LibraryThing gave me free e-copies of Mister October Volumes I and II: An Anthology in Memory of Rick Hautala as part of their Early Reviewer program. I had never heard of Rick Hautala (even though he’s published dozens of novels and short stories), but I had heard of several of the authors included in this anthology. So I was looking forward to checking out this collection.
As some of you may know, there’s a sad reason for the books’ creation. Rick Hautala died of a heart attack in March 2013, leaving his wife and children in a bad way financially; money struggles had forced him to let his life insurance slip. So editor Christopher Golden chose to create this anthology as a way to raise money for the family. Chris Paine at Journalstone agreed to publish the books without taking a profit.
The result is a decent collection of horror stories. I found the second volume to be stronger the first, enjoying more of the stories therein. I really liked Jack Ketchum‘s evilly funny “Hotline,” Peter Straub‘s “Little Red’s Tango” (I once aspired to have an apartment full of records like that, just not the demon), and Nancy Collins‘ “Catfish Gal Blues,” along with Jeff Strand‘s “Hologram Skull Cover” and Nate Kenyon‘s “The Dreamcatcher.” They were the strongest in terms of both the horror itself and the writing. Volume I’s shining moments included Yvonne Navarro‘s “Craving,” Joe Lansdale‘s “Tight Little Stitches,” and Jonathan Maberry‘s “Property Condemned: A Story of Pine Deep.” The latter, a seriously creepy haunted house tale, has me wanting to read Maberry’s Pine Deep Trilogy now.
In fact, this anthology introduced me to a lot of authors I want to read more of: for example, Sarah Langan, John Skipp, the editor Christopher Golden, Tim Lebbon, José Nieto, and Duane Swierczynski. Their stories made up for the weaker ones, and there are sadly many of those in this collection. Stories that are weak in the telling, dull, or repulsive in a not-good horror way.
Your mileage may vary, of course. Mister October is definitely worth a read and buying it helps folks who need it. Seems like a good thing all around, even thought the reason for it is a sad one. 3.2/5