About BONE MEAL BROTH:
The world is full of horrors both real and imagined. BONE MEAL BROTH adds a few more.
The nine stories in this collection vary in style and content, but all of them strive to unsettle.
Inside BONE MEAL BROTH you'll meet a P.I. who works the dark streets of a post-biological-cataclysm New Orleans, a sleazy glamor photographer with a pest problem, and a misanthrope who's just made the most important (and deadly) purchase of his life. And those are the heroes.
You'll visit the grotesque inhabitants of America's backwoods and shrink from the quiet terrors of suburbia. No matter your dark preference: a cup of BONE MEAL BROTH will hit the spot.
It seems peculiar to use the word "breezy" to describe a collection of deeply dark and disturbing tales of short horror, but that's the adjective that leaps to mind. Not "lightweight" in the sense that there was no substance to them, but "breezy" in that they flew by, slipping down the throat of my mind like sliders from some kind of infernal White Castle.
First, some generalities. Cesare has an incredible command of prose, and the way he assembled words and phrases reminded me of an orchestral conductor. This isn't workmanlike prose, this is art.
As for the style, I wouldn't really classify any of these as extreme horror, but neither are they quietly restrained Victorian spook pieces, either. I hate to use a term like "middle-of-the-road" because it implies mediocrity (and these stories are anything but) but their scare levels are somewhere between 4 and 7 on the terror spectrum. Gorehounds like myself will find a lot to enjoy but I don't think average, non-horror types should feel intimidated, either.
Now, a look at some of the specific stories. As with any collection, there were highs and lows. Nothing was truly terribly, but a few of the weaker stories elicited a "meh" rather than a bloodcurdling scream.
"Pink Tissue," on the other hand, was the standout of the lot. Set in a post-apocalyptic New Orleans populated by mutants who have become the de facto norm, this noirish body horror piece packed a punch and managed to sketch out a world in a few thousand words better realized than most sci-fi movies can do with a couple of hours and a multi-million dollar budget. I sincerely hope Cesare revisits this setting in the future.
"Bringing Down the Giants" was a fascinating creeper. I was a little bit lost on the nature of the creatures. Were they toys brought to life? If not why did they so closely resemble one of the protagonist's childhood toys? In any case it takes a conceit played for fun in countless cases of children's fare like "Ferngully" and "Epic" and turns it on its ear with the result being rather grotesque.
I know now where Cesare gets his reputation. As a primer and an introduction to the Cesarean section of the horror world, BONE MEAL BROTH is definitely worth checking out.
About Adam Cesare:
His nonfiction has appeared in Paracinema, Fangoria, The LA Review of Books and other venues.