I thoroughly enjoy short stories. Always have. There’s just something about an author creating a quick-and-nasty reading experience, and marveling over how he or she packed so much story into such a small space. This is why I’m drawn to collections and anthologies: they provide the reader with a diverse palette of stories to peruse. That being said, there are usually highs and lows in every collection or anthology. Not every story can be good, after all...

… or can they?

There are rare cases of seemingly perfect collections. Some of my favorites include the early collections of Stephen King, HIGH COTTON by Joe Lansdale, MOONCHASERS AND OTHERS by Ed Gorman, the entertaining and informative MR. FOX AND OTHER FERAL TALES by Norman Partridge, and the stunning collection by Kealan Patrick Burke, THE NUMBER 121 TO PENNSYLVANIA. These books start strong and never let up, offering all manner of stories and nailing each-and-every one of them.

And now, I’m adding Ron Kelly’s MIDNIGHT GRINDING AND OTHER TWILIGHT TERRORS to the list.

Ron showcases his talent by not only giving us the requisite horror and scares, but also incorporating other themes as well. One of the most touching stories in the collection is “Dust Devils”, in which a lonely girl finds warmth and passion in the most unlikely of places. Stories like “Bookmarks” and “Tyrophex-14” come across as cautionary tales, presenting “what-if” scenarios that are quite frightening in nature. “The Winds Within” and “Romicide”, two of my favorites from the collection, are police procedurals involving detectives Taylor and Lowery, and the strange cases they become involved in (think X-Files crossed with Repairman Jack, and you’ve got Taylor and Lowery). Now that Ron is publishing new material, I sincerely hope he returns to these two characters with some new short stories (or maybe something longer?). And still others -- such as “Oh, Sordid Shame!”, “Depravity Road”, and to some degree, “Midnight Grinding” – are presented as “historical fiction”, fictional retellings of actual events. These stories and more are examples of Ron’s amazing ability to blend other genres into his horror writing, which provide a nice change of pace throughout.

Of course, if you’re only in it for the blood and guts, there’s plenty to go around. From snakes (“Miss Abigail’s Delicate Condition”) to spiders (“The Web of La Sanguinaire”); from literal ghosts (“The Cistern”) to figurative ghosts (“Impressions in Oak”); from vampires to werewolves (“The Boxcar” and “Thinning the Herd”); and literally anything and everything in between – this collection touches upon every kind of horror imaginable. Some stories are horrifying in their violence and brutality. Some will freeze your blood from the simple fact they hit a little too close to home. Still others will have you smiling (and feeling a little guilty about it). And some are just plain weird or disgusting. But, the tales in MIDNIGHT GRINDING all have one thing in common: every one of the bunch is well-written, wildly entertaining, and sure to have you on edge throughout.

I have absolutely no reservations about giving MIDNIGHT GRINDING a 10 out of 10 and telling you to plunk down your hard-earned dough to get a copy. It’s one of the best collections I’ve ever read, and there’s no doubt in my mind you’ll enjoy it too. Both the $40 limited edition and the $175 lettered edition are both available from Cemetery Dance.

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