Edited by Christopher Golden
San Francisco: JournalStone (2013)
I rarely read the foreword first. I like to form my opinion of the contents before comparing notes with the editor. In this case the underlying theme is as simple as the title – it a collection of stories in memory of Rick Hautala, horror writer extraordinaire who died unexpectedly in march. So I suggest reading Christopher Golden’s introductory notes first. He explains why most of these stories are reprint and why there are two volumes. More importantly, Golden renders palpable the profound sense of loss and grief in the writing community. Rick Hautala was that kind of a writer as well as an all around nice guys. And that’s why this book came to be, although I would be far happier if it hadn’t needed to come into existence for another 20 years or more.
If you have any interest in the genres collectively lumped together in bookstores as horror, you know who Rick Hautala is. Similarly, you’ll recognize all 46 of the names in this anthology. Some of these stories were chosen by the authors because they were favorites of Rick. Some were sent because they reminded the authors of him. Some are have never been reprinted before and several appear for the first time. It is an impossible task to point out “better” or “weaker” stories when the table of contents reads like a who’s who in contemporary horror, but I will admit to a soft spot in my heart for Jeff Strand’s “Hologram Skull Cover,” which Strand wrote specifically for the anthology. The titular hologram skull is a reference to a teenage buying a copy of Hautala’s 1986 bestselling Night Stone, one of the first books to use a hologram on the cover. It was also my first introduction to “that other horror writer from Maine.”
Mister October is this year’s best horror anthology, bar none. It is obviously a “must have” for Rick Hautala’s fans and the variety and talent included in this work make it an excellent addition to the shelves of any true horror aficionado.