- RAIN 056 -

First published back in February of 2008, Mark McLaughlin and Michael McCarty’s ‘All Things Dark & Hideous’ was chapbook number 56 from Rainfall Books.  The chapbook was limited to just 100 unnumbered copies, all of which were signed by creator, cover artist and Rainfall publisher Steve Lines.

Sex, Drugs & Rot ‘n’ Roll – 12 Pages
Meat Wagon were a group like no other.  The music they played was a mix of heavy-metal/industrial-hardcore/glam-goth.  However, it was the members the group comprised of which made them so utterly unique.  Four of the most dysfunctional individuals to have ever walked the planet.  ‘Gothik Gustave’ was the 3ft tall lead singer, with a tongue so long there were rumours he’d had it transplanted from an anteater.  Then there’s the guitarist ‘Critter’ sporting his cat-like vertical pupils and slight harelip.  Drummer ‘Metalhead’ was 7ft tall and constantly wearing metallic masks over his face.  Finally, you had ‘The Lady In Black’ – an ex-crackwhore playing the bass.  As a group they stormed the charts with an array of maniacal songs involving bizarre lyrics inspired by the copious amount of guuku juice they consumed.  But it was their guuku juice sponsored concert at Jonestown where things really went crazy.  Out of this world crazy…

This really is a wonderfully entertaining read.  Think ‘Spinal Tap’ meets ‘Throbbing Gristle’ or some other wonderfully bizarre experimental concoction to that note.  The story delivered in much the same way as the mockumentary film ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ (1984).  It’s told through a series of faux interviews with the band members, their management and crew.  There’s snippets of wacky-as-hell lyrics thrown in, crazy stories of rock ‘n’ roll antics, and of course, what happened at the Jonestown concert.  The whole thing is magnificently inspired, awash with creative bizarro originality and a thirst for wacky comedy.  This my friends is an absolute joy to read.

Military Mite – 6 Pages
The US military were under increasing pressure to cut back on spending.  Funding for any military operations and research was now under intense scrutiny.  Dr Stanley Prince’s work, in fact his whole employment with the Pentagon, had been brought into question.  Luckily, he’d been working on a project that could well be the country’s most destructive weapon since the A-bomb.  He’d been breeding special dust mites with devilishly enhanced abilities.  Where the microscopic parasites usually only consumed dead flesh, this new breed ate both dead and living flesh.  The implications for military use were mindboggling.  He just had to prove it…

Another absolutely superb and utterly entertaining short.  Here we have a good scoop of ice-cold sci-fi horror, with an eccentric military scientist creating a deadly breed of flesh-eating dust mites.  It’s all very wild and over-the-top in a 50’s B-Movie kind of way.  And all the better for it.  In the short we see the authors throw in a gruesome death (oh, it had to be done) along with laying the seeds for some absolute carnage to follow.  Love the idea, love the B-Movie feel to it all, just wish there was more of it.  After all, if flesh-eating dust mites doesn’t have “modern day classic” written all over it, what does?

City Of Two-Thousand Sins – 6 Pages
Desert sands had buried the name of the city years ago.  Although, ever since nuclear war and global warming had practically destroyed the world, almost every city had lost their name.  Who cared what somewhere was called when it was just another hellhole?  However, in this particular nameless city, Jeb was the official sin-counter.  His task was to count the sins of those who dwelled in the remains of the city.  Recording them in his Sin Book.  Each Sunday he would read and number the sins of the people.  Counting them so they may all eat…should there be enough sins for their new master…

What a story!  This one really is a damn good read.  A post-apocalyptic backdrop with a world of starving survivors doing whatever they can to get by.  A world ripe for corruption.  McLaughlin and McCarty paint such a vivid picture of this hellish new existence.  Within a few pages we’re sucked into the monolithic desperation that overwhelms everything.  But it’s the gradual unravelling of the purpose behind the sin-counting, the weekly ritual these people undergo, where the proper creepy chills comes in.  This is executed to absolute perfection.  The realisation of what’s behind it all.  The horror.  Outstanding.

