Tattered Souls Reviews

Tattered SoulsTattered Souls

+Monster Librarian+

Tattered Souls edited by Frank J. Hutton
Cutting Block Books, 2007
Available: New

Tattered Souls is a short collection consisting of six tales of horror. The stories are longer than most short stories, but not quite long enough to be novellas. I am not sure if there was an intended theme for this anthology. Erotic themes repeat in almost all the stories, and at least two are excellent, nuanced detective noir stories. a subgenre that is very dependent on texture. A standout in this collection is Chris Reed’s “Drool,” the twisted tale of an aspiring pedophile losing his sanity that balances disturbing imagery with laugh-out loud comedy. The absolute winner, however, is “The End of Flesh,” by Matt Wallace, a dark, dystopic science fiction story that just might rock your world. This revelatory novella could and should be expanded into a full novel. “Drool” and “The End of All Flesh” are worth the price alone, but all the stories should provide an enjoyable read. This collection is why the underground horror press exists—to give a home to young, fresh writers trying to find a place for their work. One thing is for sure—Cutting Block Books has put out a book of high-quality horror that is extreme in every sense of the word. Recommended.

Stories include: Contains Violence, sexuality, drug use, cannibalism.

Review by Daivd Agranoff

Stories included are:
“The Monkey Skin Cloak” by Jeff Crook
“Other People” by Richard Wright
“The End of Flesh” by Matt Wallace
“Clipped Dirty Wings” by M.E. Palmer
“Drool” by Chris Reed
“Terminal Condition” by Chris Ryan.

 


+The Fix+

Tattered Souls, edited by Frank J. Hutton
By Ziv Wities

The first offering in anthology Tattered Souls, edited by Frank J. Hutton, is Jeff Crook’s “The Monkey Skin Cloak,” a battle against primal frenzy in the African jungle. Theo, his wife, Stanci, and guide, Doc Palmer, are on safari when their jeep runs over a native girl. It soon becomes clear that Stanci has somehow absorbed the spirit of the African girl who turns out not to have been quite as human as they had initially supposed. Stanci’s transformation leaves Theo and Doc desperately defending themselves from fierce, animal savagery-which is expressed no less in lust than in violence.

Crook does an excellent job with the horror descriptions in “The Monkey Skin Cloak.” The key images are well-chosen and horribly vivid, sure to stick in your mind for weeks to come. He makes good use of the power inherent in descriptions of sex, depicting three sexual acts, each with its own purpose and significance, each providing a highly charged twist to the story. When is sex in fiction not gratuitous? When it serves the story by advancing or exposing plot, theme, or character. When is hyena fellatio in fiction not gratuitous? In “The Monkey Skin Cloak.”

Bringing this story down a notch is its poor structure and uneven emphasis. It begins with Stanci facing off against Theo and Doc, who don’t seem to take the girl’s death very seriously. Afterwards, her transformation is first revealed by her sudden assertiveness and confidence. We feel that Stanci is claiming power for herself, power which was previously outside her reach, as the curse brings out a conflict that was hidden but present. However, this element’s presence is haphazard throughout; sometimes it seems to be the focus, but at others it seems forgotten entirely-with the straightforward threat of the curse and its physical danger stage center. The cliché setting, the simple story structure, and a threat that robs the characters of their personality and free will do not encourage readers to keep their eyes open for deeper layers, and the shifts in emphasis left me confused about the story’s focus and therefore unsatisfied. “The Monkey Skin Cloak” is definitely a decent read (using the less puritan definition of “decent”) but could have been much better.

The second offering is Richard Wright’s “Other People,” which describes, in depth and detail, four suicides-a gimmick sure to grab a readers’ attention.

Individually, each suicide is well-written and chilling. Particularly powerful is the portrayal of determination and supreme effort in the characters’ self-destructiveness; each works hard and suffers greatly for their “easy way out.” The characters are interesting, and their outlandish deaths earn our belief and our horror. But put them all together, and the whole is less than the sum of its parts. It’s the repetition that kills it. Though each character’s personality, motive, and method are different, the narrative is nearly identical. We get the point halfway into the second suicide, and by the beginning of the third, there’s little need to read any further. The description of multiple suicides, each different, although occurring simultaneously and in the same building, seems intended to comment upon society in general but instead feels formulaic, calling attention to the gimmick and failing to sustain the reader’s attention.

