April 2, 2014

Crazy Good: a review of John Skipp's "Psychos" anthology

edited by John Skipp
Black Dog & Levinthal (2012)
640 pages
ISBN13: 9781579129149

Psychos and serial killers are so prevelant in popular culture these days, they're like VW beetles on the highway. Once you see one, you see a multitude. Actually, you're more likely to see a psycho thumbing a ride on the highway than you are to see a lovebug putting down the road.

For this anthology, John Skipp has assembled a veritable who's who of authors from today and yesteryear. Thirty-five stories in all, and when you pick up a trade paperback copy, rather than download it to your ereader, you feel the weight of every demented page.

If there's one story that made the book worthwhile, it had to be Adam-Troy Castro's "The Shallow End of the Pool." I had heard about this story a few years ago, but as a novella it was near impossible to find, so it was an added bonus to find it in the table of contents for this anthology. It tells the story of a teen girl accompanying her father into the desert to visit her estranged mother, and to meet her brother for the first time. This is about the furthest thing from a conventional family reunion, though. It proceeds along with a very matter-of-fact style, simply showing the scene as it happens as they all prepare for winds up being a fight to the death between brother and sister, all for the honor of one of the parents. It's riveting, to say the least.

"Incident On and Off a Mountain Road" by Joe R. Lansdale was included, a taut little thriller I had previously read as a separate offering on Kindle. Among the other stalwarts in the book, Bentley Little's "Life with Father" and its unsettling portrayal of two young girls living with a deranged father did its part in sending a shiver up my spine, too.

In the up-and-coming department, "Marla's Eyes" by Ed Kurtz showed off an appreciation for the old British gothic touch with a super creepy ending. Also, Mercedes M. Yardley's "Murder for Beginners" is one more reason to seek out Yardley's work in all its forms. "Righteous" by Weston Ochse took a slightly different tact with a grieving man's last violent act.

Throw in an all-star table of contents that features the likes of Jack Ketchum, Kathe Koja, Lawrence Block, and Neil Gaiman, and you have a weighty anthology that is bound to entertain you--and disturb you in the process.


  1. I have a thing about child killers.... it tends to be too much for me most of the time.

  2. Yeah, it's great writing, but if you've got a trigger then I suppose the writing don't matter.