First published back in November of 2016, British author Duncan P. Bradshaw’s ‘Chump’ offered up a collection of zombie short stories from the man who knows more than is probably healthy about the subgenre.

Millie – 2 Pages
Young Millie was a prepper.  She believed the apocalypse could come at any time, so she prepared for it.  Unfortunately for Millie, when the day did finally arrive, she was dressed as a bear.  Not the best attire to be caught by the end of the world in...

Zombie-nut Duncan P Bradshaw kick starts his tongue-in-cheek zombie collection with a comical poem of hapless bad luck and the zombie apocalypse.  A wonderfully witty offering to get the undead ball rolling with.

Cure What Ails Ya – 19 Pages
Thomas S Flowers III was a travelling salesman.  I say ‘was’ because the man is no longer alive.  You see, when he rolled into Lobo offering up his patented miracle potion – a milky liniment he named ‘Flowers Powers’– the local goons didn’t take too kindly to his charlatan salesmanship.  Indeed, anyone foolish enough to incur the wrath of the Martin brothers found themselves filled with lead and flung into the ten-foot-square ditch they had for just such an occasion.  And that’s precisely where Thomas ended up.  Shot and flung, quite unceremoniously, on top of numerous lime-covered bodies, with all his miracle concoction cast over his still cooling corpse.  Of course, it doesn’t end there for poor old Thomas Flowers III.  His miracle juice had, as it turned out, been the real deal.  And as the sun set over Lobo, so the inhabitants of the pit came out to eat…

There’s something about zombie stories set in the Wild West that just works.  Maybe it’s the abundance of fresh corpses in this spit & sawdust dog-eat-dog environment.  Maybe it’s the already haggard faces, or the plenitude of good ole service revolvers.  Whatever it is, Bradshaw’s capitalised on the setting with the sharp eye of a man who knows his zombies.  From the outset the tongue-in-cheek wit is at the forefront of this flamboyant tale.  There’s lunacy aplenty as we chow down on all the fun and frolics that come with the Wild West turf spliced with the recently woken dead.  Seeing a couple of familiar names in the story (authors Thomas S Flowers III and Jeffery Xavier Martin) only adds to the overall horror-fan charm of the piece.  In a nutshell it’s cracking start to the collection.

28 Seconds Later – 15 Pages
It’s May 1984 and with the Seoul Olympics starting in a little over three months, Inspector Dmitri Slutsky has been sent to the Khimki Sports Preparation Facility in the district of Novogorsk to report back on the facility’s progress.  Doctor Yedlin is tasked with taking the already disgruntled inspector around the underground complex, showing him the various athletes in training, and the effects of the work they’ve been doing to enhance the athletes’ performance immeasurably.  However, it soon becomes apparent that the facility has been infiltrated by a hostile.  International spy and renowned fornicator, Percy D’Anger, is there to steal a vial of the radioactive concoction that the scientists have been administering to the athletes to turn them into superhumans.  But it just takes one small mistake for the vial to smash, and in doing so, all hell breaks loose…

Ahhhh…the wacky imagination that gets exhibited in a Bradshaw story.  You’ve gotta just love it.  So here we have a weirdly wonderful story that bundles in an outlandish mad scientist plot to create superhumans for the next Olympic Games, with flush-hungry infected subjects ala ‘28 Days Later’ (2002).  Of course there’s more than a moderate-sized dollop of surreal comedy thrown into the mix.  The characters are all exaggerated fruit-loops seemingly creating chaos wherever they go.  There’s a Sean Connery-esque James Bond character humorously named Percy D’Anger whose Scottish twang raises an irrepressible grin in itself.  But it’s the fast-paced stupidly over-the-top storyline that really gives the tale its wiings (so to speak).  That and all those zombie fanboy homages that Bradshaw sneaks in wherever possible.  100% undiluted undead entertainment.

