Mandy Screams at A Disgusting Supermarket of Death

Opening a new book is like shopping at a new market. We enter with both excitement and trepidation, browsing for the obscure off-brand bargain or trendy organic fare to satisfy a craving — perhaps one we didn’t know we had. The hunt is even more compelling when the book is labeled “speculative fiction.” The latest book by James C. Harberson III, A Disgusting Supermarket of Death, will satisfy the appetites of horror fans intrepid enough to throw away the list of items for which they routinely scan the shelves and try every free sample they’re offered.

Describing the 22 stories in this raucous anthology as eclectic would be inadequate. The point of view, tone, pacing, and plot are as disparate a mix as one can imagine, but once readers stop seeking the sanctity and security of the familiar, they hear the undeniable voice of a truly talented writer. One of the first things you’ll note about Harberson’s style is his vast vocabulary, but no matter how many times you have to rely on Google or do a deep dive into the dictionary, it’s unlikely you’ll find his predilection pretentious. The subject matter of the stories aids in the author’s refusal to be literary in any traditional, academic sense, but the writing transcends genre. Three or four stories in, you may be jolted by a character’s choice or an unexpected ending; at that point, you realize the intellectual nature of some of the passages has disarmed you for the betrayal or the bloodbath that was always inevitable.

We can’t share the supermarket’s full inventory, but here are a few of the specials:

“The Ice Cream Man,” featuring a man whose OCD sends him on a somewhat accidental murder spree reminiscent of I Love Lucy antics as the cover-up of one problem snowballs to a bigger one and eventually to the heights of hilarity before the protagonist matter-of-factly reveals his trauma while enjoying a frozen treat; “Easter Eggs for Christmas,” a satiric — an eventually satanic — statement on formulaic holiday films, and “Gertie,” set on opening day of a museum dedicated to a serial killer. When asked how he could justify monetizing something so distasteful, a character in the latter perhaps speaks for Harberson, if not the entire horror order, when he says, “We hope preserving depravity’s fruits for public inspection will keep future generations from bearing them.”

Replete with cultural commentary, Harberson’s tales hit harder than any morality tale “from the crypt,” yet they’re remarkably free of the sociopolitical agendas now commonly presented as unbiased entertainment. His gruesome grocery store is a judgment-free look at what we’re putting in our carts, and he’s assuredly finding voracious consumers for his work.

TwitterFacebook Youtube
%d bloggers like this: