who enjoys the disembowelment of rats, he kills them, guts them, and he keeps little refrigerator bags of them for his own macabre needs. It’s his dirty little secret but the thing about secrets is sometimes they get out. It’s full of filth but I loved it.
The Curse – is a The Craft for the new generation, it focuses on a group of young girls that invoke dark forces to help them deal with an abusive teacher that’s hell bent on tormenting them any way she can, this one had subtle notes of historic abuse, but it’s never glorified, instead Rolfe ensures he places a microscope over the vengeance that’s about to be dished out!
‘Flashes of legendary abuse involving this menacing beast of a woman and her past players raged like a river of vile consequences somewhere between Jillian’s ears.’
The Delicious Death of Parker Stephens – I loved this short and snappy read, it read like a Horror B-movie and it reminded me of Eerie Indiana and a film called ‘The Willies’ that film in particular was told in three parts and it’s the final one that I draw these comparisons – it’s more a science fiction horror, think ‘The Fly’ – the visceral descriptions from Rolfe are a joy to behold and they lend perfectly to the macabre and shocking conclusion. This one was a thing of nightmares.
I’m in Here – was what I would call a short piece of flash fiction. It deals with some strong and powerful emotions and themes. I can’t talk much about this as it’s super short and I don’t want to ruin anything for readers – it’s emotional, it’s heart rending – it’s a punch right in the gut.
Henry – here we have a chilling tale detailing what teenage obsession can lead to. Our protagonist Henry attempts to make himself beautiful for Angela McMasters a girl he’s become infatuated with. He’s locked himself in the bathroom and he’s not coming out until he’s completed his task… the voice in his head, the voice compelling him on, is his only companion on this dark journey.
Something Lost – we get something else from Rolfe here, a heart rending story about loss and grief. It’s short, it’s sharp and very nostalgic, a story of sonship and fatherhood told through a connection to music!
Ballard of the Best-Selling Author – this was a very cool and interesting story that follows the life of a horror reader / writer as he becomes frustrated with the amount of zombie related books flooding the market. Whilst our protagonist is at his local bookshop he stumbles into one of these best selling authors that’s doing a signing at the shop in the next few days. He decides to take matters into his own hands and wants to teach this hack a lesson, one that he’ll never forget!
Candle Magic – this was a very poetic piece, not to my liking but I can see the beauty in the words and the flowing prose. The imagery is delicate and I can appreciate what Rolfe was doing, but it seemed a little out of place in the collection, and I’m just not a fan of this type of writing.
Flaws – this ones pretty dark, a man’s burgeoning desires overwhelm him as he starts to discover that he gets gratification and pleasure from destroying things; but what starts off as small fry soon grows into an inferno. His habit, this addiction has got bigger than he ever thought possible.
Halloween Worm – this was a great story to end the collection, a tale of adolescence and trauma, of the things young people do without fear of the inevitable consequences. It’s bittersweet but the creepy factor is dialled to 100… I didn’t know where this story was going to go at the start but it built to a pretty amazing and veiled conclusion that was dripping with the uncanny.
The collection as a whole was fun. It was a great look into the mind of this writer and his prose is something quite unique, I enjoyed the pop culture and music references immensely. I think Rolfe finds his groove in the darker stories in the collection, they for me are where the money’s at. Rolfe’s attention to detail and the visceral, bloody gore are tremendously put across in graphic detail – so I think I’ll be checking out his novel Blood and Rain next as it comes highly recommended from Janine Pipe.
So on closing, Slush is a mixed back of horror, but one that was enjoyable, if anything it’s made me want to see what Rolfe can do with a longer more focused project. I’m not done with Rolfe yet!
Slush is available here.
Glenn Rolfe is an author, singer, songwriter and all around fun loving guy from the haunted woods of New England. He has studied Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University, and continues his education in the world of horror by devouring the novels of Stephen King, Ronald Malfi, and Richard Laymon. He and his wife, Meghan, have three children, Ruby, Ramona, and Axl. He is grateful to be loved despite his weirdness.
Reviewed by Ross Jeffery
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