By Shane McKenzie
Publisher: Deadite Press
Pub. Date: June 12, 2015
Rating: 4 & 1/2 out of 5 stars.
In Shane McKenzie's first collection of short fiction, Wet and Screaming, we get what we expect from a book by that title. McKenzie writes bizarre fiction that isn't nice and doesn't open the door for you. If it does open the door for you, expect to be kicked in the rear when you enter. The author's fiction is the epitome of hardcore horror. Yet there is something natural and casual about the way he tells his stories even while they soar over the top in disturbing and shocking images. This is the sign of a natural storyteller.
Wet and Screaming offers 11 short stories by the author. In a strange move, there are also two stories by the Soska Sisters. I will concentrate on just the fiction by McKenzie. A less strange and welcome addition are introductions to each story which are not just informative but very entertaining. The first tale, "Fat Slob" serves as a warning to the neophyte McKenzie reader that squeamish stomachs need not apply. "Ed Gein's Garage Sale" is a particular favorite of mine. As I read it I can see Psycho author Robert Bloch smiling down on the pages. "He's Just a Baby" suggests that even a burglar can develop a fraternal instinct. "I'm on my-" has nothing supernatural about it but for my money, it is easily the most disturbing piece in the book. "Red Asphalt" reminds me of what I learned in my therapeutic practice; anything can become an addiction and anything can be taken to extremes. "So Much Pain, So Much Death" is another disturbing story in which, in the introduction, the author explains his reason for writing it but evoked in me equal parts of The Omen and the story of Abraham and Isaac.
Those are some of the highlights but there is not a weak story here. However I would feel amiss if I didn't mention my pick for best tale of the lot, "Stab the Rabbit". While the author is sometimes mentioned as a prominent Bizarro writer, I have always thought of him as more straight hardcore horror. Yet "Stab the Rabbit" really brings out the Bizarro in McKenzie while still being a disturbing and scary work of horror. The author states the influence for the story is Jessica Rabbit which may help you understand the bizarreness but, believe me, doesn't even come close to how weird and horrific it really is.
So this is an excellent collection yet, to be honest, if I were to recommend a first read of this author it would be one of his novels, particularly Muerte Con Carne or Mutt. That isn't to trivialize his short fiction work. But McKenzie has a real talent for creating characters that involves the reader and leaps off the pages. Short fiction doesn't do that in most cases. Yet even here that can happen. "Stab the Rabbit" presents two brothers who are very real but different, making the story not only delightfully gross and weird but an insightful look at sibling conflict. Most of these stories set up a plot and takes you to the punchline. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, it is a strength to be able to do both so well. In these stories, McKenzie reminds me a lot of my favorite short fiction horror writer, the aforementioned Robert Bloch. No one is as good as setting up the story then throwing in the shocking twist as Bloch. Yet McKenzie is certainly nipping at his heels to take away that title.
If someone wanted a "sampler" of what this author can do, or if you are just one of those readers who prefer short fiction, Wet and Screaming would still be a fine and perhaps essential choice. But let the "Not for everyone" banner be waved. For the horror reader who digs the weird, explicit and hardcore, Shane McKenzie's Wet and Screaming is a must read.