BY JOHN BODEN
Any self-respecting fan of the weird horror should be familiar with the name Matthew M. Bartlett. Not only has he carved quite a name for himself in the wildly weird end of the pool but he has created what could be a signature mythos, his tales (often times scalpel-sharp shardy things that edge under the fingernail of your mind and cause painful unease) involve the town of Leeds and usually in some respect WXXT, an sub natural/supernatural occult radio station.
First coming to my attention via the amazing collection, Gateways To Abomination and then with last years brilliant Creeping Waves, Bartlett has quickly become one of my very favorite authors. With Dead Air, we get a collection of early works concerning our favorite fucked-up town in new England. These are admittedly early experiments or forays into the events and lives that fall within the broadcast area of WXXT. I must admit I was slightly hesitant, looking at it as the literary equivalent to the music industry ploy of "Hey Band X is shit hot right now, their last three albums have been huge, let's get all their early demos and package them up and put them out to sell!!" While it usually proves financially shrewd in effort and outcome, from a product quality standpoint, there is often suffering.
This is not the case here, while there were maybe less than a handful of tales here that didn't wow me, the majority were filled with disturbing images, abominable actions and creepy characters. Of the forty or so tales here (some quite short) there is more grotesque fodder for thought than many full fledged novels. Dead Air contains fragments and character descriptions, public service announcement and advertisements. This makes a boil down of sorts difficult and not all that helpful. What you have here is almost the work of a deranged documentarian. The work is simmering with historical hysteria and lovecraftian lineage. It is a curtain yanked back from a small town cowering in the glow if burning family trees and secrets unkept. It is brilliant., brilliant, brilliant!
I love that now, even three books into his world of haunted radio signals and occult activities in a small town, a town where men turn into goats and the dead usually aren't all that quiet or still, I find that I can't wait for the next one. I find the overall premise so intriguing and haunting that upon finishing the most recent offering, I am wanting the next. He can't put them out fast enough for me.
If you're unfamiliar with Bartlett's work, you need to remedy that, start here or there. Just start reading him. Also worthy of mention are the wonderfully creepy illustrations by Yves Tourigny and the gelefully crayola creepiness of the cover art by Brendan O'Connell.
Dead Air is available directly from the author or Amazon.
Five years prior to the publication of Gateways to Abomination, Matthew M. Bartlett put out a book called Dead Air. That book is now extremely scarce. This volume contains most of the unpublished work from that book, a few dark poems, and stories and fragments that later appeared in Gateways to Abomination and Creeping Waves. It also features magnificently creepy artwork by Yves Tourigny, as well as Tom Breen's original introduction. Witness the early days of dread magus Benjamin Stockton, and of his demonic radio station WXXT, with all its guts, worms, wriggling things, and voices from the dark