Themed anthologies are all the rage at the moment and Crystal Lake Publishing usually gets it right with the ones they publish. Welcome to the Show features 17 stories about the goings on at The Shantyman – a legendary music venue.
I sure had high hopes for this book being a big music fan and obviously being a big horror fiction fan too. With writers such as Brian Keene and John Skipp adding considerable literary muscle to the TOC, Welcome to the Show was never going to disappoint me really, was it?
Alan M Clarke’s story gets things off to a fantastic start. It gives us a little look into the history of The Shantyman and about how a crippled man really lost his legs. It sets a dark tone for the rest of the book. It’s important for an anthology to start strongly and it certainly does here. Jonathan Janz’s Night and Day and In Between took me a little while to warm to but the perseverance paid off big time. The slow build-up sees a private investigator searching for a missing woman said to be performing at the legendary venue. Things take a sinister turn as the truth is revealed culminating in a fantastic ending. Patrick Lacey’s tale of a haunted Italian prog musician was also an early highlight. It features a journo chasing a big story, one in which he becomes the victim of an age-old curse. Some excellent sinister, slasher-style imagery in this one, a fab story.
I really enjoyed these early stories, but as I navigated my way through the beer-spilt floors of The Shantyman towards the midway point of the anthology, things started to blur a little. Maybe I’d had too much beer, or maybe it was because the book’s theme was starting to feel just a little tired? Fortunately, Max Booth III came to the rescue with his hilarious tale about a couple of podcasters that may, in fact, be a murderous cult! Very funny, and a very nice shift on the anthologies theme. Jeff Strand’s tale didn’t quite hit the same humorous heights (probably more to do with my own sense of humour) but things continued to pick up with quality tales from Robert Ford, Mary SanGiovanni and a superb entry from Brian Keene which is brilliantly written and features a great ending. This story stood head and shoulders above most of what came before it in my opinion.
Of the 17 stories on offer here, I’d say I really enjoyed half of them and liked some of the others. There were a few that lacked a little in the originality department and a couple that left me scratching my head, but overall, there are some wonderful tales to be found inside Welcome to the Show.
4/5 open mics from the Grim Reader.
Pick up a copy from here.