Review of The Beard and Other Weirdness by Paul Flewitt on Facebook:
“Here we have an imaginative short story collection from Australian-based British author and editor, Steve Dillon. What we have on offer is a collection which recalls such horror and dark fantasy writers as Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker and HP Lovecraft. Each story is finely honed and designed to creep into your psyche, gnawing away at your subconscious as Dillon weaves otherworldly horrors from the shadows of the real world. The Beard is the titular story, but far from the only highlight here.
“Ever wanted to question what goes on in the forgotten parts of our towns and cities? I think Steve Dillon has been exploring on your behalf, and has returned with interesting tales to tell.”
Another great review of The Beard and other Weirdness –
It seems very fitting that the first story in Steve Dillon’s “The Beard and Other Weirdness” begins with a quote from Clive Barker, being that this particular chilling collection would not be out of place rubbing shoulders with Barker’s works. The cover alone brings up good memories of the Books of Blood and Cabal. I will be honest, it was the artwork painted by Dillon himself which piqued my interest from the start.
Set mostly in the fictional English town of Bliss, this compendium of short stories, novellas and a smattering of dark poems, complement each other nicely, while remaining eerily unsettling. A broad and varied selection of his work, Dillon presents us with the literary equivalent of a well-matured, full-bodied red, accompanying a luscious, bloody steak. Each story leaves you salivating — eager for more from the very first taste.
Dillon is a well established and adept horror fiction writer — he knows exactly how to suck you in and bleed you dry. His writing style is not only gleefully dark, but curiously poetic – there is beauty here as well as terror. Each story is masterfully crafted and thoughtfully arranged. A number of characters reoccur in other tales, and intertwine with one another. They help to weave a dreadful tapestry of the town in its bleak entirety. Little nods to popular culture and other horror fiction bring a sense of realness to the stories. An almost, but not quite, breaking of the fourth wall. My favourite in the collection is the eponymous “Beard”, where long-suffering Denzell Darwin’s life gets progressively worse with each new hair he sprouts.
It’s clear that Dillon has drawn some strong inspiration from a smorgasbord of old-school horror classics, but his skills of reinvention mean that while we can identify the sources of his inspiration, we experience his stories as something gripping, exciting and brand new. As a result each story is as refreshing as it is cleverly nostalgic.
Dillon writes dialogue incredibly well, so much so, every different accent, pause and emphasis lingers in the reader’s ears, as if spoken directly from the page. His characters are well-rounded, often larger than life — the descriptions so good we can almost smell the reek of them. If I had one criticism, it might be that some of them follow a certain stereotype, but all good horror knows its tropes, and Dillon uses these to toy with our expectations — just when we think we have it all figured out, he throws us a deadly curve ball and sends us flying down a completely different path. Whether through 15,000 words or 100, Dillon knows how to maintain an intense and relentless pace.
Finally, like a good cigar after a fine meal, the collection is rounded off by a selection of harrowing poems. No naval-gazing teenage angst here, these are miniature gothic melodies, short enough to read in a few moments, but creepy enough to wriggle around inside your brain for hours.
As a fan of Barker, Campbell, King and Koontz, this collection positively thrilled me. There is absolutely no doubt that Dillon is a horror master, and his style is honed and polished. If you like your fear fiction to linger, “The Beard and Other Weirdness” will certainly scratch an itch.
Thanks, Tabatha Wood – Writing & Creativity for the review, and for these kind words in particular:-
“…chilling collection would not be out of place
rubbing shoulders with (Clive) Barker’s works.”
The Beard and Other Weirdness By Steve Dillon 2018 – Fun collection of short stories and novellas April 7, 2019 review by Kevin Johnson
“The Beard and Other Weirdness is a collection of novellas, short stories and very short stories mostly centering around the fictional town of Bliss… The titular tale, being my favorite, focuses on Denzell Darwin. He was recently lost his mother and switched jobs and is struggling just getting through the days. He encounters a frantic, odd looking bearded man on his way to his job and it just gets more difficult from there for him. This encounter sets off a string of events that originated for us, with the bearded homeless man. Little Bastard introduces us to Dean Monroe who is having odd dreams that end up revealing themselves to him over a short time. Circus Runner immerses us to the mystery of the happenings of a circus/carnival and the eerie occurrences not seen by the public.