“The End of Flesh” by Matt Wallace has all the familiar elements of a hard-boiled detective story: the detective who’s as weary as he is sharp, the sleazy informer, the beautiful heiress. But though the mystery’s enjoyable enough, the essence of this story is in the milieu: a not-too-far-off future in which most animals have been wiped out by disease. For most of humanity, this means the reluctant embrace of a vegetarian existence. Some, though, are willing to make do with the one source of meat that remains plentiful: human beings.

Jon Pacson is the off-the-record investigator called in when murder is coupled with cannibalism. Such is the case before him now; a prominent and well-liked son of a Councilman has been killed and burned, and it’s soon clear this is a job for Pacson. He sets out to find the killers, the perfect vehicle upon which to take the reader on a tour of this unsettling setting. Wallace has filled his world with a rich variety of characters and locations, and visiting each of them reveals another facet of this hypothetical future. Bit by bit, he constructs a dark fringe of society, small but terrifying, and (for the most part) very believable. Kudos to Wallace for an excellent story-gripping, well-written, and with a vision that we might actually have fair cause to fear.

Alex’s days are numbered in M.E. Palmer’s “Clipped Dirty Wings.” He’s a drug dealer in debt, and it looks like he’s done for. In his last few hours, he gains the company of Unkaya, an ancient goddess. Alas, the story meanders aimlessly. It tries to combine Alex’s desperate plight with that of an ancient goddess still walking the harsh streets, but in focusing on each, the other is forgotten. The threads never really connect, each seemingly independent of the others and not going anywhere, and no real story emerges from the mixture.

In “Drool,” I feel that Chris Reed has bitten off more than he can chew. “Drool” has us riding along in the brain of Charles Hacker, a psychotic pedophile who’s about to blow, told from his point of view-seeing events through his perceptions, sharing his hallucinations, following his twisted facsimile of logic.

The opening does this admirably: Charles is introduced as a worker at a laundry. His feelings of revulsion at the filth he needs to work with segue into fascination with the beauty and purity of a small child. Our first exposure to Charles’s pedophilia is shocking, but the switch is so well done that it earns our belief and attention. “Yes,” we say, “maybe that’s how they see it. That makes sense.” But from there, “Drool” goes downhill. Reed makes a valiant attempt to portray crazy actions as having a convoluted kind of sense, but “Drool” is not careful enough to truly convince, undermining the entire point of the story. It is too self-aware, too direct in showcasing Charles’s insanity to allow us to take it seriously, instead delivering a sense of being pulled by the nose: “LOOK! Look how crazy he is! Look what he’s doing NOW!” Charles’s behavior and his madness feel forced rather than interesting, and the reader waits patiently for the author to lay out the entire chain up to the bloody climax, after which we may proceed to the next story.

The anthology signs off with Chris Ryan’s “Terminal Condition.” Dickerson is a veteran cop, living his life struggling to do his meager best against society’s many ills. When one person forces Dickerson to shoot him and another jumps in front of his car, he realizes there’s more than coincidence going on. The events that follow force our protagonist to confront his ex-wife, his faith, his hopes, and his view of the world, leading to a conclusion this reader found darkly satisfying.

“Terminal Condition” does not have the energy of Tattered Souls’s earlier cop story, “The End of Flesh,” partly due to its more introspective, personal nature, as opposed to “Flesh”‘s constant action. But there are also sections which feel somewhat slack, detached, or unclear. On the other hand, “Terminal Condition” offers something no other story in this collection does: an actual plot, keeping the reader in suspense and asking what happens next. It manages to be intriguing and largely unpredictable-no mean feat, in the short fiction arena. Add this to the well-handled themes of faith and despair, and to the aforementioned satisfying conclusion, and the result is a story well worth your while. This is Chris Ryan’s first published story and from what I saw in “Terminal Condition,” I wish him every success and hope to see more of his writing in the future.

