Gary Buller
June 19, 2020
Reviewed by Brian “Skull” Lewis

Hello again you wicked whackdoodles, it’s your old pal Skull with another cool title from independent speculative fiction publisher Unnerving! Dead and Breakfast by Gary Buller is book number 11 of Unnerving’s REWIND OR DIE series, and a most excellent choice of reading material. What we get is one of my favorite approaches to a book: stories within a larger story, which is perfect for modern times, short attention spans, reading on the train and anywhere else. Let’s get to it, shall we?

Punk rockers Eddie and Banksy are on their way to a party which is going to be one hell of a good time. Unfortunately, they get massively offtrack and find themselves in the middle of nowhere with a tire that’s way beyond flat. If that’s not enough, a frigid rain chases them to the only shelter available, an ancient stone cottage straight out of a horror flick. But any warmth and shelter is better than none, right? Eddie feels a bit unsure as he hands over payment for the night’s lodgings at Sally’s Dead and Breakfast, wondering if he heard her right. No matter how creepy she is, a warm fire blazes in the lounge beckoning the soaked travelers. While the kettle is on, Sally regales them with a tale called Cords about a village that operates somewhat on the scale of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery except in Sally’s story the sacrifices are everyone who hits their 35th birthday. They must go to the fissure and if they don’t, evil things make sure they do. Cool mix of futuristic in a derelict almost Victorian landscape.

After that creepy story, there’s at least some tea and possibly a telephone to get the hell out of this crusty inn. But tea’s not ready yet and “sorry dearies, no phone”. There are more stories though. The Brace is a terrifying tale of domestic abuse and the power of ghosts to help a young boy in a time of desperate need. Sally is quite the weird wordsmith and trots out her story The Weight of Nostalgia for her captive audience. Eddie and Banksy don’t want to hear anymore but where can they go? This speculative tale starts with an unseen narrator following a young boy who appears to be enjoying a day at the local sweet shop. Warm waves of nostalgia abound among the penny candies, original formula Coca-Cola, and ice-lollies, but something is amiss here in the land of almost reality. A strange government program that enables test subjects to recreate the past and a family cursed with cancer make us wonder if all life is just a trap that leads to suffering.

Finally, Sally brings tea to the now weary and bewildered travelers who hope this means an end to the horrors she’s been heaping upon them. But she’s got one tale left and it’s a doozy called The Greyfriars Transcripts. A caller to a radio show is looking for some advice about a very grim situation he’s stuck in. His day started normally enough until the baker making his breakfast told him a strange story about the train he planned on boarding. “They say the Greyfriars route is cursed” But the narrator just rolls his eyes and heads off to the train station. Whether that was a good choice or not is something you’ll need to grab a copy of Dead and Breakfast to find out, along with the fates of Eddie and Banksy. Your old pal Skull says it’s a winner!

Damaged Skull Writer and Reviewer rates Dead and Breakfast a very scary FIVE STARS. I’ve been fortunate to know Gary Buller for many years and have enjoyed his ability to make readers both chuckle and scream with his decidedly English writing style. Bottom line, his stories hold up with a timeless quality to them that keeps you turning the pages and feeling a bit sad when you’ve finished. Combine that with Eddie Generous’ vision for Unnerving-an inclusive, anti-hater press and person, who knows how to scare the hell out of readers and make them think. Anybody can jump scare someone at least once, but to have something more to say afterwards AND be a supportive member of the diverse community that horror writers are, you have to be someone special. Maybe just a bit crazy too, but aren’t we all if we’re honest about it?

For more information about Gary Buller, visit him on Twitter @garybuller

For more information about UNNERVING go to: @UnnervingBooks on Twitter

And don’t forget to follow me, your old pal Skull, at: www.damagedskullwriterandreviewer.com It’s a great way to help your favorite independent authors, poets, and publishers. Damaged Skull Writer and Reviewer is an inclusive blog where everyone is valued, except for haters who are heartily encouraged to climb into the nearest industrial trash compactor and press start. My human host, Brian James Lewis is a disabled poet and writer with PTSD who has 3 new Beat Generation style poems in Trajectory Journal issue 23, available now! As is issue 22 which contains his terrifying short story Following My Destiny about misguided mass shooter Chance McCandless. We’re also on Twitter @skullsnflames76 and Goodreads. See you soon!

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