First published back in May of 2018, UK based horror book publishers The Sinister Horror Company released their pocket-sized (6” x 4”) anthology ‘A Pocket Guide To The Sinister Horror Company’, which delivered original slices of micro-fiction from each of the authors the company had published work by (at the time of the Pocket Guide’s publication).

This particular version of the Pocket Guide is no longer available.  Of note (for collectors and completists) are references to the anthology ‘Sinister Tales’ and Danny King’s ‘The No.1 Zombie Detective Agency’ within the ‘Sinister Releases’ checklists contained within the book.  At the time of writing this review, neither books had seen publication through the SHC:- the former anthology not having been published (to date at least), and the latter novel not having become a SHC publication.

Introduction – 4 Pages
This is a pocket guide to The Sinister Horror Company.  What better way to introduce such a book than by telling the story of the publishers (albeit a very condensed history)?  Indeed, the introduction harks right back to 1988 when eight and nine year old Daniel Marc Chant and Justin Park discussed what they’d heard about ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ (1974) and ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ (1980).  Fast forward to 2012 and they meet up again, for the first time in a couple of decades, at Duncan P. Bradshaw’s stag do.  The introduction continues on from there, plotting the history of the publisher, to take us right up to December of 2017.  It’s the perfect introduction for such a book, getting you acquainted with the (at the time) relatively newly formed publisher and giving you an idea of where the founders are coming from with their choice in author’s and publications.

Snow - Adam Millard – 2 Pages
It’s been years since the last snowfall.  In that time, they’d become complacent.  Now, with the snow coming down, the family know they’re dangerously unprepared.  Still they must try to protect themselves.  Protect their son.  Lock and bolt the doors.  For she’s coming…

It’s always interesting when an author adopts some aspect of folklore to weave their devilish tales.  Here we have Adam Millard delivering an impressively urgent piece of micro-fiction utilising the spirit of Yuki-onna from Japanese folklore.  It’s obviously an incredibly short slice of horror, with the yōkai only having a swift appearance once the supernatural horror of the premise is revealed.  But it’s a great little shot of haunting folklore horror.  Even more impressive due to the limited page count.

Special Delivery – Jonathan Butcher – 3 Pages
The Johnson family sat around the kitchen table staring at the brown paper parcel which had just been delivered.  They weren’t expecting a delivery.  Especially not one which would tear them apart in a maelstrom of barbed tentacles and reptilian limbs…

Brilliant!  Author Jonathan Butcher continues with another remit of brutality mixed with mischievous black comedy.  A young family desecrated as they’re about to have their early morning breakfast.  The explosion of gore seems unrelenting, as the family are one-by-one slaughtered by this monstrous beastie.  Then there’s that witty twist ending that hilariously explains it all.  I said “Brilliant” and I meant it.

Pick Up – Benedict J. Jones – 4 Pages
He was hitting the bars, looking for a suitable girl to pick up.  One who’d had plenty to drink already.  One who’d be receptive to the offer of another drink.  Although of course, this drink would be spiked with a roofie.  Then it would back to his place and let the good times commence…

These types of stories are always difficult to swallow.  It’s undoubtedly the fact that this shit actually goes on all the time that makes it so disturbing.  The casual nature of “the hunt”.  The selection of a girl, like an animal picking off its prey.  It sends shivers down your spine.  Of course, there’s a twist in the tail of this particular story.  It’s a top-quality micro-read pumped with adrenaline.

Wishbone – Lydian Faust – 4 Pages
He’d been a lifelog vegetarian who’d been raised by militant vegans.  But he didn’t want to seem weird in front of her, or her parents.  So, he’d not mentioned the meat thing.  He just pushed the meat around the plate, cunningly hiding pieces under the potatoes.  But now he was being offered the wishbone!  How could he even contemplate doing this?  His brain wouldn’t let him do it.  Surely not?...

What a devious and altogether entertaining little read.  Possibly a relatively common place tricky scenario for a non-meat eater.  They don’t want to make their hosts feel awkward.  Don’t want to be seen as different.  Odd in any way.  But it’s the wonderfully suggestive twist lurking at the end that makes this quick horror read so deliciously delectable.

The Nameless Thing – Daniel Marc Chant – 3 Pages
Of the thirteen who dared utter the Spell of Imra, only he remains.  Now he sits in the cellar of a house abandoned to the elements centuries ago, writing the last entry into his diary.  He knows his time is all but up.  As the fire slowly dies, he braces himself for the end, and the beginning of a whole new nightmare…

Chant loves his Lovecraftian fiction.  He’s returned to the style and subject matter time and again.  Here we have another snippet of such.  A bleak little story filled with demonic torment at the hands of a “Nameless Thing”.  It oozes Lovecraft from every word.  The prose is spot on.  The taunting promise of a horrifying death feels almost palpable.  It’s dark, demonic and utterly sinister.

