Welcome to the debut collection from Donnie Goodman – strap yourselves in and prepare for the ride of your life!
The Razorblades in my Head – well damn, what a way to kick off the collection and a brilliant introduction to Donnie’s work. This one has the weird horror vibes that I love, think Sarah Hall, Emily Harrison and Angela Readman (all writers you should be checking out) – I love my weird horror and this is just all of that and more, body horror and the healing of old wounds in the most macabre way.
Third Grade – I loved the tone of voice in this piece, the clipped dialogue really gets you into the characters mind. A young boy with an idea sets about helping his teacher get over her grief in the way only a child could think of. Well if that child was deranged! I actually mixed this one up, I read it along with listening to Donnie read this story for Celebrate Horror 2021 which was hosted by Sadie Hartmann on the Nightworms YouTube channel – I’d recommend doing it that way if you can, I love authors reading their own work and Donnie does a terrific job.
Stargazing – here we’re treated to an apocalyptic vision, an invasion of sorts as our protagonist wakes to find the place belongs under attack. He brother returns to guide her to the place beyond, because he also knows what their mother called her ‘Stargazer’ – a great little change in tone and genre here, it’s less horror more science fiction / apocalyptic dread.
Gobble, Gobble – a nice dip into one of favourite sub genres the ‘Creature Feature’ – I have to say when I read the title I was thinking stuff was going to get sick, but after the first line I realised that we were going to be treated to something a little different – think Herbert’s The Rats but with Turkey’s and you’ll be in that wheelhouse! It’s absurd but I loved it!
Magic in the Hat – we’re treated to a slice os seasonal horror here, Goodman does a great job at bringing this coming of age tale to a dramatic and horrifying conclusion and it reminded me of those 80’s style horror books and films – where the unthinkable the unimaginable happens, it’s crazy, you know it’s mad – but you just can’t help but love it! Frosty the Snowman has nothing on these guys!
It’s Not Always Why – this one read like a perfect blend of Adam Nevill (horror) and Cormac McCarthy (crazy) – a young girl breaks into a hospital abs steals a newborn child, for what purposes you’ll need to read and find out – but the ending is not what you’d ever imagine!
The Stranger in the Squared Circle – I’m going on the record here to say that there are not enough wrestling horror stories out there. This one is a beaut, all the action and escapism one gets from watching the real thing great the reader on the page and the subtle horror that becomes bright lights and popcorn horror was something I never knew I wanted until I had it. An enjoyable crazy read – just my level of vampiric, not too much, just enough!
Toasted – all I can say is WHAT??? Madness I tell you, utter weird mad horror!
Teddy – working in a crematorium might be a strange job to want but for our protagonist it’s everything she wants right now. It’s a lonely existence for her, but she finds a friend – Teddy and all her troubles just melt away! This ones a slow burn with creepy undertones – I liked the mix up of pace to the other stories in the collection.
A Bloody Heist – this is brilliant. The twist in this book of fabulous, it’s like the film ‘Heat’ but with some crazy twist – also you got to admire the chops of Goodman for writing about a terrorist bomb or terrorist cell – it’s the first one I’ve read and I feel some people (since recent history) stay away from this subject. But the subject is horrific and I feel horror is a great platform to tackle such hard hitting subject – also this is handled with care and precision throughout!
Hourglass – I really enjoyed this one, a comical look at sacrifice – the details are handled to perfection and I did a few chuckles as reading. Woodman did a fabulous job balancing the horror with the comedy and the ending was perfect – like something out of a horror film!
The Old Bay King – I think this is the longest story in the collection and was also previously released as a single story as a teaser for this collection (great promo Donnie). And what I have to say is this story shows the true brilliance of Goodman’s work – he excels in the longer story, his prose is sharp as a scalpel and his words are drenched in his deep love of all things horror. This had some real Guy N Smith vibes which I loved – creature feature is a sub genre I love and Goodman takes it to the next level with some Benchley vibes too.
At the back of the collection we find the author notes about each story, so you can read and find out where these ideas came from, what inspired them and how they came to be – I do love these appearing in short story collections / they give you a glimpse behind the macabre curtain.
A fabulous debut collection, some (some) of the stories had a Goosebumps vibe to them and one I didn’t vibe with (Goosebumps is not really my thing – they weren’t available when I was at school so the nostalgia they bring to readers is lost on me a little) – but having said that I can still see the creative brilliance on offer. I’m also not a fan of the vampiric (although I read it) and Goodman does a great job at incorporating this trope but not drowning the stories in it – so hats off to you man!
When this collection gets dark, it gets damn crazy and you’ll be repeating ‘it’s just a book, it’s just a book!’ – I want more of that darkness from Goodman’s pen!
I’m excited and desperate to see what Donnie does next and hope it’s something bigger – a novella or a novel, something I can really sink my teeth into and devour!
Also – damn that cover is amazing! Cover of the year contender if that’s a thing or not – it should be!
Donnie Goodman is a reader, writer, and collector of horror fiction. He runs the bookstagram page and YouTube show, “The Horror Hypothesis” and writes book reviews for SCREAM! Magazine. When he is not out in the wild, searching for Paperbacks From Hell in Central Virginia, he is likely reading, writing, or playing video games. His first collection, THE RAZORBLADES IN MY HEAD, is due out in the Summer of 2021. He also has some short stories coming soon from various publishers in the horror community.
Reviewed by Ross Jeffery
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