Red Sabre One – 5 Pages
Their mission was of the upmost importance.  Captain Ferguson knew that he would more than likely be leading his men into a bloodbath.  But it was something that had to be done if they were to extract the target alive.  With the streets above them awash with hordes of the undead, the tunnels would be the only viable route.  But sooner or later they’d have to emerge.  And when they did, it would be showtime…

For this short, sharp, shock of grizzly zombie apocalyptic mayhem we see Bradshaw donning a far more ‘gritty-horror’ hat than the previous offerings in this collection.  Here we have zombie horror in all its visceral, blood-soaked glory – with a team of Special Ops guys performing a mission of absolute importance (the target for the rescue isn’t revealed until near the end so I’ll keep schtum on that one).  Bradshaw shows once again that he’s more than capable of throwing out a hard-hitting horror if the moment calls for such.  Yes it’s short, with a particularly singular narrative – but it does the job and gets the adrenaline pumping good and proper.  Lock and load boys, it’s time to bust us some undead ass!

Senseless Apprentice – 12 Pages
Ever since that bloody girl ripped his throat out, he’d been aimlessly stumbling around the place, banging on doors and feasting on the flesh and internal organs of anyone he could lay his rotting hands on.  Although, as he’d found out quite early on, all of these activities were done by some ingrained motor function.  The man he’d once been was still in there.  Still in the head of the undead walker.  But he had little to no control over the actions of the reanimated corpse he was now stuck within.  And god could it be frustrating…

Loved this one!  It reminds me of David Moody’s ‘Amy Steadman’ storyline from his ‘Autumn: The Human Condition’ (2005) collection.  Seeing through the eyes of a zombie rather than the survivors is a barely used and damn interesting perspective to play with.  Here we have a voyeuristic narrator churning out an internal monologue about the misadventures of the hapless zombie his disembodied voice is stuck within.  The singular dialogue is rich with desert dry wit and wonderfully engineered characterisation.  It’s quirky and quick witted with just the right about of tragic horror interwoven.

Dead Drop – 35 Pages
Everyone had a job to do in the new post-apocalyptic world.  Whether it was defending the fenced off communities from hordes of the undead, or keeping the towns fed and in check – everyone had a role to play.  For Ceepher, his was being a deliveryman.  He was one of the few who would venture out into the hostile landscape outside of the gated communities – transporting packages between the towns in exchange for rubber bands.  He’d just dropped off a replica of Elvis’ skull when he was approached to make his next delivery.  It was one for a serious amount of elastic bands.  He didn’t know what the package consisted of, but he couldn’t refuse such a payment.  However, it would prove to be his toughest and most challenging drop yet.  Sometimes, in an undead world, it’s worth knowing exactly what you’re carrying…

By far and away the longest and most substantial of the stories in the collection, this twelve chapter tale is much closer to Bradshaw’s earlier offering – ‘Class Three’ (2014) – with the gritty and grim zombie apocalypse backdrop offering up a veritable banquet of unrestrained violence and gore.  The premise for the story is inspired.  A deliveryman in a zombie apocalypse!  You’ve just gotta love it.  At first the story begins with the usual Bradshaw-esque side dish of quirky comedy accompanying the main storyline.  However, as the tale progresses, the quick-witted comedy soon slopes off, to instead be replaced by some much more hardboiled post-apocalyptic violence and properly downbeat undertones.  With the introduction of some hardass bikers, the discovery of a pair of desperately hungry survivors, and flashbacks that continue to haunt our protagonist – the story continues to plummet into the more gritty depths of post-apocalyptic fiction.  Luckily it’s an area that Bradshaw knows very well, and one which he continues to deliver the goods in.  Leave your grin at the door for this one…things are gonna get pretty damn nasty.

Charity Begins At Home – 7 Pages
Sadie had been going door-to-door collecting on behalf of HOARD – Helping Orphans Affected by the Reanimation Disease.  Rumour had it that most of the residents of Brown Street had remained in their homes since day one of the outbreak.  They’d gotten used to hiding behind closed curtains and bolted doors, under siege by their former neighbours and friends.  Although Sadie had not had much luck in collecting ration slips so far today.  She was about to call it a night but Sadie only had one house left to knock on along the street.  Luckily the elderly resident at number ninety-nine seemed quite harmless and hospitable. So much so that, against her better judgement, Sadie decides to dismiss the golden rule of door-to-door collecting just this one time and enter the man’s immaculately kept home…

Ah yes, here we have a well-used premise for a horror novel tweaked and reworked ever-so-slightly to fit in with the zombie context.  It’s almost a modern day post-apocalyptic reimagining of ‘Hansel and Gretel’ (1812) in a way.  Yeah, you know there’s something not quite right about this doddery old fella’s home.  He’s too welcoming.  Too eager to have the young charity worker step into his home.  Even with all these suspicions flying about, the impact of the final reveal is as devilish as it is utterly entertaining.  Just plain old simple horror fun executed to near perfection.

