Here's an excellent and inexpensive way to check out some lesser-known horror writers. I've owned the book for at least a year and I finally got around to reading it.

Candy in the Dumpster is a four-way collection/anthology of stories by four Chicago writers. Martin Mundt, John Everson, Bill Breedlove and Jay Bonansinga. Up until now, I had only read the fiction of Jay Bonansinga, and I'm a big fan of his writing. I know John Everson from the message boards and I've read some entertaining movie reviews from him. But that's it.

The book is cut up into four more-or-less equal parts, with each author getting three stories and 30-40 pages each to work their dark art.

First up to bat is Martin Mundt. I had heard the name before, but other than thinking about 'Madman Mundt' from Barton Fink, I was ignorant of it. Mundt gives us three stories, all of which are a lot of fun to read. A Perfect Plan is the kind of ghastly/funny tale that Fredric Brown or Robert Bloch might have written. The Cure is a science fictional tale about the horrific aftermath of The War on Drugs. And The War on the War With Drugs. Martin Mundt's third story is the best of the three, Babies Is Smart, which deals with a man driven to infanticide from babysitting. I liked all three of these a lot and I will certainly look for more fiction from this particular Madman Mundt in the future.

John Everson begins his trio of stories with The White House, which is my favorite of the three. It begins as a deceptively simple tale and gradually builds to a creepy and nasty punch of an end. Swallowing the Pill is about a nebbish that is even too afraid to take a large dose of medicine. The pill becomes a metaphor for the things he can't bring himself to do. And Pumpkin Head is a fetishistic look at a boy with an unnatural affinity for the Halloween fruit. I liked all three a lot and want to read more by Everson. He has some books our from Delirium, but it's hard to buy books from untested writers when they come in such expensive editions. Heck, it's hard to buy them from beloved writers. Here's hoping that John Everson's fiction hits the mass market soon. These three little stories indicate that he's more than ready for it.

Bill Breedlove also served as editor of Candy in the Dumpster. His first offering, The Lost Collection, is like a modern serial killer-inspired Night Gallery episode. The second, Free To Good Home, also reminds me of Rod Serling, in which a deserving individual gets a a dose of his own treacherous medicine. Finally, Drowning in the Sea of Love deals with a reluctant participant in a water sports video and the shocking results of the shoot.

With apologies to the rest of the Candy in the Dumpster crew, my favorite stories are the ones by Jay Bonansinga. Jay has published extensively in the mass market and in most cases there are good reasons why writers get published by the big houses. One big one being that they are good. Bonansinga has always been a favorite of mine, ever since I read the highly exciting and cinematic debut novel he wrote, The Black Maria. I've followed his career with considerable enthusiasm and I've never been disappointed. His trio of short pieces in Candy in the Dumpster are no exceptions.

Bonansinga's first one, Animal Rites, shows his dexterous imagination in full force. It deals with a voodoo revenge scenario involving an abusive, drunken father, which has a lingering twist. The second, Stash, is easily my favorite in the book. In it, a guy with a business that provides an interesting service to its customers gets a client whose presence brings forth decades old trauma and a very real and terrifying threat to his present state of breathing. Like the best of Bonansinga's work, it reads like a high octane, balls out horror/suspense movie. According to the notes in the book, he is making it into a film. And the last story in the volume is called Deal Memo. It's a not-very-exaggerated peek at the inner workings of a proposed sequel to The Passion of the Christ.

Oh, and I neglected to mention the funny, faux academic Introduction by the talented Mort Castle. It sets a nice tone for this witty and entertaining collection of stories.

Candy in the Dumpster is the first publication from Dark Arts Books and it's a good one. All four of the writers did an outstanding job and I highly recommend it to all that enjoy quality horror fiction. Especially to those that haven't read all four of them.

The only complaint I have is that there are too many typos. Dark Arts...please take more time in proofing the materials you publish. The work deserves the utmost respect. I've seen a lot worse and I know it's nearly impossible to catch them all when developing a manuscript to publication, but I hope that future books from this fledgling company are proofed more thoroughly.

But don't let that stop you from buying it, potential customers. It's a fine book and the mistakes aren't glaring. These four writers, and the publisher, are on the move and for thirteen bucks, it's a hell of a bargain.

Buy it from Shocklines

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