The Benefits Of Family – Stuart Park – 2 Pages
Ever since he first saw her at Aunt Carole’s funeral, he knew he wanted to see her again.  His family weren’t the sort to really mingle.  To even bother to notice each other.  But he did, and he appreciated the vision of loveliness that she was.  He couldn’t wait to see her again.  To introduce himself.  He just had to find a way of doing so…

This one’s a quirky little read.  Not really because of the plot per se, but more because of its construction.  To be honest, it’s slightly clumsy in the execution, and as such, required a quick reread (being only two pages, that’s not exactly a mammoth task).  The timeline in the story is still a tad ambiguous.  Whether this was done on purpose, I’m not 100% sure.  But it did dullen the twist ending somewhat, leaving me scratching my head and going straight for a reread to try to piece together at which point events occurred.  Nevertheless, an entertaining (albeit slightly puzzling) read with a darkly comical twist.

The Hungry Gods – Rich Hawkins – 6 Pages
The city had lost its name in the years since the end of the world.  Those that remained were lucky to have survived this long.  Over two billion hadn’t.  The next Emergence would be soon.  For David it was heart-breaking to force Max to go with him to the Selection Point.  But they had to go.  Everyone had to attend.  Humanity, in its desperation to survive, had adapted…

Phenomenal stuff!  Rich Hawkins, already a veritable master of the post-apocalyptic subgenre, offers up a sci-fi horror in a similar vein to ‘The War Of The Worlds’ (1898) only without the fighting back.  It’s bleak, downbeat, and smothered in a blanket of resigned hopelessness.  And all of this achieved in the space of six short pages!  Truly incredible stuff.  Hawkins knows his trade well.

The Thing Upstairs - Tracy Fahey – 2 Pages
It started a few nights ago.  She was lying curled up in bed, beginning to drift off to sleep, when she felt its presence in the room.  The slightest movement.  A depression on the soft mattress of her bed.  Since then she’d been sleeping downstairs.  Scared of the thing upstairs…

For atmospheric horror you can’t get much better than the prose Tracy Fahey delivers.  Here we have a short, sharp slice of micro-fiction that absolutely nails the sinister atmosphere its undoubtedly aiming to deliver.  It’s chilling and tense from the get-go.  Utterly captivating reading.  Although Fahey doesn’t offer anything more in the way of explanation.  It’s just left open and because of that you’re left wandering.  Perhaps that in itself makes it all the more chilling.

Bungee - Vincent Hunt – 3 Pages
This was his first time bungee jumping.  In fact, it was his first time ever doing anything like this.  But he was eager to please his girlfriend and show her he was spontaneous.  Even if that was a lie.  He just had to stay calm and put his faith in the instructor.  After all, so long as the bungee cord was secure, what could possibly go wrong?...

Another excellent appetiser of dark comedy.  It’s short and sweet, delivering one quick-fire assault on the senses with a burst of suspenseful horror.  You know from the outset that something’s going to go wrong.  That our hapless narrator is going to meet a sticky end.  But how?  I doubt you’ll guess correctly.  Oh, the terrible joy of watching the horror unfold.  Loved it.

Rachel And The Good Times - Andrew Freudenberg – 6 Pages
She should have learnt by now that vodka always made her sick.  Nevertheless, last night had been a good date.  Now she’d woken up at Robbie’s place next to him.  Obviously, throwing up along the side of the bed wasn’t a great start to the day.  But the remains of Robbie’s eyeball and his half-digested flesh, nestled within the rest of the splattered vomit, were evidence enough that she’d had a good time.  But the fun wasn’t over yet…

Gory, visceral and pulsing with a deviant dark humour.  It doesn’t take Freudenberg long to get down and dirty with some properly gruesome horror.  This one’s all about an opportunistic chain reaction.  Brutal violence, murder, cannibalism, and then on to the next murderous opportunity that just hands itself on a plate to our free-spirited opportunist.  Brilliantly written.  An absolute thrill-a-minute ride of gory horror.

The Stranger – Danny King – 4 Pages
He’d gone to the bar to meet a girl but ended up being stood up.  As he was about to leave, an odd-looking guy sits next to him, placing a fresh pint down in front of him and beginning to talk about his life.  Having been bought a drink, he felt obliged to stop a while and listen to this stranger unburdening himself.  After all, what’s the worst that could happen?...

Danny King’s offering is a campfire-style horror story with one of those sweet-ass kicks in its tail that instantly brings a smile to your face.  Ok, it’s short and sweet and completely one-dimensional, but that glorious twist-ending makes it a damn pleasing little read to get you grinning in horrific delight.

The short story was first published in The Sinister Horror Company’s charity anthology ‘The Black Room Manuscripts: Volume One’ (2015).

