JUST LIKE HELL/MR. GRAY by Nate Southard (Sinister Grin Press)
Nate Southard has a way of making you uncomfortable. Most of what I’ve read by him has left me with what I refer to as “That Gummo feeling.” You feel upset and unnerved and sad and anxious and kinda dirty and frightened. You also go back again and again. Like that sore spot on your gum you can’t keep your tongue away from. That basket full of cobras in your soul, Southard is gonna flute those fuckers all wiggly and hissing as soon as you start reading.
This book is a pairing of two older novellas. The first is JUST LIKE HELL. Dillon is a hero, a high school football star with schools frothing over him and a life full of rich prospect kneeling at his feet. However, there are things about Dillon that aren’t public knowledge, things kept from his family and friends. When Dillon’s secrets are discovered things take a dark and violent turn and by the time it’s over things will never be the same. This story is absolutely gut-wrenching. It’s timely and angry and tragic and terrifying. This is horror, truly.
MR. GRAY is the second story and in it we follow a young man and a girl as they do their best to save a child from a very dark force. A force that both of them have personal history with, think The Exorcist by way of Funny Games. Characters as flawed as they are well-meaning. And a terrifying villain, that will most certainly haunt you for some time. Southard really hits a stride here, one that barely allows time to gasp before the next blow is delivered. Brilliant. (John Boden)