Fresh Fear, the smell of quick and sudden sweat inspired by the passion of the hunter, the fresh fear underlying the excitement, the smell that alerts you to incipient danger. You may struggle to break free but the pen strokes slash across the page before your eyes, creating a trap for your imagination. Which way do you run? There is no escape; indeed, you will find yourself bound by these macabre tales.

This book made me uneasy; it’s just too big and too good. Beginning with a substantive introduction by W.J. Renehan, the anthology is 450 pages in all, twenty-eight tales from horror’s heaviest hitters, names like Scathe meic Beorh, Robert Dunbar, Lily Childs, Lincoln Crisler, Thomas Erb, Carole Gill, Lindsey Beth Goddard, K Trap Jones, James Ward Kirk, Shaun Meeks, Christine Morgan, Billie Sue Mosiman, Chantal Noordeloos, Don Noble, WH Pugmire, Jack Dann, Brandon Ford, JF Gonzalez, Dane Hatchell, Charlee Jacob, Tim Jones, Roy C. Booth, Axel Kohagen, Shane McKenzie, Adam Millard, William Todd Rose, EA Irwin, Anna Taborska—

–and did I say Ramsey Campbell, seriously, Ramsey Campbell.

I can’t think of any other anthology that I’ve reviewed where I had to name every author in the book because there were no low points.

Not to say that I wasn’t disappointed, disappointed that the editor, William Cook, didn’t slip one of his own dark thrillers into the mix. I’m always looking for a new story by William Cook. This anthology proves he’s not only a master of psychological thrillers and horror fiction, he can also edit an anthology that is so big and beautiful it’s frightening.

A few of my favorite stories – Of course I must start with J.F. Gonzalez, Love Hurts, the topic is so edgy I almost felt guilty reading it but, like many of the stories in Fresh Fear, it was so beautifully written the horror crept up on me easy; Charlee Jacob, Locked Inside the Buzzword Box, because I love clever surreal stories that tangle meaning and horror; W.H. Pugmire in Darkness Dancing in Your Eyes played on my fear of mirrors delightfully, this is a trip I will take again for the chills; James Ward Kirk’s Block is again a very clever story which is so well written the horrors kind of seem normal, until you think about it; Shaun Meeks contributed a stand out story in Perfection Through Silence, and I love Billie Sue Mosiman’s voice in Verboten. I’d be hard put to choose a favorite. But it would be my pleasure to give Fresh Fear another read and see what my favorites are this time.

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