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“PEEL BACK THE SKIN” (Book Review)

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PEEL BACK THE SKIN is one of the newest horror anthologies from Grey Matter Press. This collection of short stories serves both to entertain and provoke thought. Nothing much scares me, as I’m hardened… However, I am intrigued by several stories within this volume.

Jonathan Mayberry’s “Mystic” opens the book. The protagonist is Gerald, a man who has the power to see ghosts — and get revenge on the people who made them that way. It’s an interesting concept and a well-written world of which I want to see more. Tim Lebbon’s “The Protector” focuses on real-life horror of the anger of men and offers a non-gory but satisfying end. 

I don’t know much about Native American folklore, but I do know that Lucy Taylor’s “Moth Frenzy” touches on some important issues and fears of that community. Ed Kurtz’ “Family Bible” is the height of Southern Gothic — and religious zealotry. The story is similar to Stephen King’s CARRIE in that it features an isolated family that preaches fire and brimstone to the detriment of everyone around them. Additionally, the focus of the tale is also a tragic figure who has our empathy.   

Durand Sheng Welsh’s “Life, or Whatever Passes for It” has to do with hunting mermaids for the sake of acquiring immortality. “The Shed” from Joe McKinney is another tale that shines a spotlight on the evil that men do — or in this case, children who aren’t born right. It’s chilling even if you aren’t a parent.

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“The Greatest Gift” from Graham Masterton concerns a couple that get into a horrific car accident, which leaves one of them badly burned. The lengths that the other goes to keep their love intact are seriously disturbing. “The Lady of the Minch” by William Meikle is a tale of lost love, time portals, and crossing over. “Beholder” is John McCallum Swain’s excellent childhood bogey tale tells what happens when a really weird kid grows up and invites a reunion in an abandoned theatre.

“Orphans of the Air” by James Lowder takes place in a pulpy comics world, but with the added magic of sweet revenge from a phantasmagoric detective. Charles Austin Muir’s “Party Monster” is bizarre; it’s about a man obsessed with sigils who loses his wife but then gets absorbed into another reality. The ending makes any confusion worth it, however.

Nancy A. Collin’s “Gator Lake” is reminiscent of the chilling morality plays of old E.C. Comics and episodes of TALES FROM THE CRYPT. I won’t give anything away, but really enjoyed this expertly crafted story of a man who deserves what he gets. Yvonne Navarro’s “Superheated” focuses on the kidnapping of a woman — and this one will really get under your skin.

“Burning Leaves on an Autumn Day” from Ray Garton is about a day in the life of neighbors in their golden years. I knew what was coming, but it didn’t hamper my enjoyment what-so-ever. I could see it all happening as I read it, and loved every second. Erik Williams’ “The Long Bright Descent” closes out PEEL BACK THE SKIN with the story of a mystical chase between two immortal beings. This cool story was epic in scope and a great way to close out the book. Again, PEEL BACK THE SKIN from Grey Matter Press is out now, and I can recommend this collection of spooky delights as a great way to spend a few fall nights.

About the author
Michele "Izzy" Galgana
Michele “Izzy” Galgana is a freelance writer (Rue Morgue Magazine, Diabolique) and film festival programmer living in Boston, MA. She was seduced by the velvety voice of Vincent Price during her toddler years and has been addicted to horror films ever since. She was also the Marketing Director for the Viscera Organization and has curated films for the Boston Underground Film Festival, Boston Science Fiction Film Festival, and All Things Horror Online screening nights.
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