Swimming – Kit Power – 3 Pages
The world has ended and still she swims.  Her thoughts turn to her father, the lessons he gave her in the indoor pool.  All of that gone now.  The town, her father, her family.  Everything’s gone.  Taken by the wave. Reclaimed by the sea…

Here’s a sad and emotion-packed story.  In essence it’s an end-of-the-world style tale.  The story hints at a giant tsunami, although the actual enormity of the disaster is unclear.  What is clear however, is the poor girl’s predicament.  She’s trying to conserve her energy, swimming to stay alive, to find land, to survive this thing.  It feels hopeless, even though we know so little about what’s occurred.  It’s the small things Kit injects.  The prose.  The eloquence of this wonderfully emotive tale.  It’s breath-taking how much can be squeezed into such a short wordcount.  Quite incredible.

Mind The Gap – Paul Kane – 4 Pages
As a child Den’s father had told him to always keep the doors closed.  To make sure every door in the house was properly shut.  Not a single cupboard, or door should be left even slightly ajar.  Not even a slither of a gap.  When it was dark was the worst time of all, that was the most dangerous time.  It was when they might get through.  As he grew older the ritual manifested into a phobia.  An OCD which he’d accommodated all his life.  But maybe, just maybe, there was more to it than mere stories…

Next up we have Paul Kane wading in with a creepy bedtime-story style horror that toys with that age-old childhood phobia of something lurking in the darkness.  The idea the threat is always just out of sight.  Kept at bay by the simple action of closing a door.  But what happens if there’s more to it than just a story to keep your kids in bed?  What happens if there’s something that lurks in the darkness?  Kane paints a properly chilling picture of this, with a short tale that builds the unnerving suspense until that final realisation of the what’s really lurking in the darkness.  This is old school horror done right.

Dinner Time – Kayleigh Marie Edwards – 2 Pages
Stacey was more than a little irritated by Lee’s lateness at getting home.  It had become a regular occurrence during their three years of marriage.  So many meals she’d lovingly cooked, wasted.  She was just about to send him another angry text when a figure appeared in the doorway.  About bloody time!...

My, my, my is this tale a sinister little horror treat.  It’s like a nightmare sequence played out.  Another proper old school style horror for us to feast upon.  It’s akin to the stories you might hear around the campfire, only this one’s condensed right down to two short pages of mounting unease.  And then Edwards delivers the final, altogether nasty conclusion.  There’s no rhyme or reason given to why, what or how.  Just honest-to-god horror fiction to give you the willies.  Top-drawer!

Guard Against Demons – J.R. Park – 2 Pages
He’d tried to hide Pink Ted from the other kids.  Tried to hide it from everyone in the orphanage.  But they’d found out about it.  And now Pink Ted was in the bin outside.  He couldn’t understand why people always tried to take Pink Ted away from him.  They didn’t understand.  They didn’t know it stopped the monsters at night…

Oh, Mr Park, don’t you just love to play with the notion of monsters?!  This one’s classic JRP.  A mounting sense of brooding horror, with a sinister air pulsing through every carefully crafted sentence. To top it off the tale concludes with a full-blooded Clive Barker-esque signoff.  And the Pink Ted?!  The perverse creation boggles the mind.  You can’t help but admire with an appreciative grin how Park condenses so much horror into his writing.  Every sentence a finely tuned instrument for delivering the mounting terror.  Top of the class sir.  Grab your gold star from the fella with the hooked hands.

Death – Matt Shaw – 1 Page
Death sat upon the hilltop, watching as millions of people went about their lives.  His job was an age-old one.  He had his duties.  He had his tasks.  The world relied on him.  But he knew deep down, he himself had no one…

Matt Shaw, modern-day master of extreme horror and all things nasty, dons a slightly different hat than normal to deliver a poignant piece of flash fiction to end the collection on.  One thing you’ve got to love about Shaw is how he can flip a character.  How he’s always wanting to see something from a different angle.  We’ve seen this so many times in his work, and here’s just another prime example of that.  Wonderfully written and despite the lack of “horror”, delightfully Shaw through and through.

DLS Summary:
The SHC family is one that’s grown year on year since the publishers first formed back in 2015.  Over those few years we’ve seen a spectacular array of releases come out of their doors.  Despite so many releases coming from them, never has a SHC publication been dull, run-of-the-mill, or uninspired.  However, with so many books being published by so many different publishers, as well as self-publishing ventures, it’s not easy to get your message heard and convince readers to give your books a try.  That’s where this book comes in.

For an introduction to the publisher and the SHC family as a whole, this book absolutely nails it.  If you’re not sure whether their books are for you, or maybe which author to give a whirl first, then this offering of micro-fiction from each does the job perfectly.  Furthermore, each and every story, bar none, is thoroughly entertaining.  They deliver bubbling pots of imagination, tantalising, eerie and often sinister horror, along with absolutely zero padding.  For a collection of short, sharp, slices of horror, you really can’t go wrong.  The perfect travelling companion for any good horror fan’s pocket.

The collection runs for a total of 126 pages (sized 6” x 4”).

© DLS Reviews





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