Ziv’s Final Tally:
Stories: 6
MPAA Rating: NC-17
Dead Bodies: 17 men, 8 women, 2 hyena creatures
Average Dead Bodies Per Story: 2.8 men, 1.3 women, 0.3 hyena creatures
Royalty (in order of appearance): 1 Hyena Queen, 1 Goddess, 1 Burger King
Stories Without Sex: 0

Publisher: Cutting Block Books
Price: $16.95
Paperback: 192 pages
ISBN: 978-0-9778262-3-0

 


+Bookgasm+Tattered Souls
Reviewed by Matt AdderHorror anthologies are great, especially those with a unified theme. In TATTERED SOULS, that theme is hard to discern immediately. From the introduction, it has something to do with something called “art,” but I’m not sure exactly what “art” is.So I searched for another running theme to link these six rather uneven tales of horror, and the only other thing that jumped out was a penis. Make that several penises. In one memorable Black Flag record, Henry Rollins is clever enough to introduce the band members by their name and cock size (Kira, the female bassist, has the 10.5?!), so in that spirit: In “The Monkey Skin Cloak,” it’s a “thing as long as the arm of a young girl.” In “Other People,” “she had no reference for his size.” In “Drool,” “the small size of it disgusted him.” In “Clipped Dirty Wings,” it’s “the size of a billy club.”All of the stories were written by men. Go figure. Perhaps Confucius was right when he claimed the penis was the axis upon which the world turned.Jeff Crook’s “The Monkey Skin Coat” kicks off the collection. It’s a period piece once again reminding white people never to go to Africa and run over a native. Hilarity, hyena fellatio (yep – you read it right) and craaazy native monsters ensue. And a chick who grows a monkey wang. The mood is done nicely, the setting exotic, but the ending lacks some unique solution that would make the story itself more memorable.Fortunately, some of the other stories carry the slower ones, which is a benefit surrounding an anthology. The aforementioned “Drool” by Chris Reed and “Other People” by Richard Wright are worth mentioning.”Drool” gives us a glimpse into the depraved world of Charlie Hacker. He hears the voices in his head by splitting open his skin to let them talk – their lips red and wet, and speaking in murderous voices only he can hear. The ending was witty, and I won’t ruin the joke. “Other People” works on a more intellectual level. Normally, quotes by Sartre in the beginning are an alert to be wary, but here they work as a frame for a nihilistic take on urban despair in the form of twisted sex and death by dishwasher.Perhaps the standout piece would be by newcomer Chris Ryan, whose “Terminal Condition” succeeds not so much in the actual tale, but in the way he tells it. The man can write and will be a talent to watch. His main character – a burned-out cop, haunted by death with every street encounter – comes to an epiphany during one miserable week. The twist wasn’t much of one, but Ryan gives us gems like “He viewed death like they did in medieval times. . Death was a real dude. He sits at your table when you eat, watches from the bedpost while you fuck and lovingly caresses your hair as you sleep.” I’m anxious to see what else comes from his pen.”The End of Flesh,” from Matt Wallace – starring his Busboy Pacson character in a zombie world – may have a built-in following, but feels too much like a small piece of something much bigger to have much of a visceral impact. We’ve seen the unorthodox loner in every cop movie since the ’80s. Wallace places his hard-boiled tough guy among the ghouls and comes up short. The landscape fits, and Pacson is interesting, but it reads more like a B-movie than a story. From reading the author’s notes, it might just be. And I’ll be the first one in line to see it.The last tale of fear is “Clipped Dirty Wings” by M.E. Palmer. Guess what happens when a down-on-his-luck gambler crosses paths with a female goddess forgotten by those who once worshipped her? It’s a new life, but not quite the chance he wished for.Edited by Frank J. Hutton and released by Cutting Block Books, TATTERED SOULS seems a good place to discover future talents in the world of horror . provided they can overcome their, um, shortcomings. -Matt Adder

+The Horror Reader+

Tattered Souls: a Horror Reader

Exclusive review by Daniel Robichaud

In this volume, editor Frank J. Hutton presents six novellas of horror, linked not by a specific concept (Vampire Crime Scene Investigators or the like) but a rather general theme of souls imperiled. Though the acknowledgments flat out state that this book was delivered to its publisher quickly, it does not read as anything other than a carefully considered, professional anthology.

