John Foster has been cutting a swath through the horror genre for the last few years, beginning with his wildly macabre noir-revenge-amnesia tale, Dead Men. I didn't get to read the critically-acclaimed Mister White so when I was asked if I would review his collection, I jumped at the chance.
The opening tale was one I am quite familiar with, having been one of the initial "Yes" votes when we accepted it over at Shock Totem years ago, in it we venture by train on a journey to Detroit by way of some passes that are otherworldly and full of monsters. "Burial Suit" concerns a the son of a man killed by mobster's and the supernatural and violent revenge exacted. "Talk To Leo" gives us a troubled man who does not speak and his ventriloquist's dummy who maybe says too much.
"The Willing" is one of my favorites, in a bleak future where we have been invaded and seemingly driven back to caves by aliens, a group of rag-tag soldiers craft a plan to call up an ancient evil, a dark and hungry god to conquer the invaders. This one is mad as hell.
In "Meat" a group of smugglers crash land on a planet where there are no other forms of life save for trees. Trees that hunger for flesh and thirst for blood. "Girl Six" involves an interrogation of a man possibly involved in the deaths of a trawler crew. But what happens as the questions fly and the answers wrestle them to the concrete floor is a wild and psychotropic miasma of surreal/governmental conspiracy is exhilarating. "Red" is one of the wildest alien invasion scenarios I've ever read and also one of the most brilliantly slapstick.
"Dead on Sunset Strip" gives us a group of hippies at a rock show in the tale end 60's/early 70's and when an outbreak of the living dead consumes the city (the world?) how can these stoned -free love folks possibly survive? "A Lamb To Slaughter" Is a wonderful sliver of surreal and deeply troubling horror as a man is hired to travel the country and witness executions. We close with the title tale, 'Baby Powder" in which a couple who run a paranormal investigation scam, meet their match in a house so haunted it has a reach of miles and miles.
Foster creates believable worlds, populated with realistic characters. Even the wilder scenarios ring true given the prose he uses to render them. With a blade that has a razor-sharp extreme side and a softer quieter weird side, he just cuts his way through. I already knew I was a fan of his work, now I am absolutely positive of it.
Baby Powder is available from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing
From the author of Dead Men and Mister White, John C. Foster continues his odyssey through the horror genre with his debut story collection. Within these pages, you will board a train to Detroit on a route littered with the darkest monstrosities the mind can imagine ("Highballing Through Gehenna"); a man avenges his father's murder in a series of violent mobster slayings ("Burial Suit"); a mute ventriloquist and his chattery dummy seek a therapist ("Talk to Leo"); future soldiers summon forth an ancient evil to battle an alien menace ("The Willing"); body smugglers crash land on a world where sinister trees feed on flesh ("Meat"); an interrogation takes a strange, psychedelic turn ("Girl Six"); a special agent investigates a potential alien invasion ("Red"); the undead infiltrate the Whiskey-A-Go-Go ("Dead on the Sunset Strip"); a man is hired by a nefarious agency to witness prison executions around the country ("A Lamb to Slaughter"); and a pair of paranormal scam artists suffer when they confront true evil ("Baby Powder").