Review

Review

Book Review: You Are Not Prepared for 'Sixty-Five Stirrup Iron Road'

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This is going to be less of a review and more of a cautionary tale. I thought I knew what I was getting into when I started reading Sixty-Five Stirrup Iron Road. It is, after all, a collaboration of nine of the hardest-hitting horror authors working in the genre today: Brian Keene, Jack Ketchum, Edward Lee, J.F. Gonzalez, Bryan Smith, Wrath James White, Nate Southard, Ryan Harding and Shane McKenzie. These are not guys known for their restraint, and when you bring them all together between the same two covers, well, let’s just say the game of one-upsmanship is taken to a whole different level. 
 
I was not prepared for some of the things I read in this book.
 
Clearly I’m no prude (I doubt I’d be writing for FEARNET if that were the case). I’ve pounded down more than my share of horror novels. I’ve read about dismemberments and cannibalism and torture and vivisection and so on and so forth. I’ve read books about real killers like Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy and the terrible things they did.
 
I was not prepared for some of the things I read in this book. 
 
65StirrupAt its core, Sixty-Five Stirrup Iron Road is a haunted house story. There's something awful at the house that sits at that address, something that takes perverse glee in tainting those that feel its presence. It whips people into a frenzy, smothering all inhibitions and jacking up their lust until they are redlining in a dangerous zone of overwhelming need and desire. That desire overrides everything from common sense to concern for their loved ones, driving them to actions that end in pain and blood and death.
 
But it’s not just blood that this presence wants to spill. There is blood, yes, but it runs alongside just about every other bodily fluid you can imagine. This is not a book for the weak of stomach. It’s not a book you want to bring to work so you can take down a few chapters over your lunch break. This is a book that crosses lines and obliterates boundaries with abandon. It reads like a litany of every disgusting porn site you can’t believe actually exists – things that involve animals and drug addicts and street bums engaging in degrading and horrifying and unnatural acts.
 
In fact, as the chapters march by and the obscenities begin to pile up, the book begins to read like the kind of knock-off hackwork that is very unlike the kind of stuff these authors usually produce. As the pages turn it feels less like a cohesive story and more like a giant game of “I Dare You” that we’ve paid to watch. 
 
And you know what? They know that’s what people are thinking. I say this because, just at the point of the story where I was becoming too numb to really care what happens, the authors jump out and turn the entire thing upside-down. I’m not about to give the twist away, but what began as an intriguing ghost story before transforming into a gross-out contest transforms again into a sharp commentary on the horror genre and on the authors themselves. It’s a bold move, and it’s something that’s liable to leave a lot of casual fans cold; but, for devotees of this type of horror and these particular writers, I think it’s going to hit the mark in a big way.
 
Sixty-Five Stirrup Iron Road was obviously a blast for the writers who put it together. It should also be mentioned why they came together for this project in the first place. All proceeds from the various editions of the book are going to benefit author Tom Piccirilli, who recently survived a bout with brain cancer but is still going toe-to-toe with the obscene medical bills that accompany such a fight. Some people may pick up this book and come away thinking the nine writers responsible for it don’t have souls, but the purpose behind the book surely proves that they’re all heart.
 

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

 

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