Twenty “fragments from a flaking brain,” as Liverpudlian horror novelist Campbell calls these ghoulies and ghastlies, which join his earlier story collections (Strange Things and Stranger Places, 1993, etc.). Some of these pieces are set in Liverpool, and some here see print for the first time. In Campbell’s introduction, telling us where each was published, he describes himself as an old-guard horror writer who admires bright young new talents like Poppy Z. Brite and Kim Newman, although he too hopes still to stir some fresh ingredients into the cauldron. Perhaps some eyebulbs and a few chopped off fingers and toes? “See How They Run” does not derive from the Beatles’ lyric but tells rather of Fishwick, a fiendish psychopath, who bites himself to death in jail (that bit of info does not give away the story). In “Ra*e,” a woman’s daughter is murdered in a sandpit on her birthday and the mother takes vengeance on the murderer. Or she thinks she has. Campbell calls “The Change” his darkest story, and dark it is, about a young married horror author suffering writer’s block about the change—or shapeshifting—in a werewolf he’s writing about. Then he notices that at night the bluish vapor of streetlamps is having a deep affect on him.
This is Campbell at his best, always intimate with characters who talk and carry on much as you and I, until the ground gives way under them and fate scribbles them a new address.