“A fun aspect of this book is that characters reappear throughout in the stories and you get a feeling of the town as a whole.”
“Definitely recommend this!”
The Beard and Other Weirdness By Steve Dillon 2018
– Interesting collection March 19, 2019 review by Naomi Downing
“an interesting collection. I really liked the mix of novellas, short stories, and poems.”
“These 23 tales include classics by Lovecraft, a chapter from Verne, and an array of modern stories about things in lakes and oceans that generally don’t belong there – and certainly don’t belong with humans. Mermaids are represented, but never as lovely and kind maidens of the oceans. Good old-fashioned sea-monsters show up, as do supernatural influences of all kinds. Clive Barker’s The Madonna is, as you’d expect, the hardest to forget, although the frank, bleak language of Shannon Laurence’s A Cold and Carnal Hunger makes it almost as memorable. Then we have the science fiction tale of an ocean turned black, sentient, and deadly, an oil rig that seems to have disturbed something awe-inspiringly scary, and a menace never quite understood that the giant steampunk-y exploration ship in Marie Michaels’ The Music Box wishes it hadn’t found. A Thai boxer lost at sea meets the legends of his people, strange disgusting things wash ashore in England, a cryptozoological tale unfolds in South Africa, and people are lured to destruction – or new life – by the magic of the ocean itself.
“There is something here for all lovers of the waters who wonder what’s beneath them.”
On The Refuge Collection – Heaven to Some anthology preview by Aaron Sterns, co-writer of Wolf Creek 2 and author of the prequel novel Wolf Creek: Origin
“The Refuge Collection is the most ambitious shared-world horror series to come out of Australia. A horror collection that is both relevant and worthy, a rarity in an often insular field. Not only are there a vast array of stories woven together by some of Australia’s finest writers – Kaaron Warren, Martin Livings, EJ McLaughlin – as well as international masters Paul Kane (UK), Tracie McBride (New Zealand), Lee Murray (New Zealand also) and even a surprise entry by weird fiction luminary, Ramsey Campbell, but proceeds benefit those seeking real life refuge.”
“A horror collection that is both relevant and worthy” – Aaron Sterns
An interesting anthology revolving around a “basement” theme. January 10, 2018 Review by J.J. Questore
“When my friend Chad Lutzke told me that he had a story in a new anthology, I just had to read it. Thanks to Steve Dillon for the opportunity to receive an Advanced Reader Copy for a review. Before I begin, I also want to offer my sincerest condolences to Steve for the passing of his mother – my thoughts and prayers are with him.
“BELOW THE STAIRS is a collection of 21 stories, all revolving around that terror of terrors, the basement. For some reason, parents just love to torture their kids by relentlessly having them go down that long series of stairs, usually poorly lit, to get folding chairs or some such thing – always in the far corner. Yes, I was one of those kids. My aunt and uncle had a half finished basement when my grandmother lived. But under the stairs was an alcove – with no light – that I was constantly asked to visit to get things. Not much scares me anymore, but the thought of going down there sends shivers down my spine. If you’ve never experienced that, I envy you.
“So, here’s my breakdown – I’m going to do it a little different than my usual anthology reviews (trying something new). I’m going to write a quick blurb and then give a rating.
