When author Rick Hautala passed away unexpectedly in March of this year, his friend and fellow writer Christopher Golden wasted little time in initiating a tribute anthology. The project would quickly evolve into a two-volume set titled Mister October.
Golden’s haste was about more than celebrating Hautala’s legacy. Golden knew something that few others were aware of at the time: Hautala, successful and respected as he was, was not immune to the financial pitfalls of the professional writer’s life, and he’d been forced to let his life insurance lapse a short time before his death. He left behind a family that was going to need a little help, and Golden worked hard to make sure they would get it. A vast array of writers answered his call for stories with an amazing assortment of classic gems, rare reprints and a few never-before-published tales. JournalStone stepped up to publish the book and agreed to donate 100% of the profits to Hautala’s family.
And now – a mere seven months after Hautala’s passing – Mister October is a reality.
Volume I is packed cover-to-cover with an amazing display of talent. Neil Gaiman, Joe R. Lansdale, F. Paul Wilson, Jonathan Maberry…that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The authors supply stories that reflect the themes that haunt Hautala’s work, themes of loss and oppression and the difficult choices we often have to make, or sometimes get made for us.
I could spend thousands of words praising the stories in this first volume, but your time would be better spent reading the stories themselves. With that in mind, I hope you’ll indulge me just long enough to spotlight a couple that give a good representation of the quality available.
“After the Elephant Ballet” is the kind of poignant, surreal brew that only Gary A. Braunbeck could concoct. It’s the story of an author of children’s books, his alcoholic mother, and a burned girl. It evokes both the hope and the sadness of an ancient folk tale, and illustrates the concept of finding happiness in the midst of grief – a message those closest to Rick Hautala no doubt need to hear right now.
Peter Crowther’s “Thoughtful Breaths” is a touching story following the ups-and-downs of a typical family, a journey people undertake together despite its inevitable conclusion. Crowther examines the power that faith – whatever that faith is placed in – plays in helping people move on from the crippling loss of their loved ones. Although it has only the barest hint of the supernatural, it’s easily one of the most powerful and affecting stories in the collection.
Mister October Volume I (and Volume II, which we’ll look at next week) is a fine showcase of the depth of talent, and the breadth of heart, that exists within the horror community. This volume alone is a fitting tribute to Hautala’s impact, both literary and otherwise, and it’s only half of what Golden and JournalStone have to offer.
Mister October Volume I is available now from JournalStone Publishing in digital, trade paperback and hardcover editions. A special limited edition, signed by EVERY living CONTRIBUTOR, is also in the works.
Blu Gilliand is a freelance writer of fiction and nonfiction. He covers horror fiction at his blog, October Country, and contributes interviews to the Horror World website. Follow him on Twitter at @BluGilliand.