Review copy provided in exchange for an honest review
Having read Mark Matthews previous books, many about addiction like Milk-Blood and On the Lips of Children, I was excited to read the Garden of Fiends. After I saw the list authors who were contributing I couldn’t wait for a copy to dive into. Every author takes a very different and unique angle on addiction. The addicts in these stories have a common problem, they can’t get out of their own way. They make poor decisions and they risk anything and everything to get their next fix. All rationalizations are considered reasonable and the truths in a Garden of Fiends is a hard pill to swallow for those of us on the outside looking in. The truth as these characters know it and live it is brutal. They live moment to moment and we are taken on one hell of a ride by many of the stories here.
In a wicked thirst by Kealan Patrick Burke, a writer that never disappoints me because his storytelling is always on point. The levels of despair he takes the protagonist to is nothing short of gut wrenching. To see a person barely existing with only one goal, his next drink and having given up on living, is crushing. Sadly, I’m sure this level of addiction isn’t uncommon and we get to experience it first-hand here. The one in the middle by Jessica McHugh was exceptionally horrific. Her story of addiction was brought to life so well I was sick to my stomach. The nightmare world of the protagonist, Perry, is beyond my grasp and she did a great job thrusting the drug addict’s life in my face. What he will do to get his next high is almost beyond comprehension and not easily forgotten. Garden of Fiends, the title story from the anthology, is a great piece of storytelling by Mark Matthews. His insight and understanding into the lives and minds of addiction is amazing. He gives his characters depth and realism. I couldn’t help but root for the protagonist and I was silently screaming for her to do the right thing. Short stories by John FD Taff never fail to satisfy me and Last call is no different. A man is desperate to kick his alcoholism after endless failed attempts. Just how far is he willing to go and is it worth the price are the real questions. The protagonist, Ted, learns the hard way that there are no short cuts. The universe will always balance the good you do with the bad you’ve done. In torment of the fallen we meet Maggie who has spent her life looking for her father. A father lost to addiction and his personal demons. She finds him but doesn’t know if saving him possible. Maggie, like most people, thinks anything is possible if you want it enough. Unfortunately, there is always unseen forces at work and sometimes winning isn’t in the cards. I loved the twist, and characters Glen Krisch give us in this short story. Everywhere you’ve bleed and everywhere you will is possibly the most twisted look at the reality of what addicts endure. I was left shocked at the life this character lives and we get some intense metaphors and visions. The last story, Returns by Jack Ketchum, is short and sweet. I really liked the point of view as seen from the protagonist. I can’t give many details without giving it away but this is story exists on a different plane.
I didn’t connect with all the stories in Garden of Fiends but I certainly loved many of them. This is the risk you take with an anthology, but the risk was worth the reward for me. The level of shock and awe is thrust in the readers face and it’s impossible for a horror fan to be let down. Thanks Mark for gathering this group of writers and giving us, the horror community, a trip through an addict’s life and a life I sure as hell want no part of!
Length: 210 Pages
Publisher: Wicked Run Press
Release date: April 18, 2017
The intoxication from a pint of vodka, the electric buzz from snorting cocaine, the warm embrace from shooting heroin–drinking and drugging provides the height of human experience. It’s the promise of heaven on earth, but the hell that follows is a constant hunger, a cold emptiness. The craving to get high is a yearning as intense as that felt by any blood-thirsty monster.
The best way to tell the truths of addiction is through a story, and dark truths such as these need a piece of horror to do them justice.
The stories inside feature the insidious nature of addiction told with compassion yet searing honesty. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental deaths, and some of the most incredible names in horror fiction have tackled this modern day epidemic.
Mark Matthews, Biography-
Mark Matthews is a graduate of the University of Michigan and a licensed professional counselor who has worked in behavioral health for over 20 years. He is the author of On the Lips of Children, All Smoke Rises, and Milk-Blood, which has been optioned for a full length feature film. He is the editor of the anthology Garden of Fiends: Tales of Addiction Horror, coming in April 2017. Matthews has run 13 marathons, and has two running based books, The Jade Rabbit and Chasing the Dragon, also available on amazon. He lives near Detroit with his wife and two daughters. Reach him at WickedRunPress@gmail.com