The Collected Nightmares cover shot

By Fred Wiehe
Black Bed Sheet/Diverse Media
May 8, 2019
Reviewed by Brian James Lewis

Hello there, horror fans! Are you familiar with the saying, “No Rest For The Wicked?” Well it seems to be a maxim that Fred Wiehe applies to his work. He may not be wicked, but he definitely knows how to write about those who are. The Collected Nightmares, recently released by Black Bed Sheet Books, is vast! We’re talking nearly 500 pages that include two novellas, twelve short stories, and seventeen poems. This author is not one to rest upon his laurels. The reason? Pain caused by an accident and the acid rain that lands on the injured party in multiple forms, all of which Wiehe has noted for us in the heartfelt intro.

This might sound odd, but I especially enjoy works written by those who deal with pain on the daily. It isn’t because I’m some cruel bastard who gets a cheap thrill from the suffering of others.  No, it’s more the feeling of meeting another member of the tribe I belong to as well. Suffering chronic pain puts a drive into a creative person like nothing else. Not even love can surpass the determination to leave a legacy and the chance to escape into another world, like the misery of pain does. Next to that is the anger hanging onto pain’s coattails. You’ve got to express that shit somehow or go mad. Wiehe’s fierce prose and valiant poetry are red hot with that expression. Ready to dig The Collected Nightmares? Then hold onto your hats, we’re going in!

Pretender starts us off on the right foot as we follow author Frank Lester who is running late for his own book signing on Halloween. At first, he is jazzed about being in Barnes & Noble, but elation dies quickly when someone tells him that his father dropped by. Many of us would be cheered by the prospect of at least one friendly face in the crowd, but that’s not the case for Frank. His father is dead, so how the hell could he pop into any store, let alone talk to a clerk? Looks like somebody has attempted a prank in very poor taste, but why? As the story progresses, spirits and Halloween customs assert themselves. Could a mask help Frank escape what’s coming after him? Perhaps giving out Soul Cakes in the more modern form of candies will appease the demons? Frank keeps hearing, seeing, and smelling clues. Is it just his imagination or signs of impending doom? Just when you thought Halloween was scary enough, Wiehe shakes your sanity. Intense!

Right after that fine piece of fiction, we read Penny’s Song the first of many poems in this volume. Short, sharp, and frightening, Wiehe’s poetry adds much flavor to The Collected Nightmares.  These are powerful poems that tell us a lot about Fred and definitely express some of that anger I mentioned. A good example is Not Dead which features the phrase:

The pain is always a part of me
Never gone
From it I am never free

There’s a lot more to this poem that I want you to read and appreciate. This is one of the best and most direct poems about what it’s like to keep your life, but not yourself as the result of events beyond your control. That, friends, is real life horror. We don’t want others to feel sorry for us. Hell, we don’t even know how we feel about you. Just understand that we are different now and there’s no chance of turning back even if we could. Rebirth and Succubus are full on terror about creatures of the night.

Shoot Me is a frightening flash piece that will surprise readers and is a heartfelt piece of writing. The Collection is a great slam against those bullies and mean people mentioned in the introduction. It’s a pleasure to see that their money can’t protect them and their bullshit reputations all the time! There are creatures out there who only want one thing, no substitutions. You can whine all you want, Mr. Applebee! See you soon! My Only Daddy is a frightening tale with a sharp twist. The narrator becomes alarmed when his son starts talking to people he can’t see and acting out. Surely this is not the little boy he and his wife raised? Well, his wife is gone now, due to mysterious causes. While the man is doing his best, his son ramps up the odd behavior. A stop must be put to this and there’s only one way to do it! But was it the right one?

One story in particular, really stands out as a frightening fable about those who hurt others for fun. The Reckoning is beautifully written with just the right amount of terror mixed with a very important message. When a group of girls who take lessons at a riding stable start insulting the girl who works there cleaning stalls, things get out of hand fast. Yelling turns to violence and it looks like somebody might even die. The stable’s owner jumps into action, but instead of shouting at the girls or threatening to tell their parents, he insists they listen to a story. This isn’t just any old fairy tale, either. No way, this is a true story and what it reveals is chilling.