Gone Fishin’ – 11 Pages
It was early in the morning and Adrian had taken his young son, Cameron, out onto Lake Shotbolt for a spot of fishing.  However, as the minutes turned into hours without the merest hint of a bite, Cameron starts to tire of the father/son fishing expedition.  However he knew one thing that’d help pass the time - the story of how his father and mother met.  Even though he’d heard it a hundred times already, he still loved that story.  Especially when the undead fish start biting…

Classic Bradshaw!  I frigging love this guy.  Here we have ‘River Monsters’ meets ‘Return Of The Living Dead’ (1985) with a touch of ‘Jaws’ (1974) shovelled in for good measure.  There’s just so much to love in this cranked-up zombie fish romp.  And when you think you’ve pretty much got the story’s number, Bradshaw throws in a fuck-off big octopus called Great Kath Hoolu (geedit?!).  I kid ye not, this is one wild rollercoaster of a fun-packed undead ride.  This sort of stuff is Bradshaw at his best.

Whackos – 13 Pages
Ever since society had been reclaimed from the walking dead, some ten months ago, over at Radio Freedom radio presenter Slim Chuckney has strived to air the crème de la crème of death-defying reports from what very nearly was the end of the world.  For this next edition of ‘Get The Skinny’, Slim Chuckney, together with his trusty recording engineer, Rich Hawkins, have managed to organise a ride-along with two Welfare Acclimatisation Care Operatives.  Men who have been tasked with going into the many thousands of abandoned houses, and dealing with the effects of three years’ worth of neglect.  Every day they tackle, head on, the past that many have forgotten.  And all too often they come face to face with the ghouls who came so close to wiping humanity out.  Now it’s time for Slim Chuckney to experience one of these dangerous house clearances.  WACO’s Daryl Duncan and Adam Millard are going to let Slim and his listeners experience the grizzly after effects of coming away from the zombie apocalypse in one piece…

What a story to end the collection on (aside from the short bonus story that’s tagged on at the end that is).  Bradshaw’s cleverly used a post zombie-apocalypse story to bring the whole shebang to an end.  Very fitting indeed.  And what a story!  First off what we have is a dialogue rich and dependent tale that’s foundations are firmly set in a bed of horror.  However the story itself is predominately built using some pitch black comedy for its bricks and mortar.  The clear up job after an apocalypse is never going to be a fun task.  King approached the trivialities of it in his iconic novel ‘The Stand’ (1978), but here Bradshaw has gone in deeper.  He’s waded in, pulling out the stinking guts ‘n’ all of the aftermath.  It’s dark and dirty, but somehow Bradshaw manages to keep the tone jovial.  Of course using real life individuals from the horror community as the key characters in his story only enhances the jocular nature of tale further.  All in all, it’s an absolute corker of a story to finish the collection with.  And what an utterly entertaining undead romp it’s been.

Take-Out – 11 Pages [Bonus Story]
They’d had a beast of a night out drinking, and now the two lads were feeling the brunt of the ensuing hangover.  They’d been texting each other most of the morning when things started to turn strange.  At first it was unclear what was going on.  Matty had to piece together his mate’s texts to get his head around what was happening.  But as each text came in, Matty started to form a picture of the horror that was transpiring.  As their conversation continued, it left an altogether human document of the hell that was suddenly gripping the world…

I love the originality of this.  The whole story is told via a text conversation.  In fact the whole tale is displayed exactly as it is on a mobile phone.  And so, via the two lads’ banterish conversation, we get to witness the zombie apocalypse (or what we assume is the zombie apocalypse) in a very modern day, real life way.  Because of the format it’s presented in, the use of everyday text abbreviations and language, what gradually transpires feels that much realer.  It’s kind of akin to a ‘Found Video Footage’ horror film – only in paperback format.  And by Millie’s stinking bear suit does it work.  Creepy and clever with a good dollop of humour thrown in.  And now I think of it, that pretty much sums up most of Bradshaw’s work. Damn damn fitting.

The collection runs for a total of 165 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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