The list of my favorite genre short-story authors hasn’t changed all that much over the years. At the top of that list are writers such as Steven King, Bentley Little, Graham Masterton, Ray Garton, Gary Braunback., and Chet Williamson. Of course there are other authors who I admire that write short fiction, but the ones I’ve listed above are absolute must-haves whenever a new collection of theirs is released.

Based on the strength of the 24 stories in Inflictions, John McIlveen is the latest addition to my list. If you live outside of New England, you might be scratching your head because his name may not be all that familiar. If that’s so, then I’ll say without reservation that John McIlveen may be the best genre short story writer you’ve never heard of.

McIlveen’s tales run the gambit of dark fiction. It’s obvious from this collection that the author has a gift for writing in many genres, specifically extreme horror, perversely comedic pieces, and eroticism. But no matter the subject or narrative, in Inflictions, McIlveen never fails to engage the reader.

Inflictions is bookended with two of McIlveen’s strongest stories, ‘Paint It Black’, and ‘Playing the Huddys’. ‘Paint It Black’ is a shudder inducing, superb horror tale delving into the issues of an emotionally battered wife, her suicide, and vengeance. The wife in this instance is a painter named, Justice, and before she left this earth she had painted one last picture that promises to live up to her name.

‘Playing the Huddy’s’ is a polar opposite tale from ‘Paint It Black’. ‘Playing The Huddy’s’ leaves readers with feelings enthusiasm, tolerance, and hope (not to mention a smile on our faces). ‘Playing the Huddy’s’ is about a group of boys who go to their local ball field to play some baseball only to discover that a local family has taken over the field. This family is large, and legendary as the Huddy’s are notoriously incestuous. When the Huddy’s refuse to vacate the field a deal is struck.—the boys will play The Huddy’s in a game of baseball. What occurs next is an unexpected and amazing read.

Between these stories there are another 22 tales that will have readers running through every possible emotion they possess. ‘Saddled Vengeance’, a western that brings to mind an even raunchier version of Blazing Saddles, and ‘The Bore’, about a man who loses it when he finds his wife cheating on him, will have stunned readers breathing through wide open mouths and looking at the pages with bulging eyes. ‘Jerks’ will have women smiling as their imaginations soar with possibilities, while men will laugh non-stop as ‘Signs’ makes its way across their e-readers. And, expect to close your eyes, sigh, and then relive the stories after reading,’ What If’, a story about a man’s recollection of his blind mother, and ‘Devotion’, about a young boy who leads rescuers to a plane crash.

Space limitations prevent me from commenting on all of the stories in Inflictions, but I can say without hesitation that there is not one bad, mediocre, or even good story in this collection, and that is because every last one of them are excellent.  If you don’t want to take my word for it, how about Christopher Golden’s who wrote the introduction or James A. Moore’s who wrote the afterward? John McIlveen’s work is regarded highly by the best in the business.

Inflictions is highly recommended.

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