For When the Veil Drops is an anthology of short stories from the newly fledged West Pigeon Press. The stories are all pretty dark, but there’s no unifying theme or genre: horror, crime, and even surrealism are all at play here.
Multi-author anthologies, particularly when they feature relatively unknown writers as here, are probably always likely to provoke a mixed reaction. There were five stories that really stood out for me. As for the others, there aren't any stories here that are bad in any objective sense, but a number of them I found slightly ‘overwritten’ for my tastes (my inner editor wanted to cross out words quite a lot). Other readers may well have different favourites, but for the record mine were as follows:
The Chopping Block by Doug Morano. Quite a simple post-apocalyptic story, but no less effective for it. Of course stories about survivors of some apocalypse or other are ten a penny, but this one managed to be both original and quietly disturbing. One of those stories that works well because of what has been left out as much as what has been put in.
Beside Still Waters by BV Larsen. One of the two authors in the book that I’d read before (in the Pulp Ink 2 anthology) Larson’s contribution here is a crime story told by a classic unreliable narrator. I'm a sucker for unreliable narrators, but they are hard to pull off. But Larson does so with aplomb. A story about small-town life, prejudice (including our own as we read, perhaps), and revenge.
St. Mollusks by Paul L. Bates. Well this was very Thomas Ligotti (no bad thing). Like Ligotti in something like The Town Manager, this story really just describes the workings and rationale behind a very odd institution (sometimes “show don’t tell” doesn't apply!).
Thicker Than by Lydia Peever. A more ‘traditional’ horror story, this hit all the right notes for me. Well written and atmospheric, in a genre where atmosphere is a must.
Oh Abel, Oh Absalom by J.R. Hamantaschen. The other author I’d read before; and I’d probably say this is the best story by the him that I have read. It’s the longest story in the anthology, a novella told from the point of view of some lowlife who by any standards is morally dubious. He comes up against a group of people who do have morals – but a moral code that to modern sensibilities seems even worse than his immorality. It's a set up that makes for truly uncomfortable reading - there are no good guys here, or anywhere implies Hamantaschen.