Welcome to the Show – Edited by Matt Hayward
The catch to this anthology is simple and effective, as it brings together well over a dozen voices from modern horror with a common thread: the Shantyman, a dive bar with live music c. 1860-2018 (and beyond). The first story is the “oldest” and does a fair job of setting-up the “why” of the energies and possibilities this one location will host over a 150+ year span in San Francisco’s Bay Area scene.
As with all such anthologies, some stories are better than others. Technical mishaps are few, a testament to quality writing and editing, and while a couple of entries stand-out as objectively superior tales, for the most part, enjoyment will run with the reader’s tastes in sub-genres.
No spoilers, but you’ll find some variation on: curses, vampires, demons, zombies, aliens, and one or two more psychological entries—one of the best stories, by Rachel Autumn Deering, is entirely mundane… but her skill and the emotional impact make her non-supernatural contribution as disturbing as any slithering tentacle or leering blood-soaked abomination from the beyond.
It’s impossible not to recommend this book, and the 4/5 stars, which I find I give to many “excellent” anthologies, is predicated on the assumption that, because the authors bring so many diverging tales and styles and themes to the anthology, which seems to share nothing more than an “evil” location, a handful of stories may fall short for a given reader. Quite possibly these will be different stories for different readers, however, hence the strong recommendation.