I’ve found myself reading more and more anthologies and collections these days. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy story-telling in the long form, but there’s something about anthologies that allow you to get to know a lot of new authors quickly, and then there are the collections for a single author which permit a more in-depth look into what makes a particular author tick.
Prior to reading Flowers In a Dumpster, I had not read anything by Mark Allan Gunnells. Now that I’ve gotten to know his work, I’m pretty sure I’ll be returning for more.
While not every story was Grade A, enough of them were to make this volume a worthwhile read for all horror fans.
“Past Lives” – A strong story to begin the collection. Features a nice twist with a traveler in a post-apocalyptic world.
“The Support Group” – An interesting exercise in writing. Each character in the support group was a major city. Strange, but as I said, interesting.
“Welcome” – A car breaks down, but at least it’s in a nice neighborhood, not some crazy remote backwoods location. What could possibly go wrong? One of my favorite stories in the collection.
“Transformations” – Conjuring a demon, for any reason, is never a good idea. Seems the little devils just can’t be trusted.
“The Bonadventure” – Another of my favorite stories in the collection is this tale of the Savannah College of Art and Design Paranormal Investigative Team. That’s right, S.C.A.D.P.I.T. What they discover in an old cemetery, in America’s most haunted city, is much more frightening than ghosts.
“A Helping Hand” – A short, nasty story of a writer’s mother-in-law who moves in to help with her grandchild when her daughter dies during childbirth.
“The Possession” – There is a lesson to be learned here. Finding spells on the Internet and playing around with them rarely works out for the best. A killer opening line, too: “Okay, let’s get one thing straight. I did not murder Dirk Vandercock.”
“The Locked Tower” – This is a top-notch story. Just what is the mystery of the tower of Winnie Davis Hall at Limestone College?
“Expectant” – A delightfully twisted tale of an unexpected pregnancy.
“The Last Men On Earth” – After a plague kills off nearly everyone on the planet; only two men remain. Adam and Adam, as it were, or at least until Eve shows up.
“Similar Interests” – I absolutely loved the concept for this story. My wife and I were just discussing the dangers of hitchhiking a few days ago. Creepy.
“Walking Talking Jesus” – The title says it all. As I read the stories in this collection, it’s interesting to see how Mark Allan Gunnells will take a simple notion and flesh it out into a story.
“Survival of the Fittest” – Even after a plague, the old prejudices still exist.
“Land of Plenty” – A land of plenty, but only for 75 villagers. A thought-provoking little story.
“What She Needs” – Another twisted little tale, this one about abusive relationships.
“Welcome Back” – A nice little follow-up to the earlier story, “Welcome.”
“Kindred Spirit” (Co-authored by Shane Nelson) – An excellent little novelette to close out the collection, about a writer finding his voice with the help of a kindred spirit.
Seventeen stories and when I was done reading, I found myself wanting more.