To start with I have to say that my initial intention was to do my standard, single review on a single work, because thus far I have only done a couple of reviews where I included more than one work by the same author (always a sign of an exceptional talent). I also have to state that it was my initial intention to have that review done about three weeks ago as well, along with an entire laundry list of other things that, as always, went on the back burner due to my recurrent migraines and other assorted and endless disasters.
But enough about my issues, let's talk about Lisa McCourt Hollar. If you follow this blog you may know that I first became acquainted with Mrs. Hollar's works back around Halloween when I read her short story Sam, a sweet little tale of a boy and his flesh eating, zombie, goldfish. I found it to be a quaint and endearing little story, and from the author's bio at the end I was really under the impression that Mrs. Hollar was mainly into the YA and "Children's" horror scenes, someone who told tales that were grodie enough to be cool, but safe enough for the local PTA to approve of.
A couple of months later, during the Twelve Nights Of Creepfest Blog Hop, I learned that Mrs. Hollar was a little more edgy than I though after getting a look at a work that was still somewhat in progress on her blog. I realized there was more to Lisa McCourt Hollar than I had thought at first glance, but yet I really didn't get the fact that she wrote the kind of things your local PTA wouldn't approve of. In fact it was not until getting through the following stories that I knew how gritty and edgy Lisa McCourt Hollar was, not only writing the type of story I love to read, but the type I love to write as well.
First up is a stand alone short story The Carnival. Pregnant at 15 Lucy has been confined to her home by her father, the mayor, to avoid a scandal, but she will do anything to be reunited with her lover Tom. When the little clown arrives at her house with a message from Tom to follow him she does without a single though, straight into an unimaginable nightmare.
It's pretty hard to say much more without giving too much of the story away. I can tell you it's not a tale for the faint of heart or prudish. The story itself is very well written, although it does becomes slightly predictable near the end. I give it Four Stars.
The second body of Mrs. Hollar's work up for review is a short story collection Halloween Frights. This is a fairly easy read, and most of the individual stories are only a few pages long, but their length does nothing to lessen their impact.
'Joe's Night Out'
A sweet little poem about crazy Joe heading to the cemetery to dig up a few friends for Halloween. Five Stars.
Sandra finally has what she's wanted since the day she married George. She's a widow. Unfortunately she's not quite as alone as she seems. Four Stars.
On Halloween Night most of the kids avoid the Harper house, because they say deformed Tom does some crazy things. They may be right. Three Stars.
Francine's daughter Annie is acting out, but it isn't her fault. Dolly is the one telling her to do bad things. Three Stars.
Things That Go Bump In The Night
Tasha can't sleep. There's a monster under her bed that wants to eat her toes. She knows it. Just knows it. But who is more scary in the end? Five stars.
The Beast Inside
There are times when you shouldn't tease someone. There are times when you shouldn't be a bully. And a group of neighborhood kids is about to learn their lesson too late. Five Stars.
Francine and her mother move into a haunted house where the past replays itself. Four Stars.
There's a killer in the house, but it's okay because he can never, never, touch you. Five Stars.
A young woman discovers she is descended from a long line of witches, but it seems like someone else may have already known first. Four Stars.
A woman's unseasonal trip to her summer house becomes an exercise in terror when an escaped killer joins her on her retreat. Five Stars.
Judith dreams of a man coming to her in the night as her family crosses to America. Once she arrives she follows him into the wilderness, the mysterious Tiberius Crane. Then, she learns his plans for her, and her torment begins. Five Stars.
An overall Five Star collection. Some of the stories are easy to figure out, and you see the twist in them coming, and I never could find the little girl's motivation in Dolly, but Things That Go Bump In The Night is cute and The Beast Within is an awesome mix of anti-bullying tale and gorefest, while Vampire's Hollow is filled with the edginess and grit most stories out there are lacking.
The final of our trio of Lisa McCourt Hollar works up for review is the short story collection Flashes From The Grave, which was the work I had set out to initially review in the first place. As with the previous collection it is filled with very short stories which are to the point and impactful. Throughout this collection Mrs. Hollar also demonstrates her range as a writer, throwing in a little comedy this time out as well.
A woman attempts to save her young daughter from the zombie horde by swimming out onto a raft anchored in the ocean. Zombies can't swim, can they? Five stars.
The Rat King
A gritty tale of a young woman driven to seek revenge on the creature that murdered her baby sister, and made her into a thing like him. Five Stars.
The Vampire Hunter's Wife
Bride. Assistant. Prisoner. A madman's slave finds salvation in an unlikely source. Five Stars.
The Zombie Reunification Act
In a world overrun by zombies there's only one thing the government can do, put them to work. A taste of the lighter side of Lisa McCourt Hollar. Five Stars.
Don't Play With Your Food
A tale of cannibalism and revenge. A story so horrifyingly over the top it has to be read to be appreciated. Six Stars!
The Bearded Man
Tabitha dreams that the Bearded Man is coming to take her children, even though she has not had any yet. Four Stars.
The Birth Of Evil
A brother and sister learn too late that they are part of a plot to bring about the beginning of the end. Five Stars.
No Respect For The Dead
It's one of those old "There Goes The Neighborhood" stories with a twist, and another example of Mrs. Hollar's lighter side as a vampire has to deal with some undesirable new neighbors. Four Stars.
The scene of a wedding reception ruined as the zombie apocalypse begins. Four Stars.
Charlie is a diligent worker with OCD. Nothing will keep him from getting his job at a small diner done, even death, a fact the local health department is sure to frown on. Again the humor of Lisa McCourt Hollar shines through in one of her funniest tales. Five Stars.
The Circle Of Life
A brief scene from the zombie apocalypse told from the zombie point of view. Five Stars.
Til Death We Meet Again
Every night Selina gets ready, waiting for the vampire she met when she was a young woman to come and take her so she can be with him forever. Now she is an old woman at death's door, and as her wait nears its end someone else's wait is about to begin. Five Stars.
Tabby deals in exotic animals, when your definition of what an animal is is broad. She captures them, cages them, trains them and sells the ones who live to the highest bidder. Four Stars.
Again with Flashes From The Grave Lisa McCourt Hollar delivers an overall Five Star collection. It may have been served a little better ending with Don't Play With Your Food or Til Death We Meet Again, but I have seen other collections end with far weaker stories than Caged, which is a pretty good story. Overall Flashes From The Grave is proof that Lisa McCourt Hollar does not just write "kid stuff" and neither is she a one trick pony. Looking at it against Halloween Frights it is plain to see that Mrs. Hollar's writing only continues to improve and advance as well.
Like Diana Trees and the author formerly known as Poppy Z. Brite Mrs. Hollar delivers in the above works tales that are real, gritty and sometimes uncomfortable to read, just as good horror should be. There has been a definite lack of this kind of story telling since the mid-1990s, and I can't wait for a novel length story to see what she does with a long and sustained story.
You can find all three of these works on Amazon:
The Carnival: http://www.amazon.com/The-Carnival-ebook/dp/B004YR77D8
Halloween Frights: http://www.amazon.com/Halloween-Frights-ebook/dp/B005PA94U2
Flashes From The Grave: http://www.amazon.com/Flashes-From-The-Grave-ebook/dp/B005A7QMZK/
Lurk for all three of these great reads and acquaint yourself with Lisa McCourt Hollar if you have not already.