“The Thing in the Cellar by David H. Keller – Parents may want to take a cue from their children. You might not think somethings down there, but kids know better. (A)
“The Root Cellar by Toby Bennett – I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be in a basement with regular wall. But if I ever find myself in a root cellar with dirt walls, you can bet I won’t be pulling at things sticking out of them. Not so for Jodie. (B)
“The Basement Apartment by Mark Allan Gunnells – One of my favorites. I’ve recently started reading Mark after getting a taste of his work in another anthology and will be seeking out more from him. This was a great story about the perils of moving out on your own. (A+)
“Trapped by Theresa Derwin – A robber gets more than he bargained for breaking into a house. I felt the tension was there, with no real payoff. (B-)
“Purgatory in Perpetuity by David Turnbull – A girl has to take up the mantel of caring for her grandmother under unusual circumstances. Another favorite of mine. (A+)
“The Cellars by Ramsey Campbell – Truly not sure how I felt about this one. First, who takes a date into catacombs? Be that as it may, some weird stuff happens down there, including a room that shouldn’t be there. (B-)
“Breeding Black by Chad Lutzke – Why this man isn’t on the NY Times Best Seller list is beyond me. Someone needs to open their eyes and check Chad out. This was such a great story about… well, if I actually say, I’ll give it away. (A+)
“The Memory Man by Steve Dillon – Usually any story that starts with whiskey spilling (alcohol abuse in my book) would immediately get an F rating from me (can you tell I’m a whiskey drinker), but not Steve’s story. This was such a mind (insert colorful expletive here) that I can’t begin to do it justice here. (A) [would have been an A+ but there’s that whole wasting whiskey thing]
“Bloodworms by Noel Osualdini – This one was plain weird. It started out very interesting and then wound up like a cross between Lovecraft’s Cthulhu, and Tim Burton’s Sandworm in Beetlejuice. (B)
“Below Deck by K.N. Johnson – A great “ghost story” on a boat. Creepy, and enjoyable. (A)
“An Endless Echo in Every Empty Space by Matthew R Davis – In any anthology, especially one as large as this one, there’s bound to be a “clunker”. This story was that for me. I didn’t get the time-jumping, and the story just didn’t hold my interest at all. (D)
“The Vaults by Katherine Wielechowski – I love to go on Ghost Walks whenever I get a chance. However, after reading this story, I can guarantee I won’t be going on any that take you below ground. (A)
“Creakers by Paul Kane – Look, anyone that has Clive Barker’s endorsement to write about (and within) the Hellraiser canon deserves to be in anything he submits to; and this is no exception. Ray has to deal with selling his parent’s house along with whatever is attached to it – is it memories or something else? (A+)
“The Bone Vine by Erin Cole – Wow, this was just out of the park weird. Meg’s brother-in-law finds an artifact that cures everything, after a little sacrifice, including death. But what is the true cost, really? (B+)
“The Stairwell by Chris Mason – OK, admit it, if you’ve ever stayed at a hotel, or apartment complex, you know there is always that space under the stairs on the first floor, in the stairwell. And how many of us want to look under there, but don’t? Well, Peter knows exactly what’s down there, and doesn’t like it. (A-)
“Below Ground by Charlie Walls – Lots of stories have been written about a race of beings that either exist alongside Man or before Man. Some call them angels, some call them demons, some call them masters, and others call them gods – but almost every culture has something like that. This is a story about what happens if you actually see one when you aren’t supposed to. (A-)
“Hell’s Event by Clive Barker – Does this man even need an introduction? You cannot have even the slightest interest in the horror genre and not know who Clive Barker is. This is a very interesting story about a race for democracy. (A)
“The Watchman by Brian Craddock – I enjoyed this one. Just when you thought you had it figured out, Brian throws you for a loop. While it was quite sad, it was enjoyable, none the less. (A)
“Eyes of Glass by Stephen Herczeg – OK, right below clowns and children of the corn, dolls are in the top five of creepiest things. Dolls that are possessed, well anyone see the movie Annabelle? (A+)
“Under the Pyramids by H.P. Lovecraft with Harry Houdini – I’m a huge fan of Lovecraft and Houdini, but this story left me flat. Harry is in Egypt and after being abducted discovers a realm where monsters dwell. (C)
“Warding by Kev Harrison – A nice way to end the anthology. Witchcraft, spells, bindings, and finding things in a new house that you shouldn’t. (A)
“There you have it. This was a HUGE tome that took me a while to get through. There’s some very good stuff between these covers, but then some that just didn’t have that wow factor for me.
“What I do like is when an anthology has a theme like this. Rather than random stories, they all have something in common.”
“It’s interesting to see what authors come up with to match the editor’s vision.”