I’m a rather plodding reader to begin with, but last year I was given an additional handicap, my adorable and precocious son, Ripley. In 2015, he transformed from a relatively inert, little pod into a full-blown toddler. Looking back, it’s amazing that I read anything at all. But after discounting all the random short stories and board books, I somehow managed to read two entire books.

1. Be Prepared: A Practical Handbook for Dads, by Gary Greenberg and Jeannie Hayden. (Sincere thanks to my sister-in-law for this one.)


2. Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts by Orrin Grey.


This is a review of the latter.

The standard for modern horror fiction right now is very high, perhaps higher than it has ever been. And there is a certain pressure among that community of authors to create works that are constantly more grotesque and more despairing than the next author. (I say all this with the deepest possible affection for the genre.) And it is in this world that Orrin Grey distinguishes himself, not by coaxing his readers into the same black abyss, but by offering something more unique, and frankly, more fun.

Mr. Grey probably belongs–and he probably would be quite flattered for my saying so–in the same category as Mike Mignola, someone who is steeped in the same dark waters, who knows all the films and folklore, but uses these influences to create a highly intelligent form of pop-horror.

I also admire his spirit of sharing. Horror authors tend to Easter egg their influences by disguising them as subtle nods to the savvy reader. I’ve even attempted to do that myself, though I may be considerably less clever. Mr. Grey actually declares himself outright in an afterword to every story.

This is Grey’s second collection, and again, his personality seems to thrive in his stories—eclectic, exciting, and at their center, a heart of darkness.

Credit also to Ross Lockhart and Word Horde for consistently publishing some of the best, weird horror out there, and to Nick Gucker and Scott R Jones for making it look so snappy.