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  by Helen Barnes

category Literature & Fiction
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Amazon Editorial Review

As if on a spectral book tour, the ghost of Robert Bloch continues to make appearances. In an introduction to Crypt Orchids he reminds us that David J. Schow "was credited with coining the term 'splatterpunk'--a neologism to describe contemporary horror fiction which specializes in graphic grue."

But Bloch is quick to point out that "Schow's own work is not designed merely to exploit the explicit.... In offering gore as allegory, Schow transcends the trendy, but he makes expert use of contemporary pop culture. His frame of reference is that of a majority of his readers, embracing film, television, rock, graphic art and a variety of computer concepts. But unlike many of those readers he also possesses a broad knowledge of the classics both within and beyond his personal genre. And he enriches that knowledge with personal assessments of the hallucinogenic hell we laughingly label the 'real' world."

Crypt Orchids definitely meets the high standard established by Schow's previous story collections, such as Black Leather Required (1994). The dozen stories and one short play collected here include such standouts as "Dusting the Flowers," a terrific novella of satire plus revenge on the goth and post-industrial artist cultures; three amusing tales of Silly(Holly)wood, including a "where are they now?" number about the amphibian humanoid who "played" the creature in The Creature from the Black Lagoon; a cool little tale about what happens when a hitchhiker who preys on motorists meets a motorist who preys on hitchhikers; "Refrigerator Heaven," in which a bizarre torture technique induces epiphany; another Scoop story (fans of "Scoop Makes a Swirly" in Black Leather Required, take note); and a nicely wrought Victorian period piece with an original spin on the Ripper legend that is obviously an homage to Bloch's "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper" (available in The Dark Descent).

Richard Christian Matheson has written of Schow's "secret tenderness," which "hides behind savage armament, careful to give only glimpses of itself.... There is poignancy everywhere in his talent, amid the exquisite threat." Versatile, charming, and fiercely independent in his outlook, Schow is a master of the contemporary horror story. --Fiona Webster


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