Shallow Graves by Robert Essig and Jack Bantry REVIEW

A short story collection that isn't afraid to push boundaries.

shallow graves

Published by Death’s Head Press, Shallow Graves is a short horror story collection from writers Robert Essig and Jack Bantry. The book itself contains eleven short stories and spans over the length of 160 pages.

Though the size of the book may deter some readers for its length, Shallow Graves is a rather unique collection, both for its creativity and its brutality. These stories range from the oddly hilarious, like a werewolf who stops his monthly transformations by getting stoned, to the downright sinister; a first person account of being kept prisoner in a lunatic’s basement. Some of these stories do touch upon taboo subjects like sexual assault, so keep that in mind when picking up this book.

The quality of the stories remains consistently strong throughout, and all are enjoyable pieces of writing in their own regard. Some of them can hinge on daft ideas (the previously mentioned stoner werewolf) to pleasant familiar settings before the horror sets in. However, all of these entries will successfully instil a sense of horror in the reader by the end of the story. Some of the stories make excellent use of cliffhangers to maximise the feeling of suspense and others, like A Lesson in Renegade Filmmaking, even use the story to make a commentary on the genre. Both Essig and Bantry are well versed in the craft of writing entertaining horror.

However, there are a couple of stories that can leave the reader feeling uncomfortable for the wrong reasons, by basing the story subjects on topics which may be considered a little too disturbing, like Clarissa and Wicking. They are still great stories all the same but can also feel like they are written for the sake of shock value at points. At their best, they can make the reader uncomfortable but still entertained, while it could be triggering to others in the worst case. Again, bear this in mind when you’re thinking about reading it.

As for the writing as a whole, it isn’t particularly fanciful in any way. It’s very simple and easy to follow for the reader. The stories are fairly evenly split in terms of size, with the shortest one being Special Delivery at only three pages, but the rest are a more respectable size. With each story usually taking up around a dozen or so pages, this collection would be good if the reader wanted something to have a look at but not a lot of time to do it in.

Shallow Graves isn’t afraid to go where most horror stories dare not tread. It may be a little short for some readers, and a bit too disturbing for others. However, this isn’t a collection that should be forgotten about. All of the stories go in different creative paths, ranging from the subtly creepy to the downright brutal. Horror fans should definitely look into the dark depths of this book.

Review copy provided

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Verdict
Shallow Graves is a short, but interesting short story collection. Unapologetically brutal with some rather creative tidbits, horror fans should give this one a go.
7.5

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