Top positive review
My favorite anthology of 2018. A fantastic collection of “alternate history” stories!
Reviewed in the United States on November 3, 2018
There’s a famous quote (often misattributed to Winston Churchill) that says, “History is written by the victors.” While that may be true in certain instances, what if the history we think we know was written in such a way as to hide the true nature of the events that occurred? What if the historians would rather say that Native Americans met Custer at Little Big Horn, rather than what he actually faced? Or, what If Elvis didn’t really die, and just faked it to retire early, only to end up in a retirement home to battle much worse? Well, Eugene Johnson has put together a fantastic collection of “alternate history” stories that will make you go, “Hmmm, I wonder.” With some of the biggest names in the horror writing community, this is, without a doubt, one of my favorite anthologies of 2018.
Here’s a quick run-down of each story with my ratings (1-5):
Introduction by Tony Todd - right off the bat, you have to love this. I mean, come on – the Candyman himself was inspired enough to write the introduction. You know this will be a great read.
“The Deep Delight of Blood” by Tim Waggoner - Bela Lugosi didn’t hang up his Dracula cape. In fact, he’s mentoring someone to take his place; with horrific, yet quite funny, results. 4 of 5.
“Unpretty Monster” by Mercedes Yardley - Lately there has been some speculation as to just what did sink the Titanic (and yes, there was room on that door Rose); was it really an iceberg, or was it a fire? What if it was something completely different and much more terrifying? 4 of 5.
“The Tell-Tale Mind” by Kevin J. Anderson - Did Poe have a vivid imagination, or did he just write accounts of things that actually happened? The truth might surprise you. 5 of 5.
“Topsy-Turvy” by Elizabeth Massie - This story may be a little obscure for some younger readers, and that’s what makes it so good, they’ll have to do some research and maybe learn something. A great take on a ghost story, from a non-human perspective. 5 of 5.
“Ray and the Martian” by Bev Vincent - Ray Bradbury’s name is synonymous with Science Fiction. But what really inspired him to jump into that genre? Maybe it was something that happened in his childhood? 4 of 5.
“The Girl with the Death Mask” by Stephanie M. Wytovich - I’ll admit, I had to do some research on this one. I wasn’t familiar with Frieda and Diego Rivera. But even still, the story holds its own as an interesting “deal with the Devil” tale. 3 of 5.
“On a Train Bound for Home” by Christopher Golden - This one, while one of my favorites, may confuse a lot of people. In 1924, H.P. Lovecraft wrote a story called “Imprisoned with the Pharaohs” which is a first-person fictional account of an encounter Houdini had in Egypt. This story is a sequel to that one. So, unless you’ve read Lovecraft’s story, this one might not make sense. However, I have, so this gets a 5 of 5.
“The Custer Files” by Richard Chizmar - Well, it’s no secret that Richard is one of my favorite authors, and can do no wrong. This “true” account of what really happened at Little Big Horn is fantastic and scary. 5 of 5.
“Red Moon” by Michael Paul Gonzalez – Was Neil Armstrong really the first person to step foot on the Moon? Did Russia beat us, and the Apollo 11 mission was something much more than we were told? As someone who has studied astronomy, and wanted to be an aerospace engineer (stupid Differential Equations), I have to give this one a 5 of 5.
“The Prince of Darkness and the Showgirl” by John Palisano – I guess you could also call this one, “Marilyn Monroe – Demon Hunter”. An interesting story revolving around a talent that nobody knew Miss Monroe had. 3 of 5.
“The Secret Engravings” by Lisa Morton – If you haven’t heard of Lisa Morton, you are missing out. She is the premier authority on Halloween, and has written a number of books and stories. This one revolves around the true nature of Hans Holbein’s Dance of Death series of paintings. 5 of 5.
