Author: Michael Gore

Publisher: AuthorMike Ink
ISBN: 978-0-9852146-6-1

Michael Gore’s chosen penname has the virtue of absolute honesty: what it promises is what you get.  There is gore aplenty here, in every form splattered over walls and over human bodies, which more often than not have been turned inside out.  This is not a book for the tender-hearted or the squeamish, for those who refuse to know that their hamburger was once a living creature, or that they themselves are, when it comes down to it, meat.  A mortician knows better than most just what the human body is, and Gore will find any excuse to think up ways to open it up and make us remember.

These are not subtle stories; Gore is not in the business of slowly creeping us out, and readers looking for the haunting chills of ghost stories had best abstain. No, these are not creep-out stories, but gross-out stories, testing the reader’s stomach as surely as any cult horror film.  Beyond the reek of blood – though not blood on its blood, blood still seeping from ragged flesh, from flaps of skin and curdling around bones jutting from the body – these tales have the distinct smell of the campfire: they are the stories young boys tell each other in the dark, testing to see who will last longest without admitting to feeling sick, testing too to see whose mind is able to go furthest into the primal recesses and find something so gruesome that the other can’t top it. 

In fact, if Gore’s work brings anything to mind, it’s the heyday of the horror comic, those Tales from the Crypt that prompted Seduction of the Innocent and general censorship of the comics, setting that art form back for decades.  One recurrent theme in Gore’s stories that brings these comics to mind is the protagonist who does something horrible for what he or she thinks is a good reason, only to discover at the last moment that they were wrong.  Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that Gore is a mortician – crypt keepers have their standards to keep up, after all.

So from the woman slicing herself to pieces during a bedbug scare to the neighbour whose blow-up doll turns out to be – or at least to have once been – a bit more human than one would like, from the wife whose irritation at her overweight husband leads her to practice some DIY liposuction to the aptly-named yarn Zombies!, and to the final unexpected story that ties everything together, Gore offers up a feast disgusting enough for the most devoted fan. 

The one caveat I would have is that to my mind, Tales from a Mortician could use a solid edit.  Quite aside from the occasional typo or grammatical infelicity, time and time again I stumbled against sentences that I thought needed just a tiny tweak, a look from a second eye, to polish them up and improve the book immeasurably.  Though it is clear from the introduction and the suitably unsettling acknowledgements that Gore does not like to hand his stories over to others – in fact, according to the introduction, it is astonishing that we have them at all, since usually Gore simply slips his stories into the caskets of those he is burying – it would do his stories no harm.  If his job is to make corpses look good for the funeral, why not an editor to make sure the tales look good for the audience?

However it may be, this is a good choice for readers looking to test their mettle.  Just make sure you haven’t eaten recently, and that you didn’t buy tripe for dinner.

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