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I have lived on the Central Texas coast my entire life, and the horrors here are endless. From sightings of the infamous chupacabra to the haunted cemetery behind the Brazos Mall and the ghost of ol’ Brit Bailey haunting a stretch of I-35, this region has long been steeped in mystery and lore. Throw in a backdrop of a rare cold front and a dark and rainy week, and you have the perfect mindset to dive into Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers, Vol. 8.

Edited by accomplished East Texas author Patrick C. Harrison III, this collection features tales of terror and intrigue and a few stories that might even raise bile in the back of your throat. While the editor is known for the wild and extreme horror of books like Grandpappy and 100% Match, don’t assume that RK8 is all gore and entrails. There is something for every reader and every mood. As Harrison notes in the introduction, “This anthology is as diverse as Texas itself.”

Emma E. Murray starts things off with a bang — or, rather, the last few bubbles of breath from a drowning little boy — in “Lonely Death on a Wednesday, 1pm, at a Motel Outside Marfa.” Murray grabs your attention fast and doesn’t let go. You’ll simultaneously pity and hate the main character, but she may be the personification of an entire generation.

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Legendary Texas writer Joe R. Lansdale follows with his signature brand of wit, humor, and shock in “Night They Missed the Horror Show,” in which the main characters soon wish they hadn’t.

Then there is “Nature Calls” by E.R. Bills. This one is outstanding, with an ending almost like that of Doctor Who or The Twilight Zone.

Jae Mazer follows Bills by marvelously disgusting us with “That’s a Peculiar Stain on the Carpet …” in which she begins with a Texas-shaped carpet stain, passes more than a handful of disturbing scenes, and ends with your jaw on the floor. Mazer’s writing style is engaging, and she nails the main character’s voice.

If you suffer from musophobia, you may want to steer clear of James H. Longmore’s “The Problem with Mice.” Fancy a good Bigfoot story? Then you’ll want to read “Loving the Beast” by Robert Stahl. More beefcake than beef jerky, it’s wild and strangely fascinating. Tom Bont’s “Cotton Candy” is a cautionary tale disguised as a sweet young romance. The ending will leave you reconsidering your pursuit of happily-ever-afters.

“The Wanderer” by Matt Micheli is unsettling and reads like a Texas version of Stephen King’s Thinner, in which the curse is deserved but the victims are mostly innocent bystanders doomed only by time and place. Chris Miller’s “Broken Wings” is a contemplative descent into, well, a descended angel’s horrifying, dangerous lament. I found myself yelling at the main (human) characters to heed the harbinger, already! I stayed glued to the page, suspecting but dreading the outcome.

Lawrence Buentello’s “On a Roadside Somewhere Dark” has a gorgeous ambiance and a stellar conclusion. This one will stay with you for a bit. Then there’s Bev Vincent’s “Turning to Stone,” which breathes new life into an ancient narrative from Greek mythology. This is one of my favorites from the anthology. It’s a quick read, maybe one of the shortest here, but compelling and wonderfully told. Iphigenia Strangeworth broke my heart with “Baby Doll.” Hard to read at times, but I still loved the writing and stylistic choices.

Then there’s “Quincey” by Road Kill co-creator Bret McCormick. This is great writing with loads of life packed into a succinct narrative. “The whole world’s kind of like that, Mick. Things you don’t expect want to eat you. Best you can hope for is to be eaten by something you want to feed.”

Stories are subjective, and while I picked a few to highlight, know that they’re all well-written. There’s a saying in Texas, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.” With Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers, Vol. 8, if you don’t like a particular story, take a breath and turn the page. Read the next one. I guarantee you’ll love most of the stories in this anthology.

 

Holly Rae Garcia is the author of several books and short stories and is a member of the Horror Writers Association and the Alliance of Independent Authors. Visit HollyRaeGarcia.com.

 

Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers, Vol. 8
HellBound Books
$5.99-17.99
345 pps.

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