Blood & Gristle

By Michael Louis Calvillo
Bad Moon Books
ISBN: 978-0-9844601-0-6
2010; $21.95

When I received this for review, the name Michael Louis Calvillo was one that I recognized, but couldn’t place. That is not meant to be a slight against the author, but I read so many books and short stories that unless what I read is truly memorable, the author of such work sadly slips through the cracks in my overstuffed memory banks. Well, I’ll tip my hand a bit early about what I thought about this book by saying this; after reading Blood & Gristle I don’t think I’ll have any problems remembering this author’s name from here on out.

Blood & Gristle is a collection of twenty very strange short stories. The book, by Bad Moon Books, is an attractive trade paperback made even more fetching with the inclusion of disturbing ink illustrations that start off each tale by artist Daniele Serra. Now that the niceties are out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff, and good stuff this is, if at times downright bizarre.

“Head Two” starts off the collection and is a good example of what you can expect in this book. It’s a very short tale, only four pages, but it’s focused, intense, and wonderful in its weirdness. Without giving too much away, imagine kids and severed heads. Oh don’t worry, it’s not what you think, it’s weirder than that.

Another story I really enjoyed was “The Box”. It starts off with a teen that was a lot like me when I was a youngster so that right away got my attention. The kid finds the titular box on the doorstep of his house and at first I thought the story would be a riff on Matheson’s “Button, Button”. It’s not though, and Calvillo’s story is very much its own and a wonderfully bizarre one at that. It’s also one of the longer stories in the book.

“Evolutionary Principles” was another tiny tale that I liked a lot for its efficient prose. It’s about a woman watching a man commit suicide and how it affects her. Another short-short (there’s a lot of stories here that come in under the five page mark) was “Gell-Us-See” which seemed to be a bit of insanity captured in words about the green eyed monster that lives in all of us. Another surreal shortie was “Consumed”, a story ostensibly about a man trapped under a pile of rotting corpses (yummy), but underneath its putrid surface there’s a bit more to the tale than that.

The last story I want to shine the light on is the final one in the book, and the one that gives the collection its title – yet oddly it doesn’t quite seem like fiction. “Blood & Gristle” is a tale about a man coming to terrifying grips with his own mortality and how he tries to cope with it. Namely, that man becomes a writer, presumably of dark and horrifying things. Hmmm, could this be a bit of an autobiography, by chance?

I thoroughly enjoyed Blood & Gristle. There wasn’t a stinker in the bunch, although some stories were a bit too weird even for me upon first reading. However that just gave me an excuse to read them again. In addition to the quality of the writing, I like the juxtaposition of very short stores in between the longer, meatier ones, and as mentioned the art was a very nice touch indeed. I can recommend this book to any fan of weird horror fiction and as I said, I’ll definitely remember the name Michael Louis Calvillo. If you read Blood and Gristle I’m positive you won’t soon forget it either.

– Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons

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~ by darkdiscoveries on July 6, 2010.

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