2013 was a hell of a good year for horror fiction.
That’s the year I picked up a copy of Dark Visions, Volume 1 – the debut horror anthology from Chicago-based Grey Matter Press. Right away I was reminded of the terrific anthologies of the 80’s – many of which were edited by the late great Charles L. Grant – with one key difference:
This one was even better!
The writers involved were mostly unfamiliar to me, as was the publisher, but once I finished the book I was already tracking down more of their work, and I was eager to read more from Grey Matter Press, impressed by not only the quality of the writing, but the appearance of the books, which were flawlessly produced, featuring high-quality artwork on the covers and superb interior design. On the shelf or on your Kindle, it was clear that this new small publisher meant business, and was determined to run with the big dogs. Or werewolves – this is a horror blog, after all!
Grey Matter Press was founded by editor Anthony Rivera, who (thank God – or perhaps Black Phillip?) grew weary of the advertising biz, and in 2012 pursued his true passion – dark fiction – and started Grey Matter Press. Together with co-editor Sharon Lawson, the duo began cranking out one great anthology after another, quickly becoming horror’s Lennon and McCartney, earning accolades from readers and writers alike, as well as nominations for the prestigious Bram Stoker Award.
A couple of my favorites from their early collections are worth noting, as I feel they serve as excellent examples of the quality of the stories Grey Matter publishes. “Release,” from Dark Visions 2, is simply the best zombie story I’ve ever read! Wholly original, and deeply – profoundly – disturbing. Written by Peter Whitley and Jane Brooks.
“Violence for Fun and Profit,” by Gregory L. Norris, appears in Splatterlands: Reawakening the Splatterpunk Revolution, shatters a well-established truth about this blood-soaked horror sub-genre: that the stories are thick with gore, but thin on plot and character. Luckily, Grey Matter Press readers can have their cake AND eat it too. Just make sure that cake is nailed down good and tight before reading this one! To say more would spoil the fun, suffice to say it involves a killer for hire who REALLY enjoys his work!
What these two stories have in common is originality, and you’ll find that in buckets with GMP.
DREAD: A Head Full of Bad Dreams – their recently-released “best of” collection – is a must-read whether you’re new to Grey Matter’s offerings, or an established fan. Read this one and you’ll understand precisely what I’m talking about in terms of quality and originality. A few of my very favorite stories from this book include Rose Blackthorn’s “Through the Ghostlands,” “Amnion,” by John Everson, “Mister Pockets,” by Jonathan Maberry, and “Wormhole,” by J. Daniel Stone. Every story in this book is excellent, and you’re likely to find yourself reading them all more than once – they’re that good!
My favorite anthology published by Grey Matter is a single-author release – John F.D. Taff’s The End in all Beginnings, a collection of five novellas. I should add the word ‘brilliant’ to that description, because this book is easily on my Top 5 All Time Favorites List!
Mr. Taff’s work transcends genre, proving that horror fiction can be literary, that it can earn its place in the world of “respectable” writing. First, the guy writes beautifully, his prose vivid and sharp – like a high-quality chef’s knife. And he knows how to use that knife, folks! His words bring his stories to life through well-crafted characters and the haunting landscapes where they reside. Then those words turn on you, and he uses that knife to gut you, to expose your heart before ripping it out and showing it to you! All in the most beautiful of ways.
John’s short stories can be found in several Grey Matter Press anthologies. Read any of them and it’s easy to see why he’s nick-named The King of Pain. His stories leave a mark!
we’ll see a future novel of his appearing under the GMP logo soon!
The good news is that Grey Matter Press is now publishing NOVELS!
Earlier this spring, the Chicago-based publisher released its first novel, and it’s every bit as unique as the anthologies that came before it.
MISTER WHITE, by author John C. Foster, is described as a “dark thriller,” and it’s every bit of that and more. It’s part Robert Ludlum, part Clive Barker – tightly coiled around a plot that involves spies, international intrigue, and the terrifying Mr. White, a mysterious and particularly deadly entity whose name you do not dare speak. If you do, God help you.
Actually, God can’t help you. You see, Mr. White has a habit of destroying those who speak his name in a variety of ghastly ways.
I would tell you more, but trust me – you’re going to want to read it for yourself. I never would’ve thought the horror and spy genres could endure a mash-up in any way that was remotely credible, but this page-turner expertly blends the genres, delivering a superb dark fiction novel that thrills as brilliantly as it chills!
Based on these past few years, I’m excited for what the future holds for Grey Matter Press. Barely a toddler, to use John F.D. Taff’s description, Grey Matter Press has already achieved more success in a few short years than most small publishers ever dream of, if they’re lucky enough to survive this long at all.
So pick up one – every single one – of Grey Matter’s books. And be sure to write a review. Small publishers – even successful ones like Grey Matter – stay successful because of support from their readers. So review, and share your thoughts across your social media. Make note of the stories that really thrilled you and give a shout-out to the authors! Trust me – we absolutely depend on reader feedback in order to get noticed by publishers such as Grey Matter Press.
Shop the Grey Matter Press website store or Amazon for all their titles, and look for their new anthology, I Can Taste the Blood, featuring five new novellas from authors John F.D. Taff, Josh Malerman, J. Daniel Stone, Joe Schwartz, and Erik T. Johnson! The collection releases August 23rd, 2016.