Served Cold: Alan Baxter
Reviewed By Steve Stred
- Paperback: 312 pages
- Publisher: Grey Matter Press (17 Sept. 2019)
“He needed razors for clarity.”
Last year I discovered Alan Baxter.
That statement is incredibly surprising because Baxter has a writing style that makes me feel like I’ve been reading his work my entire life.
‘Devouring Dark’ was a stunning read and when I saw that Baxter had a collection for review, I reached out and he kindly sent me ‘Crow Shine.’
‘Crow Shine’ had some stellar stories and a few that have stayed with me since reading it, but when I dove into his newest collection ‘Served Cold,’ it was immediately apparent that these new stories were from an author hell-bent on continuously improving his craft.
I raved a bit already about this collection on Twitter, but when I look at my notes on my phone, the lowest rated story I have is the first one ‘Served Cold’ at 4.5/5 and ‘Dream Shadow,’ also at 4.5/5. Everything else is at 5/5 except for one story, which I’ll finish the review with.
Baxter jumps between creepy, scary, gory and heartfelt in this collection and it just boggles my mind at how seamlessly the stories flowed. In fact, the only reason ‘Dream Shadow’ received a 4.5 was because the story directly before it ‘Waters Strangely Clear,’ which itself is a highlight of the collection, had similar themes. I think if ‘Dream Shadow’ had been placed after ‘Ways to Live and Die,’ I would have bumped it up to a 5!
Baxter delivers 16 stories here and all were outstanding. I’ll focus on a couple here just to highlight some.
‘In Vaulted Halls Entombed’ – I’m not sure if Baxter had been in consideration for the anthology Hellhole by Lee Murray, but this story would’ve been an absolute gem in that collection. We follow a group of soldiers as they enter into a subterranean system in chase of some insurgents. Things become… interesting shortly thereafter.
‘Crossroads and Carousels’ – much like the title story from ‘Crow Shine’ this story follows the journey of a musician wanting to be the greatest musician they can. Of course, it comes with a catch.
‘The Goodbye Message’ – an absolute haunting story of a writer receiving messages on paper, his typewriter and the answering machine from someone, somewhere. By the time he puts the dots together, you’ll be in tears.
‘How Father Bryant Saw the Light’ – three words describe why you need to read this story; the gangle man.
‘Crying Demon’ – this one ticked all of my boxes. Two friends find out about a dark web video game. Curiosity and the desire to not stoop to someone else’s level make this an engrossing read.
Lastly, I want to highlight the story ‘Exquisite.’ As I mentioned earlier in this review, all the stories received a 4.5 or 5/5 except one.
I actually have ‘Exquisite’ down in my notes as a 10/5 I liked it that much.
We follow a man as he breaks into a house. He isn’t wanting to steal anything, he simply has a compulsion to break in and look at other people’s stuff. He ends up in the basement and Baxter decides to invoke all levels of Clive Barker on us. Truly outstanding. This story should bring home some hardware and I’d absolutely love to see this on film.
This is a must-own/must-read collection. Baxter has upped his game, which means when he does that, all the other players must do it as well. I’m truly blown away by what I’ve read and I really can’t recommend this enough.
To finish this off – I’m just going to share something about my own reading experience.
I got this loaded on my Kindle and before I started reading it I saw a Facebook post from Alan remembering his best boy, Penry.
When I got to the first page and saw the dedication to Penry, his best boy, the waterworks came. It’s safe to say that Alan put everything he could into making these stories as best as they could.
I know Penry would be proud.
Collected together for the first time ever, these sixteen provocative and intensely chilling tales by multi-award-winning-author Alan Baxter venture into the depths of the darkest and most shadowy places where unspeakable horrors are the predators and we the willing prey.
Prepare for an always terrifying, frequently heartbreaking journey in multiple stages, each piece echoing Baxter’s unique voice that effortlessly blends horror, fantasy and the weird, cementing his place as a modern master of the dark fantastique, and resulting in an unforgettable volume of fiction.
Steve Stred writes dark, bleak horror fiction.
Steve is the author of the novels Invisible & The Stranger, the novellas The Girl Who Hid in the Trees, Wagon Buddy, Yuri and Jane: the 816 Chronicles and two collections of short stories; Frostbitten: 12 Hymns of Misery and Left Hand Path: 13 More Tales of Black Magick, and the dark poetry collection Dim the Sun.
On September 1st, 2019 his second collection of dark poetry and drabbles called The Night Crawls In will arrive. This release was specifically created to help fund the 1st Annual LOHF Writers Grant.
Steve is also a voracious reader, reviewing everything he reads and submitting the majority of his reviews to be featured on Kendall Reviews.
Steve Stred is based in Edmonton, AB, Canada and lives with his wife, his son and their dog OJ.
You can follow Steve on Twitter @stevestred
You can visit Steve’s Official website here