“Monkey Skin Cloak” by Jeff Crook utilizes an African setting and mythos to add a fresh, exotic quality to what amounts to a story of strangers inadvertently interrupting a long standing ritual of supernatural importance. This time around, a native — driver for a married couple on safari — accidentally runs down a woman in the road. This woman turns out to be something more than normal, just as her garment — the titular cloak — turns out to be a powerful tool for revenge. The story certainly maintains an eerie atmosphere, and it effectively creates characters, mannerisms, and setting from its historical period. That said, however appropriate to the period it might have been, the running subtext of chauvinism and homophobia unfortunately dampened this reader’s full enjoyment of the story.

“Other People” by Richard Wright recounts the interwoven stories of four residents of a Glasgow townhouse: a glutton, a Tantric, a perfectionist, and a germophobe. While the individual sections reveal a considerate attention to the nuances of character and offer relatively brief but thorough studies, the plot is essentially a one-trick pony repeated four times. While this would certainly appeal to Jean Paul Sartre, whose epigrams proliferate the text, this reader found this tactic stole much of the suspense and horror from the reading.

“The End of Flesh” by Matt Wallace is something of an anomaly, here. A futurist piece, which offers a rather chilling view of a world several decades removed from our own. In this age, a large section of the populace — the underclasses and dispossessed — practice a sort of organized and tolerated cannibalism. However, should a situation develop wherein the undesirables are no longer content eating their own, but then affect the affluent, a special investigator is called in to settle matters. Jon Pacson (nicknamed “The Bus Boy”) walks these mean streets. As can be surmised, this story is an example of noir sf with horrific overtones. It is indebted to (but not wholly reliant upon) a filmic background. The horror in this piece alternates between over the top, Grand Guignol (such as the floating, rave style party dedicated to that most gruesome of meals, the long pig) to the subtle (as evinced by the steady erosion of our protagonist’s moral compass). While the case culminates in a not all together unexpected fashion, the underplayed denouement provides a spot on, perfect coda to the action.

“Clipped Dirty Wings” by M.E. Palmer follows a down and out gambler protagonist, as he meets a compassionate woman (who may or may not be the incarnation of a goddess) on the very day that he places his life in jeopardy. By gambling away another man’s money, Alex has pretty much consigned himself to an awful end. As with the previous story, “Clipped Dirty Wings” combines the hardboiled and the horrific, in a tale that on the surface involves physical torment. However, even more interesting (to this reader, anyway) is the subtle play of supernatural elements, which raise a grueling scene of bodily torture into a scourging sequence of an epic, nearly Biblical, proportions. Nice touch, that.

“Drool” by Chris Reed hit my disgust buttons pretty early on. I found this story a trial of endurance not because of the writing, but because of the loathsome psychological places the tale visits. Centering on the obsessions of an ideological pederast — a man who fantasizes about “love” with an eight year old girl he has seen but never met — the tale chronicles its protagonists mental deterioration through a rather unique take on that old “I hear voices in my head” shtick. This time around, the voices manifest from bodily wounds. The story of madness and murder escalates quite steadily, and the endings, which is suitably sleazy, left this reader with the desire to scrub his brain. Fans of the excessive horror of Laymon, Ketchum and Lee will undoubtedly enjoy this story.

“Terminal Condition” marks the first published fiction for Chris Ryan. The story is a relentlessly grim recounting of a policeman on the decline. Though accustomed to death, the protagonist of this piece is not at all ready to become the epicenter of it. Not Dickerson, but the people around him become the victims, leaving him as observer and a reservoir for pain. This desperation (leavened with absolutely no humor, alas) intensifies, culminating in a pitch dark ending, making this tale — though the shortest in the book — the most weighty.

