It’s a Weird Winter Wonderland edited by Robert Bose and Axel Howerton
Coffin Hop Press (October 2017)
276 pages, $14.95 paperback; $4.99 e-book
Reviewed by Anton Cancre
Call me a grinch, or whatever. I’m cool with it. I’m just not that into Christmas themed stuff. The fluff and crass commercialism bugs me. At the same time, I love weird stories and I’ve been on a crime kick lately, so I was still drawn to this one.
Honestly, it doesn’t start that great. Steve Brewer’s writing style is smooth and engaging and “Up the Chimney” pulled me right along, but it was clear where it was going from the first paragraph and never deviated. “Saint Nikki’s Revenge” is kinda gonzo, but nowhere near as shocking as it wants to be. Oddly “A Vampire, a Burglar and an Aging Hippie Walk into a Bar” fell flatter than I was hoping from the super fun title. They aren’t bad, per se. I just wasn’t feeling them.
Then I hit “Ho Ho Ho,” wherein our humble author Brent Nichols turns Dickens’ classic tale of ghosts and greed into a redneck crime romp with the prostitutes of Christmas past, present and future. This bastard blew me right away. Crazy, engaging, smart, mean spirited in the way the best crime is and gritty as all getout. This was the type of story I was hoping for. Followed up with “Of Gathering Gloom,” Jessica McHugh’s balls-out crazy yarn of the worst smelling Santa (the similes she uses become more and more absurd and disgusting as the story goes on) in a showdown against sinuous and sensuous evil in the mall at the end of the world. Also, Maple Bacon Donuts. It’s relentlessly depressing, but a wondrously odd read that had me by the throat, even surrounded by the stench of old pork and bandaids.
Those last two tales are the longest of the bunch and are entirely worth the cost of the book on their own, even if you don’t dig the rest.