The Collected Nightmares is a genuine 5 STAR READ! Fred Wiehe should feel damn proud of what he’s accomplished here and we’re fortunate that he’s decided to stay among us and challenge our brains with his words. I really enjoyed his twisted tales and think you will, too! Fred Wiehe is a professional author and a member of the Horror Writers Association who’s written many popular books including Aleric: Monster Hunter. Be sure to follow him at: http://www.fredwiehe.com with manyBlack Bed Sheet Books has done a great job in producing such a powerful read and I also really dig the cover art. Want to learn more about them and the other cool titles they offer? Then visit their website at: www.blackbedsheetbooks.com They even have the only authorized biography of the legendary Vincent Price by the master himself!


Toilet Zone cover shot


HellBound Books
Compiled & Edited by Bret McCormick
August 16, 2019
Reviewed by Brian James Lewis

This hot new anthology from HellBound Books was born from a great idea from the fertile mind of Bret McCormick. It’s like this; The folks reading this review are most likely to be what Stephen King calls “constant readers.” Let me shake you firmly by the hand…in spirit anyway! We take books everywhere, whether in physical form or loaded into an electronic device. That’s us, at Taco Bell: Burrito in one hand, book in the other! We read in waiting rooms and on public transportation because it makes the time go faster in an enjoyable fashion, right? That includes the one room we’re obligated to sit in for 10-15 mins per day to take care of business. Even people who aren’t big readers like a diversion in there. What to do?

Enter The Toilet Zone-32 short horror tales best read over water” from HellBound Books! Bathroom boredom will be a thing of the past when you’re reading really awesome short horror stories in there. Some of the tales included, such as Junkie by Anthony Crinella or The Rambler by Steve Simpson might just scare the shit right out of you! Ha! This fun and frightening volume bears cover artwork that references Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone and if you say both titles fast, there’s a definite similarity! But The Toilet Zone is more than just a silly spoof, so stay seated and let’s continue.

That You, Coughlin? By Christopher Brinn takes us to an Oklahoma Territory town in the year 1883. Something strange is happening in Father Bud’s parish. Gunslingers he’s burying in the little cemetery behind the church aren’t staying dead. Is he really burying them more than once? When he asks the creepy Mr. Coughlin, who makes all the coffins for the dead, Father Bud finds out some things he wishes he didn’t know. Will good triumph over evil or will the victor be someone with no connections to the lord?

I don’t know about you, but all the medical technology we have in these modern times is kind of frightening. Just listen to those ads on TV about the latest pharmaceutical miracles! “Dinkzingle 720 EX can relieve your pain and build new muscle fibers!” Great, but it can also destroy the majority of your brain cells, resulting in loss of vision and major anal leakage. Eeeg! The choices aren’t quite so easy then, are they? The main character of James Pyles’ story Retired is an elderly woman who’s undergone a special operation in order to get her brain back on track. While the surgery has been somewhat successful, Leslie’s recovery is not going quite as smoothly. There are vivid memories seeping into her dreams, causing her to behave in ways that the average eighty-year-old doesn’t. Why does she have man hands? Thoughts of campfires that cook up some unique meals? Her son is concerned, but then his mother takes control over her assets and starts doing things by herself. Leslie’s doctor says that means she’s getting better, but is he right?

Want something cool and modern to read? Then try Alan Beauvais’s story SMS which is constructed entirely of text messages. Kat is texting her boyfriend about something strange happening while she’s home alone, but Will jokes with her. However, as the texts continue, it becomes obvious that she’s not joking or being flirty. Can Will solve the mystery before any real harm comes to them? Grab a copy of The Toilet Zone today and find out!

So with all that said, how does this excellent collection of short horror fiction rate? The Toilet Zone rates a BIG FIVE STARS and immediate placement on the “Wall of Fame” in the Skullcave! I think that anyone who reads this collection is going to really enjoy it. You might even see them sneak it out of the restroom to keep reading! And you know what? That’s totally fine because HellBound Books has many anthologies available for purchase. If you check out their site, they also provide some teaser content so that you can decide which ones you like best. Remember…The holiday seasons are creeping up on us quick this year and gifts from HellBound Books might be just what the doctor ordered! Just head on over to: www.hellboundbookspublishing.com for more information! Be sure to sign up for their newsletter and tell ‘em that the Damaged Skull Writer sent ya!