All told, these six novellas present unique takes on the macabre, and there is bound to be a story here for just about every sort of horror reader. Cutting Block Books offering of novellas is a nice touch, as these give readers a bit more meat than is possible in the typical short story. Already earning good marks for their Horror Library and Butcher’s Quartet anthologies, Cutting Block Books has brought one more fulfilling volume of long stories to readers. This reader hopes for some more novella anthologies in the future.

Tattered Souls edited by Frank J. Hutton
190 pages
Cutting Block Books
Published March 2007

 


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Tattered Souls 2 – Book Review
posted by Dave . Tattered Souls 2
Frank J. Hutton, Editor
Cutting Block Press
Trade Paper, 218 pages, $18.99
Review by Sheila M. Merritt

Psychically tortured individuals populate Tattered Souls 2, a fine anthology of eight stories that studies fear from odd perspectives. Included in the pages of the book are tales of: an actress who becomes transfigured by a legendary fan; a battered woman’s epistolary account that is punctuated with bruises; and a man who is propelled into action by a hematic-infused relationship. These three narratives, in terms of subject matter and execution, are extremely impressive. And are, therefore, the focus of this review.

In “Misery and Me” by Anne Michaud, a vampire love story blends addictions – blood and drugs. The language of the piece creates its own narcotic buzz; a haze more red than purple. The male protagonist comprehends the allure of his seductress, and succumbs rather like a school boy: “He fell quiet and didn’t know what to do with his hands until a brisk gust of wind blew her hair across her face, a strand getting caught on her lips. As he gently brushed it aside, his fingers touched her skin ever so slightly. Her flesh was cold. Liriel didn’t move, kept her gaze on his, testing him.” “Misery and Me” has an edgy poetry. This dance of death includes a few moves that defy conventional thematic choreography.

Skewed love is a tie that binds in Kathleen Dale’s “Becka.” The first person narrator is verbally and physically abused by the main men in her life. Becka’s low self-esteem began with beratings and beatings from her dad. Now married to an equally injurious guy, she finds some release through documenting the hurtful exchanges. Her writings disclose the inner turmoil, as well as her feelings of uneasiness concerning an unseen presence that gets riled up when she is threatened. Empowerment is near and yet oh so far, as Becka becomes emboldened by the externalization/manifestation of seething rage determined to protect her at all costs. Writer Dale does a superior job conveying the protagonist’s emotional entrapment, engaging the reader’s sympathy. When Becka feels liberated, the reader internally cheers; when the character is deflated and defeated, tears of frustration may very likely flow.

Blood, both real and fake, is what flows freely in “Mademoiselle Guignol.” Stephanie Shaw sets her tale at the notoriously gory Theatre du Grand Guignol. Paris in 1913 is in a state of transition. The Belle Époque era is giving way to artistic change reflecting more discordant times: Cubism; Stravinsky’s shocking composition “The Rite of Spring;” and a World War on the horizon. Flourishing in the midst of this cultural flux, the Grand Guignol continues to supply bloodthirsty spectators with sanguinary satisfaction. Among the regular attendees, who run the gamut of society, is a mysterious elderly Englishman. He finds the acting of Lina, known as Mademoiselle Guignol, enthralling and imbued with truth. She understands and easily accesses the tenebrous regions of the soul; a beauty who knows the bestial: “Hers was a neck made for breaking – a stem of a tragic lily blessed by a complexion so transparent one could see blood rush madly beneath it.”

Her dark, violence-filled performances are sensual to the max. Although she can reproduce an orgasm on stage by thinking of her lover, Lina dismisses sex as synonymous with death in real life: “Death, she wanted to whisper, was not erotically charged. Death was tedious and drawn out, it came to women after hard and bloody labor, to men after a lifetime of drinking and ditch digging. It ran children down in the streets via hansom cab or flu. When not monotonous, Death was almost comical in its abruptness. A misstep off the curb, a distracted butcher, a match thrown too close to the gas line. And no organ played.”

Ever the realist, Lina has seen the writing on the wall. Her life as “Mademoiselle Guignol” must end; an aging actress in a climate of shifting trends needs to make adjustments. Her final performance is laden with appropriate shocks. The audience is particularly surprised when she doesn’t appear for curtain calls, leading to speculation that perhaps a lethal accident occurred. The English admirer is puzzled and driven to investigate, setting the stage for a denouement that is indeed pure Grand Guignol.

