Disclaimer – I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Elliott tried to agree but couldn’t find his voice. Something about the way Bill’s mood could switch so fast frightened him. One minute, the old rocker would be completely normal, chatting and shooting the breeze, and the next, he’d spit nails. Mood swings, Elliot thought. Something that burdened a lot of rock stars, it seemed. He’d thought that watching Bill Jennings on tape or on stage was intense enough, but being alone in a room with the man, and at nighttime for that matter, downright terrified him.
Praise for Brain Dead Blues – “Not content to conquer the rock music world, Matt Hayward has now turned his attention to dark fiction, and how much richer we all are as a result. BRAIN DEAD BLUES is everything you’d expect from a rock star turned horror writer, documenting not only facets of the music world but also the darkness that can result from obsessions both creative and violent. I have long been a fan of both the music and the man behind it. Now I’m a fan of his writing too.” – Kealan Patrick Burke, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of THE TURTLE BOY, KIN, and SOUR CANDY
I was lucky enough to win a small Twitter contest that Matt Hayward was running to get this collection of horror shorts for free, and I’m very glad I did. Outside Stephen King I think it’s the first horror shirt story collection I’ve read and I can honestly say that I am far from being disappointed.
Brain Dead Blues consists of 12 short stories, each unique and unexpected in it’s delivery. This set really has something for everyone whether you like the tried and true monsters of vampires, zombies, and werewolves, or you want to read something new like sci-fi, the evil of Irish mythical creatures, or the terrors of a mindless popular song. The horror! You’ll find it all and more in this Brain Dead Blues. I wasn’t expecting what these stories had coming. Any horror fan thinks they know all the avenues you can find a vampire lurking, all the dark, foggy woodlands that a werewolf might appear, and it’s rare to be really surprised as to where a story goes, but I definitely felt it reading Hayward’s work.
I won’t go into each story because that would spoil the fun but the ones that stood out for me were ‘That’s The Price You Pay’, ‘Cordyceps’, and ‘Hunger Pains’. Each of these stories deal with concepts I was familiar with but in a new and refreshing way. There’s no rehashing of old tropes in Brain Dead Blues, just a fresh perspective on them and it can often be something that seems so obvious, but that needs Hayward’s prose to really draw it out.
Hayward’s strengths lie in his ability to sculpt a setting in double time. Whether you like the stories or not, you can’t deny that you find yourself feeling the texture of the air around you, the heat of the sun, the cold of the very atmosphere. Whether it’s the deep South in America or the mountains of Wicklow, it’s never hard to get a sense of the place and feel of the characters in his stories. Counter to that, personally, and this may just be nit-picking, but having my own knowledge of the music world made the music centered stories a little dull for me. Hearing about the industry, fans, bands, and the ‘magic’ of the creative process, and the tortured rock souls that long for the good old days, wasn’t my thing and perhaps if the business side was a little less in-depth I would have liked them more. But the insidious side of those stories still held strong even with that dislike.
What I would have liked to see more of in this collection was satisfying endings. This may just be me wanting longer stories from him, but it did feel that a couple of stories ended quite abruptly, sometimes when you felt that something really messed up was about to happen. But wanting more can hardly be seen as a bad thing really, can it? I guess that’s why I was delighted to see that he does have longer works out and I just bought a copy of ‘Practitioners‘ by Matt Hayward and Patrick Lacey. I can’t wait to get stuck into it, it looks just like the type of thing I’d like – cults and weirdos galore. You can stay tuned for that review ASAP.
Matt Hayward is a Bram Stoker Award-nominated horror author and musician from Ireland. You can find Hayward on Twitter at @MattHaywardIRE and can find his books online at the usual places, I would recommend giving him a go.
What do you think of horror story collections? What would you like to see more of? Do the veteran monsters and ghouls need to die for good, or do we just need fresh takes on the concepts?
If you have a horror/dark fiction/sci-fi/thriller novel, short story, or collection you would like me to review, please get in contact!