“Mutter” by Jess Landry – My apologies to both Rich and Lisa, but this story from Jess Landry is – hands down – my favorite of the lot. Revolving around the true nature of the Hindenburg crash, it was just absolutely perfect. Sadly, I don’t want to say exactly why, but if you know me, and get to the ending, you’ll understand. 5 of 5.
“La Llorona” by Cullen Bunn – This story tells of what exactly happened to Ambrose Bierce when he went to Mexico during the Mexican Revolution. He encountered something more sinister than rebels. 3 of 4.
“The London Encounter” by Vince Liaguno – Judy Garland was found dead in a bathroom of a rented house from an apparent overdose; or was that really the cause of death? Could she have received a visit from an infamous London resident named Jack? 4 of 4.
“Bubba Ho-Tep” by Joe R. Lansdale – Sorry, Joe. I love your writing, but this one just didn’t do it for me. The premise is that Elvis faked his death, and is now in a retirement home. He soon finds himself battling an ancient Egyptian soul-sucker. I understand this one was made into a movie, but I had a really hard time getting through it. 2 of 5.
“Gorilla my Dreams” by Jonathan Maberry – I think we’ve all seen at least one version of the King Kong story. But what we never find out is this – what happened to the body after it fell from the Empire State Building? I know that always bothered me. Well, read this and find out the gruesome details. 5 of 5.
“Articles of Teleforce” by Michael Bailey – I read this story twice and actually still don’t really get it. The story revolves around a weapon that was developed by Tesla, and it’s somehow tied into the events of 9/11/11. I found it to be confusing enough that I felt the need to read it twice to see if I missed something. 1 of 5.
“Sic Olim Tyrannis” by David Wellington – I make no qualms about thinking the zombie genre has been over-played. I feel the market has been saturated with brain-eating undead, and that it’s become stale and pedestrian. Because of that, I try to avoid it when I can. I can honestly say (and I pointed this out to Eugene) that I despise David Wellington for writing a refreshing, enjoyable, and twisted take on the zombie story. 5 of 5.
“The Washingtonians” by Bentley Little – We think of George Washington as an upstanding person; I mean, he is considered the “Father of our Country” here in the USA. But what if a note is found showing that Washington belonged to a group of people that wasn’t as upstanding as we’d like to think? 5 of 5.
“Scent of Flesh” by Jessica Marie Baumgartner – What a great story revolving around Annie Oakley and her husband, Frank Butler. Targets aren’t the only thing they are good at shooting. 5 of 5.
“Rotoscoping Toodies” by Mort Castle – This was a bizarre story revolving around Disney, and what cartoons are really about. Ever wonder why Snow White looked so real, while everything else looked like a cartoon? It’s know that Disney was obsessed with Snow White, and this story tells the real reason. 5 of 5.
“Lone Wolves” by Paul Moore – The adventures of Teddy Roosevelt are endless, and legendary. But this adventure is one you’ll never see in the history books. My only issue with the story is this – Roosevelt is joined by the famous Native American Avonaco. The story takes place in 1886, but Avonaco died in 1864, and there’s no record of him and Roosevelt ever meeting (although he did meet Lincoln). But I still found this very enjoyable. 5 of 5.
“The Great Stone Face vs. the Gargoyles” by Jeff Strand – This was a cute story revolving around Buster Keaton (I’m sure there are a lot of younger readers who have no idea who that is, and that’s a shame) and the reason he was called “The Great Stone Face”. Join Buster on the set of a movie that was never released. 4 of 5.
“The Return of the Thin White Duke” by Neil Gaiman – A beautiful tribute to the late, great, David Bowie. I can’t say more than that. 5 of 5.
There you have it. There were some stories that I thoroughly enjoyed, and others that fell flat. But the anthology as a whole was rock solid. Eugene reached out to me concerned that it would find an audience. My response was that yes, the subject matter is a niche market (history isn’t many people’s “cup of tea”), however, those who read it will find that within its pages are some Fantastic Tales of Terror; and if only a handful of people take the time to Google some of the historical references within, then that’s just a bonus on top.