This really cool anthology collects 20 short stories written by Hollywood insiders at various points during their career — be they screenwriters or producers — all centering around murder and mayhem in the world of Tinseltown. The collective onslaught of carnage reminded me quite a bit of Tales from the Crypt (it’s no wonder they have a Crypt Keeper expy on the cover), and I’m not saying this as a bad thing. I like Tales from the Crypt, and if you don’t then you’re no friend of mine.
Some of the tales are humorous, some are heartbreaking, all are well-written. I felt the anthology ran out of steam in the end but it’s end story closes out, rather fittingly, with Hell on earth (minor spoiler). They Go in Threes by Shane (Beneath Loch Ness) Bitterling was a personal favorite. It focuses on a smarmy loner news anchorman who is always one-upped by a female co-worker. She some how manages to always land the final interview of a dying star. This most recently happens of her interview of the actor who plays “The Whizzer” in a superhero movie (obviously meant to be a Heath Ledger expy). His investigation of her leads to a heel-face turn that makes him more sympathetic.
Travis (Mischief Night) Baker’s Pyre is my second favorite. It is about an old man named Walt who lives out in the canyons of LA in the home he and his wife shared before her death. As a wildfire spreads and Walt’s estranged children to try convince him to leave, the head-strong old bastard is determined to finish building the deck for his dead wife and waging a war against the on-coming flames. His battles with the past and the on-coming flames provide an emotional charge that ends with a heart-breaking climax.
Quite a few stories seem to express the authors frustrations with the Hollywood system. The most notable of them is Jeff Seeman’s The Cutting Room. It’s the story of a frustrated writer who kills an ignorant studio exec. The exec refuses his idea for a horror comedy about a writer who snaps from stress and kills Hollywood and developmental executives. After killing him, the writer starts to make the movie himself, only for real.
I’m not going to get into the others because part of the fun of the experience is not knowing where the stories will take you. I found it well worth reading, there is honestly a lot here to like for horror fans.