Sometimes I will pick up a horror book to be scared, or be challenged, or I will read a book that makes me ask questions. Sometimes though, I just want a book to flat out entertain me. To be fun, exciting, light and memorable. The Old Bay King, the newly released short story by Donnie Goodman, really delivered in this regard.
Two old friends have recently started a crabbing business. Unable to finance their start-up via conventional means, they resorted to loaning the money they needed from local crime boss, Otis Bailey, known locally as the Old Bay King. Now indebted to this dangerous man, when business slows down the pair find themselves in danger of losing more than just their livelihood.
While out at sea the two make a find that changes everything. Their discovery is life-changing. They can pay off Otis and live comfortably for the rest of their days. There is more to this find than first meets the eye, however, and they may have unwittingly released something far more deadly than the Old Bay King.
The lurid horror paperbacks of the 1970s and 1980s are clearly a big influence on this story and it reads like a loving homage to the gut-munching Crabs series by British horror legend Guy N Smith. Goodman puts his own spin on things, however, by making the story a crime drama meets creature feature. I enjoyed this melding of genres a great deal and the crime elements really helped set the stakes for the all-out horror extravaganza at the book’s climax. It was refreshing to read something so clearly influenced by the horror paperback boom of the era, that doesn’t fall into the common trappings of one-dimensional characters and zero plot, and has its own unique take on a well-loved era in horror history.
At only 17 pages, this is a quick, enjoyable read. The pacing is perfect, not revealing its hand until the closing pages, and doing surprisingly strong work on its characters for such a short tale. It also manages the rare feat of creating a world I would like to know more about, while also delivering a satisfying story in its own right. The build-up is exciting and tense and the pay-off is a big horror set piece with the requisite flowing blood and severed limbs. It is a testament to how engaging the short was that I finished the book and wanted to read more. It was the literary equivalent of a rollercoaster ride. Exciting while you’re strapped in, and over way too soon for your liking.
Unashamedly gleeful and wholeheartedly enjoyable The Old Bay King is the perfect read for a horror fan looking for a quick piece of pure horror gratification. The end of the book promises Goodman’s debut short story collection (The Razorblades in My Head) in Summer 2021 and I for one can’t wait to see what else he has in store for us.
The Old Bay King by Donnie Goodman
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Mixing elements of crime and creature horror, The Old Bay King is sure to delight the fans of Guy N. Smith’s Crabs Series and J.F. Gonzalez’s Clickers series.
Description“That’s what this weekend was all about: crabs” Two fisherman hit the Chesapeake Bay in the midst of a season long crab shortage in order to save their business. If they don’t bring in a haul and pay off their loan to Otis Bailey, the King of the Old Bay, they’re as good as dead. Unfortunately for them, Otis is the least of their worries. Mixing elements of crime and creature horror, The Old Bay King is sure to delight the fans of Guy N. Smith’s Crabs Series and J.F. Gonzalez’s Clickers series. This short story will be available in the upcoming collection, The Razorblades in my Head, due out in Summer 2021!