From the Bram Stoker Award-nominated author of What Do Monsters Fear? and A Penny For Your Thoughts comes twenty new tales of terror!
Including the Irish Short Story of the Year-nominated Intercepting Aisle Nine
From a white doomsday crawling with abominable beasts to the bizarre case of a marketing company advertising within people’s dreams, these stories explore the extremes of Hayward’s prose—contrasting the heartfelt with the deeply disturbing.
These are…VARIOUS STATES OF DECAY
Matt Hayward returns with a collection of short horror stories, which are incredibly diverse. The foreword is written by horror and thriller writer Kelli Owen, who introduces us to Hayward and describes the stories in the collection as “conveyor belt” stories as they naturally pull us in and I can’t agree more. This term is fitting as, although this isn’t a themed collection, we are pulled into various worlds and narratives and along with different characters very naturally and skilfully. Hayward also introduces the collection by commenting on the universality and ubiquity of fear.
The bulk of the stories are tales of monsters and creature features that never wander into caricature. Each feels varied and fresh and there is always a healthy dose of the apocalyptic. Included in such apocalyptic monster stories are ‘More Will Follow’, which tells the story of the world after The Times, ‘Comes With The Rain’ in which the protagonist is looking for a missing backpacker but finds the unexpected, and ‘In The Pines’, a Christmas tale about a monstrous reindeer.
Other more unusual monster tales include ‘Rodent In The Red Room’, which is about the brothel from hell, ‘The Conductor’, about a hellish train journey through Dublin, and ‘An Unusual Pet’, which is about an man’s strange pet and the reporter that comes to write a story about it.
There are also several stories that feature sea creatures: ‘Things Found In Couches’ may not be located near the sea but features monsters that smell and look like sea creatures, ‘She Sells Seashells’ is a story about the dangers of the sea and the people and creatures you might meet there, and ‘Bangers And Mash’, which was one of my favourite stories in the collection, is a story set at the Giant’s Causeway and based on the tradition of clickers stories but with an Irish twist.
The collection also features several other themes including the return of the past and our memories of tragic events: ‘Where The Wild Winds Blow’ is about the overwhelming return of guilt, ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’ is also about survivor’s guilt, and ‘Happiness Inc.’ is about a man’s attempt to relive the past.
Dreams and dream-like states also feature strongly in the collection: ‘Intercepting Aisle Nine’ is about the power of advertising, ‘Alisha’ is about the supernatural power of a stranger, and ‘Knock, Knock’, another of my favourite stories, is about an unusual businessman who changes a man’s life in a few moments.
Family is another strong theme: ‘The Call Of Children’ is about the bond between brothers and what happens when an older brother who has disappeared suddenly returns. ‘Father’s Day’ is the most touching story in the collection and is about a father discovering his daughter’s unusual talent and imagination. It’s a story with a very unexpected ending.
Another theme is ageing and youth: ‘Dark Stage’ is the story of an extraordinary healer and also features in Welcome to the Show Curated by Matt Hayward and Doug Murano. ‘Mutt’ is another of my favourite stories in the collection and tells the story of a boy arriving at an unusual strawberry farm and the dog that he befriends there. ‘Spread’ reminded me of Cabin Fever and is about a woman who wakes up with a strange rash after a one-night-stand.
It was very refreshing to read a horror collection in which most of the stories are located in Ireland, particularly in Wicklow. Another recurring element throughout the collection is OneWave, a fictional company that features in several stories. It’s a company I’d love to read more about as we are only given a taster of what they do.
As I’ve said in previous reviews, Hayward is one of the strongest horror writers working today and is one of my favourites. His output is always reliable and incredibly strong and I can’t wait to read more.
Kindle edition, 234 pages
Publication: December 15th 2019 by Poltergeist Press
About the author
Matt Hayward is a Bram Stoker Award-nominated author and musician from Wicklow, Ireland. His books include Brain Dead Blues, What Do Monsters Fear?, Practitioners (with Patrick Lacey), The Faithful, and A Penny For Your Thoughts (with Robert Ford). He compiled the award-winning anthology Welcome To The Show and wrote the comic book This Is How It Ends (now a music video) for the band Walking Papers. Matt received a nomination for Irish Short Story of the Year from Penguin Books in 2017. He is represented by Lane Heymont of the Tobias Literary Agency and can be found on Twitter @MattHaywardIRE or at his website www.sundancecrow.com