Stephanie Shaw’s tale is highly atmospheric; displaying a keen sense of place and period. Graced with smart dialogue and memorable characters, this story along with the works of Anne Michaud and Kathleen Dale, are more than enough reason to seek out a copy of the overall excellent Tattered Souls 2.


 

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Tattered Souls II
Ed. Frank J. Hutton
Publisher: Cutting Block Books
Release Date: August 1, 2011
Pages: 218
Price: $18.95
Available for purchase on the publisher’s website

Featuring stories from Forrest Aguirre, Tim W. Burke, Stephanie Shaw, Elias Siqueros, Kathleen Dale, Melanie Fogel, Anne Michaud, and Steve Ruthenbeck, Tattered Souls II is the second volume of the Tattered Souls anthologies, the first of which, also edited by Frank J. Hutton, offered a selection of individual works, each by a different author, with a focus on exploring the provocative boundary of fear.

The ninth anthology from the great minds at Cutting Block Press and their fourth long fiction anthology since 2006, and although many writers have said this, I think it bears repeating–literary horror does, in fact, exist, and despite my dislike of labels and over-categorizing genre fiction, Cutting Block continues to get it right as they do with this latest offering. When I say literary I don’t necessarily mean in the style of Edgar Allan Poe, Lord Dunsany, or Daphne DuMaurier, though they’re certainly some of the names that first come to mind. What I’m alluding to is subtler works that leave the reader with a deeper sense of disquietude after having read a particularly chilling tale rather than the splatterfests or B-movie imitations that characterize what most people think of as horror.

Making the reader feel disgust or revulsion doesn’t necessarily produce the scariest story. Grossouts definitely have their place in the genre, but the most memorable horror doesn’t come from who can write the most gruesome descriptions–that’s not hard. Striking genuine fear in the heart of the reader, or at least making them feel discomfort at the actions of the characters? That’s extremely difficult, and something few can pull off. And although I didn’t find the stories collected in Tattered Souls to be scary in the traditional sense, they are disquieting and memorable, and they do succeed in their aim to explore people’s fears.

The anthology kicks off with Yellow Called and Mom Was There by Burke, a sci-fi story in a world where everyone, including the main character and his mother, is hooked up to a computer program called Synapticel that distributes injections into people and has now turned its focus onto widespread targeting of people’s pleasure centres. It shares other people’s memories and distributes ‘zombularity.’ I found the ending vague, but it reminded me of something that Phillip K. Dick could have written, and it was a good story overall.

Next came my favourite pick, the best story of the bunch, Mademoiselle Guignol by Stephanie Shaw. With a title like that and an author bio stating that she’s been involved in theatre, I couldn’t wait to get into this one and had very high expectations that Ms. Shaw delivered on. It’s set in 1913 and told in a second person point of view in some parts, which, although usually not recommended, works quite well here. The descriptions are grounded in a historical context and Paris is brought to life with the main character’s bird’s eye view as she (and later, the second character to go into the second person) guides us through the city. I couldn’t have been more glad to have ended up in the theatre of the Grand Guignol, which you can read more about here.

Lina is an actress at the theatre and increasingly sick of dying a thousand different ways. She tells the owner, Max (also her lover) that she wants to quit, but he doesn’t want her to leave, and someone else wants to end her career permanently. I won’t give much more away, because you really should check this one out and discover it for yourself, but the characterization is excellent, the dialogue superb, and the ending appropriate. If you thought the scene in Interview with the Vampire in the Theatre de Vampires was gruesome, you’ll rethink that after you read this story, not because of the descriptions of violence (of which there aren’t many), but because of the way the story is written.

Next we have The First Stroke about a retired Polish dollmaker with people after him because of his prized creation, Jan, a doll that looks like his son. This one had a Pinnochio vibe to it, and although a tad on the predictable side, the story still delivered on the creepiness factor.

