Cauldron Gristle

I’ve had this one for a while. Blackmore sent it to me in appreciation for my reviews of his first four Mountain Man books – and maybe for buying them all except the first one.

Actually, I read this right before The Majestic 311, but I thought it was no longer available for sale, so I wasn’t going to review it. However, I found out you can still buy it on Amazon.

Low Res Scan: Cauldron Gristle, Keith C. Blackmore, 2011.

Cover by Neil Jackson

Before he achieved indie author fame (and eventually getting a movie deal) for the Gus Berry aka Mountain Man saga, Blackmore was a writer of short horror fiction, and this anthology collects four of his early works.

The whole Mountain Man saga started in with the short story “The Hospital” which I’ve already reviewed.

Eat” is an interesting horror story about the world of championship eating. Our hero is Ricky “the Juggernaut” Mobera, and his agent brings him news of a way to make a name for himself among his fellow “gurgitators” and maybe earn $50,000. The mysterious Mr. McIntosh is putting on a major competition in front of a live audience with a tv broadcast later. It may even be a chance for Ricky to meet Amy, another competitor he’s sweet on. But, when he arrives for the match, Ricky finds there have been some rule changes.

The ending of this one was memorable and caught me by surprise. I don’t know too many stories on the horrors of eating too much. As an aside, no, the competitors aren’t all obese freaks which conforms to the one competitive eater, an amateur one, who was a slender-framed lawyer.

Expansion” shows a Blackmore’s early interest in apocalyptic stories. It starts with a university professor in Nova Scotia having his history lesson interrupted by a power outage. But things get much weirder after that. A giant wave starts sweeping over land and something huge emerges from the ground. The professor and students head for the hills. Is it an alien invasion? The revenge of nature? This story, however, is ruined by a joke ending which not only isn’t that funny but also is a joke used in one of science fiction’s most famous novels.

Ye Olde Fishing Hole”, with wishes to be granted and a multigenerational cast, has the feel of a modern fairy tale. Local legend has it that, if you can reel a lake monster in, it must grant your wishes. And Burt’s wish is for enough money to save the family farm. So, under the rules, Burt straps himself to a deck chair anchored on a wharf and casts a line while his son helps out. This is a novel blend of weird rural lore, horror, and fantasy in a contemporary setting.  

The final verdict is that, with three of four stories worth reading, Blackmore can also produce memorable short fiction – and not just with zombies.

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