By Scott A. Cupp
This is the 163rd in my series of Forgotten Books.
Frequently when I review the books for the Forgotten Book column, I use a book I have read before and share my love or hatred of the book right here. Last week’s book Beastly Bones was new to me but not the writer. This week everything is new. I was looking for a book to read and talk about and, for some reason, this one caught my eye.
It fit several parameters I had established. It had to be short. Check. It had to have horror. Well, there are five stories here and several of them have horror elements. So, check. And it had to grab my attention. HUGE CHECK!!!
I loved this book. Robert T. Jeschonek was not a name I was familiar with. I had gotten the book from the publisher, PS Publishing, in a grab bag when they offered some of their back stock at a reduced price. Several small press publishers will do that occasionally as a way to move slow stock, odd items and to raise some quick cash. As a collector, it’s a great way to get some odd things I might not have initially ordered, but at a reduced price, I can take a chance on it.
And PS is one of those publishers I really like. I’ve got a lot of their books — many in the signed limited state. This is one of them. There is a hardback edition of 200 copies signed by Jeschonek and then this one with a dust jacket limited to 100 copies signed by Jeschonek and introducer Mike Resnick.
It was the introduction that sucked me in. I’ve met Mike Resnick many times over the years and I enjoy his work as a writer and an editor. Resnick starts his introduction remembering those guide-to books of the 80’s and 90’s that said stuff like, if you like Poul Anderson, try Gordon R. Dickson. He remembered that it said something like “If you like R. A. Lafferty, buy up all his books and keep reading them because no one else is remotely like him,” or something like that. He says that could apply to Jeschonek too.
So, with that type of fanfare, I had to see what was going on. Before we get to the stories, let me say, Resnick is right. If anything, he understated the case.
These were mind-blowing stories, the likes of which I had not seen in a long while. First up was “Something Borrowed, Something Doomed” which blew me away. This is the story of genebillies living in West Virginia. Simple mountain folk know for their wicked sense of humor and gene splicing (“wildshinin’”) abilities. One of their traditions is to try to make a couple’s wedding into the most horrible day possible with the idea that, if you survived that, your marriage could survive anything. Our narrator is Vicky Dozen, a master wildshiner who is about to marry Bigfoor Tourniquet, who may be her equal. She is hoping the wedding is up to her mother’s best effort which reproduced the 12 plagues of Egypt in the wedding hall. Boils, locust, frogs and blood rivers were the least of it. Vicky is hoping her five brothers don’t do something stupid and, of course, they do. They end the world and someone forgot to protect the wedding chapel from that.
“Dionysus Dying” deals with a legendary saxophonist meeting his idol right at his death bed. Bobby Ball has enjoyed success in his past and when his idol Omar Wild sends for him as the one man to perform his final work, he sees possible new fame and success.
“Food Chain” deals with a woman having to deal with the idea that her food comes from a living, talking human being called a Ration who can make his flesh taste like anything and regenerate whatever you eat. She has her reasons for hating the Ration, though.
“The Day After They Rounded up Everyone Who Could Love Unconditionally” is very short: 750 words. It didn’t work for me.
The final piece is “Playing Doctor” features Dr. Hildegarde Medici, female mad scientist, bent on world conquest and her assistant Glugor (”Glue”), who has been in love with her since she was six years old. But of course, she does not realize it. As her plans fail and bad news happens, Glue has a surprise for the mad doctor. A touching story of world domination and love.
This is an amazing book and I loved it. I had never heard of Jeschonek but I will be searching out more of his work. And you should too. Kudos for PS Publishing for putting out this little gem. They do this on a semi-regular basis so you should check them out too.
Read something new, bold, and different. You owe it to yourself.
Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.