Blood Bank: A Charitable Anthology
Reviewed By Daniel James
Blood Bank: A Charitable Anthology is rich in dread and atmosphere, running the gamut of suspense, horror, wry humour, and yes, lots of blood; and is a perfect companion to help new readers cut their teeth. But be careful, some of these stories bite back!
I’m not familiar with some of the authors in this collection, but every one of them brings their A-game, with each story having its own voice as well as being excellently written. I have provided a brief blurb for each story so you know what you’re in for, but none of them should be skipped.
Clown Doll by Jo Kaplan is a creepy and claustrophobic opener about Charlene, a painfully timid woman being awoken in the depths of night to the chilling laughter of a neighbour’s Halloween decoration. Only this is no faulty piece of kitsch, but something far more sinister. A perfectly unsettling story about someone being confronted by a horror outside their own front door, and the things which might be skittering about in those confusing and lonely small hours of the night.
Fool’s Blood by Rena Mason follows Billy Hills, a Confederate soldier with an ambition to carve out a bright future for himself in the prospecting business to try and rebuild the family name. Sure, he might have struck it lucky by purchasing a gold mine, but the mine’s previous owner has a troubled lineage which might make Billy regret his purchase. A blood-spilling period piece.
Neil Gaiman’s We Can Get Them for You Wholesale hits that vein of blackly comic fantasy which Gaiman has a proven knack for. Peter Pinter is a bland and drab young fellow, so much so that his fiancée has taken to an affair with one of his co-workers. No one is surprised more than Peter when he decides to deal with this problem of infidelity by approaching an assassin. Sadly, these assassins are hungry for work, and Peter can’t pass up their excellent bargains.
First Date by Jeff Strand starts out suggesting a cautionary tale about a woman’s dangerous attraction towards a serial killer, before turning sharply into a straight-up black comedy about deep emotional shortcomings, and what could be a truly effed-up odd couple. Witty dialogue with a vulgar twist.
Kealan Patrick Burke’s Doorwatch is a sombre and poignant look into the hardships of old age and widowers, as Ned Burrows spends his twilight years standing vigil over a mysterious door which appeared at the end of his garden after his wife’s passing. Touching, soulful and ominous.
Pictures of a Princess by Kristopher Triana is a disturbing and uncomfortably subtle glimpse into the sexual corruptibility of Disney (or at least faux Disney) princesses on impressionable youth, and one unsavoury father’s lust.
Jeremy Robert Johnson’s Laws of Virulence is a gripping biological horror story told via transcript, as Matthew, a deadbeat father and now host of an unknown parasite, details the grisly end of his family. Like a car wreck, it’s a morbidly captivating scene.
Cursed Objects by Mona Kabbani charts the awkward high school lives of best friends Rachel and Adena, and their harrowing descent into mystical vengeance against anyone and everyone who hurts them. But can they stop themselves before going too far?
The Stone by Joseph Sale is a wonderfully odd and psychedelic tale about a happy couple, Cassandra and Mark, whose usually pleasant stroll along Bournemouth beach turns remarkably unusual when they stumble upon a fascinatingly bizarre creature: a huge trippy frog which deposits an even trippier cosmic stone. The couple’s awe and wary fascination of the stone tragically spills over into an episode of shocking terror and grief; but is it possible that the cosmic curiosity could salve their woes? Humorous, gut-wrenching, and a great fever dream concept.
Every Breath is a Choice is Max Booth III’s pitch dark delve into an emotionally broken man’s pursuit of vengeance against the home invading psychopath who destroyed his family, and then created something worse in its stead. A bleak, unflinching and riveting read.
They Say the Sky is Full of Snakewolves by Lucy Leitner is a scathing satire on modern living, and the seemingly endless terrors lying in wait for you in the outside world. It pits a horribly abused young woman named Ava against her vile and violent partner Jason. She’s had her fill of abuse at his hands, but is she finally desperate enough to face the monsters outside her door instead of the one she lives with?
The End of Time on Rosewyld Lane by Jay Wilburn is a gut-wrenching short which follows the time-frozen routine of a bereft father, as he ceaselessly drives in circles around his neighbourhood, hoping to find his young son who vanished a couple of years ago. But will he finally be spared his pain and salvage the love of his wife and daughter?
New Fox Smell by Livia Llewelyn is an utterly weird but intriguing tale (fox tail?) about a high schooler, Lauren, being begrudgingly sent off on a “holiday” to meet a former friend on her scenic island getaway. Well, at least she gets to reconnect with nature.
A Better Hate by Patrick Freivald is a fun slice of festive monster mayhem, where North America’s Old World tears into the New; with a few locals as appetisers.
And there we have it. Now whilst some anthologies can tend to be a mixed bag-as it’s something of an occupational hazard-I found this collection to be excellent, and thoroughly enjoyed each spine tingle and wracked nerve.
Highly recommended and a great example for new readers of how thought-provoking, emotional, and bloody good fun horror/fantasy (and reading in general!) can be.
Fourteen masters of horror and dark fantasy come together for a great cause!
Explore the human condition and the dread of losing loved ones. Walk occult paths and knock on cosmic doors. Run from monsters, both human and supernatural. And do it all while helping two great charities.
A portion of the proceeds from every copy of Blood Bank will be donated to Read Better Be Better and Hagar’s House, quarterly, over the next five years. More information can be found on our website.
Blood Bank features stories from Livia Llewellyn, Neil Gaiman, Jo Kaplan, Kristopher Triana, Kealan Patrick Burke, Mona Kabbani, Max Booth III, Joseph Sale, Jay Wilburn, Jeremy Robert Johnson, Rena Mason, Lucy Leitner, Patrick Freivald, and Jeff Strand.
Thank you for helping us spread hope through dark fiction!
Daniel James is an author of speculative (and frequently dark and weird) fiction, from Liverpool, England.
He is the recipient of two Kirkus Star reviews for his character-driven, explosive, dark fantasy novels Hourglass and The Ferryman’s Toll. Hourglass was also voted one of their Best 100 Indie novels of 2021.
From mewling infant to maladjusted adult, he was weaned on a healthy diet of John Carpenter, Stephen King, Clive Barker and comic books; meaning he’s naturally drawn to monsters and suspense. His novel Pigs, a dark and violent neo-noir revenge tale, was released by the Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency. He followed this up with Hourglass, and a reworking of his darkly psychedelic high school revenge story Fable (again with the revenge! I know…). His most recent books are the Liverpool-based folkloric horror fantasy Heathens, and book 2 in the Hourglass series, The Ferryman’s Toll.
When not writing he enjoys reading genre fiction, movies, playing guitar and illustrating to silence the voices in his head.