Wicked Women: An Anthology by The New England Horror Writers edited by Trisha J. Wooldridge & Scott E. Goudsward
NEHW Press (November 2020)
242 pages; paperback $14.99; e-book $4.99
Reviewed by Dave Simms
February is Women in Horror Month, a time to celebrate those who have altered the dark landscape and pioneered the path forward into nightmares anew and fresh trails into the abyss. Note: this shouldn’t just be one month — it’s tough to highlight all of the new stars in the genre while looking back to those who paved the way.
Writing groups these days are such a mixed bag, with many floundering with jealousy and stale efforts without the passion that should drive each member forward into the realms of publication and stellar storytelling. The New England Horror Writers are the only group I have witnessed first hand to be that dark fire that consistently raises the bar for both newbies and veteran authors. Of course, it is New England, so they have a leg up on the shadowy inspiration.
Wicked Women is a brilliant showcase of the group, many of whom should be and likely will be better known in the days to come. There is not a weak entry in this collection, which make highlighting a select few excruciatingly difficult. Between the covers, there is something for everyone, from the classic to the experimental, the subtle to brutal. Favorite tales vary by the day and mood so I will focus on what resonated on the second read-through.
“Milk Time” by Elaine Pascales brings to mind classic Shirley Jackson in a story about a school that handles its students in a manner that leaves the readers with chills.
“Bad Trip Highway” by Renee DeCamillis harkens back to the best of wicked, sharp, classic horror of the eighties in the vein of Elizabeth Massie. It’s about a woman and a strange hitchhiker that veers off the path of the well-trodden into something special.
“Souls Of The Wicked Like Crumbs In Her Hand” by Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert focuses on a woman who discovers there’s another in a cafe that only she can see. What ensues twists into something evil and Twilight-Zone-ish like the best of Yvonne Navarro.
Finally, “Arbor Day” by Kristi Peterson-Schoonover, which begins with the line “On Linden Island, kids are never told someone has died.” There’s a good reason for this, and the family tree that the community focuses on holds secrets that outsiders should never discover. It reminded me of the best of Tamara Thorne.
Again, to choose a favorite in this lineup depends on the reader and was a tough task when just about any could rise to the top. I expect several of these authors to become much better known in the days to come.
Highly Recommended for all fans of short stories.