[Review] – The Essential Sick Stuff

By Ronald Kelly

This is the type of collection that is perfect for a few things: an introduction to Ronald Kelly’s fiction, making you nervous to fall asleep in the dark, and a great way to experience a piece of the good horror that existed throughout the 90s. This was my introduction to Kelly, and from the very first story, within the first two pages, I was shocked and knew the title of the collection wasn’t anything less than a warning. The first story is a vignette, but it set the tone perfectly for what was to come.

In his introduction, Kelly maps out the parts of the book perfectly. He tells you his reasons for writing to shock the reader during the early 90s, which I’m glad he did. I’m not one that enjoys a story when I know the extreme violence is written for the pure sake of shock. I want some characters development, interesting atmospheres, and snappy dialogue. That being said, the intro made me appreciate the shock-for-shock-sake and I really enjoyed the stories. Even the ones that sent shivers through my flesh.

This collection covers so many different types of horror, from a killer creature on the side of the road, to infesting spiders, to science experiments gone wrong, and good old southern-fried horrors based on actual people and events. But the one that was my personal favorite, has the funniest name of all: The Nipples in Dad’s Toolbox. At first the title made me laugh, anyways. Then, after I started to read it, it sucked me in like any good serial killer story.

The story begins with our protagonist, a young twelve-year-old boy, who finds a baby jar in his father’s rusted toolbox. In the jar are two plugs of flesh — nipples. Who’s and why they are there is later answered, but the way it’s plotted, the snappy dialogue, the way Kelly took such a bizarre idea and fleshed it out to what it became, is a testament to his ability in both storytelling and inducing terror.

Ronald Kelly isn’t talked about enough. He’s an author that published eight novels with Zebra Horror Books (If you’re unfamiliar with that publisher, seriously do yourself a favor and do some digging online about Zebra and Ronald). He’s a gift to any and all horror fans. You may have heard of his magnum opus, though. One that is revered as his greatest work – FEAR. Some of the most influential writers today love Kelly. Check out this collection, and you’ll see why.

Grade: B

Amazon Link

Review by Patrick R. McDonough 

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