Night Of The Squealers – 9 Pages
Keaton was killing the boredom with another game of solitaire when the alert came in of another space barge docking.  Although it would be a while before he and his two Choom co-workers would need to do anything with the shipment.  That was how it worked in the Tranquillity Inc storage bay.  First the shipment would be processed upstairs, then the goods were unloaded and brought down to Keaton and his non-human co-workers.  Although, for some reason it appeared to be taking the Tikkihottos upstairs longer than normal.  And they weren’t answering their phones.  They better have a good reason for the delay.  Although, to be fair, Keaton would never have anticipated the delay would be down to an invasion of flesh-eating rat-armadillos, squealing as they swarmed into the Tranquillity Inc distribution centre…

The stories in this chapbook are as wonderfully entertaining as they are varied.  Here we have a wacky sci-fi horror delivering a 1970’s pulp threat.  The author’s take a little time setting out the futuristic backdrop, before the squealing rat-armadillos turn up to wreak absolute havoc.  It’s all delivered with a tongue-in-cheek approach, never taking itself too seriously, but nevertheless producing a healthy helping of grisly and gruesome horror.  It’s basically a bit of wacky sci-fi horror fun, with a completely over-the-top antagonist delivering the thrills and spills.  Oh, and strange silvery vines growing out of stuff for good measure!  What more could you ask for?

The Ten Klown-Mandments – 11 Pages
Karl Lawrence Downy was born to a no-good mother.  Cast away as a mere baby after a rat chewed his face to pieces, the young infant was found by a clown couple – Mazey-Belle and King Komedy.  They took the baby into their care, seeing his disfigurement as a sign.  A future in clowning to hide his facial scaring.  They named him Klowny.  However, when the clown family lost their jobs at the circus, the corporate direction King Komedy wanted to take the family in didn’t fit with Klowny.  Instead the clown takes a different path.  A life of crime.  But over time Klowny’s crimes grow bolder.  And always, they’re aimed at the corporate body his parents joined – PharoahPlex.  Before long, Klowny and his posse of young reprobates have started stealing criminals from prison.  With his gang growing with each day that passes, the next step would be to set up a new community.  There they would worship the Great Klown.  And so, the beginning of KlownTown and the Church of the Red Rubber Nose was formed…

Talk about a wacky story!  This one’s got more outlandish, over-the-top lunacy in it than you can shake a brightly coloured pogo stick at.  In the tale you see the life and escalating madness of our wacky antihero – the lunatic Klowny.  It’s a crazy story, told from when he’s discarded as an infant, all the way to his departure from our planet as the maniacal leader of a community of outsider klowns.  All through this the authors lay down an increasingly elaborate and increasingly wild narrative, with the klownish antics becoming bolder and bolder as they take on this corporate powerhouse.  It’s certainly a lot of fun, following the entertaining escalation of these criminal clowns – somewhat akin to The Joker and his gang of ludicrous thugs.  Also, for some unexplained reason, throughout the tale the authors begin every word with a ‘k’ which would otherwise start with a ‘c’.  So, now we have klown kriminals kongregating in a kultish kommunity.  It’s odd (like the story) but does lend a certain kultish vibe to the tale, which definitely works in its favour.

Bride Of Bugboy – 7 Pages
His name was Nicholas Boulton, but the tabloids dubbed him Bugboy on account of his uniquely ugly features.  To be fair, the rest of his body was fine, it was just his face that drew grimaces everywhere he went.  So, having had enough of his parents’ constant disapproval, Bugboy left home in search of something better.  Which is how he stumbled upon the middle-aged farmer – Wayne Kramer and his drop-dead gorgeous wife Apple.  They lived in the town of Deeps.  A community supposedly founded by Apple’s family – the Kluggs.  A town where the men were all downright ugly, and the women all drop-dead gorgeous.  Bugboy felt right at home…

The two authors end the chapbook with a delightfully jocular story told from the perfective of our ugly-as-sin narrator – Bugboy.  It reads like the set-up of a coming-of-age story, only with a ‘Twilight Zone’ sci-fi vibe to it.  The premise is as comical as it is ingenious.  Ripe for wacky amusement, akin to something zany bizarro writer Duncan P. Bradshaw would dream up.  But it’s ultimately the voice telling the story, the pacing and cheeky banter, that makes it the witty success that it is.  A great short tale to finish the chapbook with.  This is properly good stuff.

DLS Summary:
This chapbook really does deliver a belter of a short story collection.  McLaughlin and McCarty’s writing style clearly complement each other perfectly.  Indeed, this is some of the best work I’ve seen from the authors.  Each story has the sort of comical side to it you’d expect from McLaughlin, that is except for ‘City Of Two-Thousand Sins’, which is also perhaps the highlight of the chapbook.

There really are no fillers in this short collection.  Each tale is top-notch, wonderfully original and hugely different from the other tales in the collection.  And they’re all, without exception, 100% entertaining from start to finish.

The chapbook runs for a total of 51 pages.

© DLS Reviews


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