Kathleen Dale explores domestic violence in Becka, an epistolary tale that led me to believe that Becka could have been the bigger monster than her husband; an interesting take on the subject. With Pied-a-Terre, Melanie Fogel shows us the story of a woman so caught up in her past lives from Venice to Alexandria and more who buys an expensive condo and thinks her life is going to improve after her divorce only to have a breakdown as she succumbs into her own world. Misery of Me by French-Canadian author Anne Michaud is a cautionary tale of drug abuse that involves an undead junkie. Also worth checking out is The Arch by Forrest Aguirre, which is about a student, Jason, who hears about a book called The Arch: Conjecture of Cities in the bibliography of a dusty architecture tome, and seeks the book and its creator only to find that The Arch isn’t a book. It’s a place, and a rather disturbing one at that. It’s a bit on the longer side, but still a well-crafted tale.

The anthology ends with I was a Teenage Zombie Apocalypse by Steve Ruthenbeck, which deals with Jeremy, the teenage protagonist, who finds himself embroiled in a zombie apocalypse to which his parents have succumbed. He “rescues” a girl he likes, Julie, but she learns that there are worse monsters than zombies–the hard way.

Overall, it’s a fantastic collection and well put together; Cutting Block continues to publish excellent, well-crafted tales in each anthology that they do, and Tattered Souls II is no exception. It’s wonderful to see the quality in each new volume they release.

Horror fans, I urge you to support independent presses like Cutting Block who deliver some of the finest work in the genre today, whether it’s by buying a paperback or Kindle edition of this text. Every horror aficionado should have this on his or her shelf.


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Tattered Souls 2

Edited by Frank Hutton

Reviewed by Alex McDermott

The world of horror writing is a struggle. There are millions of time-worn cliché ideas to fall back on and many writers do just that. Taking a chance means taking a risk and that’s a dangerous idea. Selling the cliché is far easier. Editor Frank Hutton has put together a collection of stories that take chances in his anthology Tattered Souls 2. The authors here have stepped outside of the cliché box. Although the result is a mixed bag, Hutton gives us something more challenging than the latest zombie fare to sink our teeth into.

The stories in this collection cover the standard horror topics. There is the usual suspects list of zombies, evil dolls, and haunted houses. But it’s the spin these authors take that sets this collection apart. In The First Stroke by Elias Siqueiros for example, we have a very sinister doll as our horror creature. Instead of the cliché satanic, possessed dolly however, Siqueiros delves into Old World European customs and culture for a completely different take on the Pinocchio legend. Steve Ruthenbeck gives us the zombie apocalypse from a teen’s perspective in I Was a Teenage Zombie Apocalypse. Only unlike most of the zombie teen protagonists, this one never morphs into the hero rising from geekdom to save the girl. These authors take risks in their characters, plots, themes, and monsters. They’re a breath of fresh air in an increasingly stale market.

Different doesn’t always work however. In an attempt to be different, some of the plot turns become so convoluted they never come back to centre. In short, they just don’t hold together enough to make sense! Even those stories are a better read than the same blood-soaked zombie tale or throat-ripping vampire story.

Reviewing a short story collection is difficult. Each story is unique and touches readers differently. With elements of Gothic horror to touches of Steampunk, this collection covers a wide range of tastes. The authors take a chance and that’s worth the read right there! Step outside of the mundane and pick up a copy! FOUR STARS!


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TATTERED SOULS 2 edited by Frank J. Hutton

(2011 Cutting Block Books / 218 pp / tp)

In Hutton’s second second anthology aimed at introducing newer writers, there are more hits than misses and each of the eight stories are long enough to get a true taste of each author’s style.

Among my favorites are Elias Siqueiros’ ‘The First Stroke,’ about a retired dollmaker who finds one of his cutomized creations (which happens to resemble his son) has a bunch of people after it.  I found it to be the eeriest story here, if somewhat familiar.

Stephanie Shaw shines with ‘Mademoiselle Guignol,’ about an actress in 1913 paris who has grown tired of dying off in countless performances.  When she tells the theater’s owner she wants to quit, things take a dark turn.  Of all the authors featured in TATTERED SOULS 2, Shaw is one I’ll surely be keeping my eye on.

