Let’s get something out of the way early: I, your dear friend Matt, am nothing short of a pansy. The idea of “ghost hunting” terrifies me, you could leave a billion dollars in the basement of an old mental hospital and I probably wouldn’t try to get it. I hate horror movies, and video games with jump scares make me cry for my mother. Following that logic, scary books and stories should also make me curl up into a little ball too, right? Well for some reason I’ve always been intrigued by a good campfire story, and previous reviews at the Book Club have opened my eyes to the benefit of the written word challenging us with some brutal realities. For this installment of the Book Club, that notion continues as we’re blessed to review a real humdinger in the world of horror. Draculas or exorcisms are not on the docket for today, but instead something(s) far more likely to shake me to the core. Let’s take some deep breaths, and get to it!
Blood Drops by WB Welch is a collection of shorts that take place in the fascinating genre of horror. The book contains just under twenty stories of varying lengths and subjects. While the most notable tales have the typical beginning-middle-end manner of exposition, I was most intrigued by the inclusion of several bite-sized works as well. The second story, “Undo” isn’t so much a story as it is an anecdote of about three e-reader pages in length. The mother of an infant child recounts a brief but gut wrenching tragedy. Her story isn’t for revenge, or justification or even for closure…it’s existence in this context is to recount the painfully simple dread in the woman’s mind. What’s NOT being said in this case is the most scary, leaving the reader to do the thinking for her, making my skin tingle in the process.
This isn’t to say the more traditional short stories won’t leave your jaw on the floor either. No matter the length of story, the attention to detail is what sells each piece. Despite the fact I already know that I’m reading a horror book, Welch lures me into this weird sense of safety or softness before dealing a blow with the atypical manifestation of terror that the particular short is set up to deliver. Sometimes this takes a page, sometimes it takes half the story, but each time there’s an audible click in my mind when the appropriate moment hits. Maybe a love story turns into pitch black murder suicide. Maybe a cannibal is out on the prowl for some sweet meats. But what I’m generally most creeped out by are stories that could really happen. The author’s balance of paranormal to agreed reality is the most frightening.
With a slickly produced mixture of lengths if you read the stories in order, the structure yields a new level of terror displaced from the stories themselves. As the book marches on, the stories ping back and forth between brutal reality and elements of the paranormal. Once I read a few uncomfortably realistic stories, I began to question the reliability of the next story’s narrator. Did the couch suddenly spew out organs? Or was this the diseased mind of a character who possibly in this same universe committed a hyper realistic serial killing in a shopping mall? The book of course makes no pretense of any stories being connected, but my mind is tricked by the arrangement of styles to further question the next story’s horror. To put it more simply: this book scares the hell out me when it might not even be trying to…and that’s a marvelous thing.
Verdict: Blood Drops by WB Welch delivers what it promises exponentially above the standard for a collection of horror shorts. With varying lengths of the eighteen stories from a few sentences to handfuls of pages, the author’s range in telling a scary tale is commendable for the consistent scare factor it delivers within each one. Be it a gritty retelling of a brutal murder that could’ve happened next door to the paranormal explorations of breathing furniture or murderous shrubbery, there’s something in here for every shade of horror fan to enjoy. WB Welch nails a slam dunk for this genre and I can’t wait to read more of her work.
But in the mean time, can I sleep with the lights on?