Other winners include Steve Ruthenbeck’s ‘I Was A Teenage Zombie Apocalypse,’ another familiar yet well done yarn of the undead; the opening sci-fi-tinged ‘Yellow Called and Mom was There,’ by Tim W. Burke, set in a world where everyone is continually hooked up to computers to receive daily injections (and Burke takes it in a direction I didn’t expect); and the most disturbing of the lot easily goes to Forrest Aguirre, whose ‘The Arch: Conjecture of Cities,’ about a man who searches for a legendary book, discovers it’s much more than he had originally thought.  Things are revealed at a fine pace, building to a most satisfying conclusion.

TS2 is a fine introduction to 8 authors, only one who I had heard of (that’d be Forrest Aguirre).  And while not every story is memorable, they’re all well written and should hold most horror fan’s interest.


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David Agranoff

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Book Review: Tattered Souls 2

Tattered Souls 2 Edited by Frank Hutton
Cutting Block Books
218 pages

I reviewed the first book in this series and based on the strength of the first book choose to read this one. While the first book was not a perfect collection it was a great introduction to several authors I had never heard of before. I was very excited by a novella in the first book that I thought should have been a stand alone novel, and have followed and looked for the work of it’s author Matt Wallace ever since reading Tattered Souls 1. That is the greatest function of an anthology, introducing us to authors we have not already found. This is usually done by splitting books between well known authors and new authors.

TS seems to be focused on newer authors as I had only heard of Forrest Aguirre before reading this book. That being said I found Aguirre’s story to be the strongest of the collection. His story called The Arch:Conjecture of cities was somewhat Lovecraftian, not in the tired mythos tropes style but in the way the story unfolded.

The book opens with a very Phillip K. Dick inspired dark Sci-fi tale called “Yellow called and Mom was there.” by Tim Burke. Most of the stories are on the longer scale coming close to the line where short stories become novella. This worked in Aguirre’s story but made a few of the stories such as Stephanie Shaw’s Mademoiselle Guignol drag. A few of the stories could have benefited from being shorter.

TS is a great concept, and should be supported for bringing new authors to the table. I think the first book did a better job, but I can tell you I will read the third when it comes around. Libraries with a focus on horror in their collection should have this for sure.


+Dark Media Magazine+

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Tattered Souls 2: A Review
November 12, 2011
Articles, Arts & Literature, Reviews
by Alex McdermottThe world of horror writing is a struggle. There are millions of time-worn cliché ideas to fall back on and many writers do just that. Taking a chance means taking a risk and that’s a dangerous idea. Selling the cliché is far easier. Editor Frank Hutton had put together a collection of stories that take chances in his anthology Tattered Souls 2. The authors here have stepped outside of the cliché box. Although the result is a mixed bag, Hutton gives us something more challenging than the latest zombie fare to sink our teeth into.

The stories in this collection cover the standard horror topics. There is the usual suspects list of zombies, evil dolls, and haunted houses. But it’s the spin these authors take that sets this collection apart. In “The First Stroke” by Elias Siqueiros for example, we have a very sinister doll as our horror creature. Instead of the cliché satanic, possessed dolly however, Siqueiros delves into Old World European customs and culture for a completely different take on the Pinocchio legend. Steve Ruthenbeck gives us the zombie apocalypse from a teen’s perspective in “I Was a Teenage Zombie Apocalypse.” Only unlike most of the zombie teen protagonists, this one never morphs into the hero rising from geekdom to save the girl. These authors take risks in their characters, plots, themes, and monsters. They’re a breath of fresh air in an increasingly stale market.

Different doesn’t always work however. In an attempt to be different, some of the plot turns become so convoluted they never come back to center. In short, they just don’t hold together enough to make sense! Even those stories are a better read than the same blood-soaked zombie tale or throat-ripping vampire story.

Reviewing a short story collection is difficult. Each story is unique and touches readers differently. With elements of Gothic horror to touches of steampunk, this collection covers a wide range of tastes. The authors take a chance and that’s worth the read right there! Step outside of the mundane and pick up a copy!