Sporting a sharp psychotronic cover by Shawn Conn, the latest issue of this relatively new e-pub is exactly what the title proclaims. You pay your buck, you get horror. Edited by Christopher and Kris M. Hawkins, a lot of effort has clearly gone into this magazine, and it shows.
Kicking off is “Helpers” by David Steffen in which we find a nefarious character stalking children in the night. Basking in the aura of a grim fairytale, it was marred for me only by a moment of awkwardly whispered dialogue, but is a very promising start to the issue with a well executed – if slightly derivative – pay off.
Next up is “Home” from Augusto Corvalan. This is a triumph of evocation that paints an uneasy world with barely any description. It opens with a domestic family scene littered with sinister teasers, before introducing us to a grim apocalypse. With shades of The Road and even The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it keeps a few surprises up its sleeve.
Despite a dodgy opening line that put me off, John F. D. Taff’s “Child of Dirt” is an intriguing read. It presents the psychological descent of a man’s journey through the pregnancy and birth of his son. Is the child his? Is it even human? I found the flow broken up by too much description between lines of dialogue, and a few adjectives too many, but that said, the style does lend it an old-school horror flavour that works here. The tale never lags, oozes a discomforting atmosphere and evil tone throughout, and handles the moments of horror with aplomb.
A more unusual contribution is “The Catman Blues” by Leisa K. Parker. Devoid of dialogue, this first person tale concerns a strange feline musician who brings death to a smoky blues club. I don’t normally favour this informal, anecdotal style of storytelling, but I was happy to find it a colourful and beautifully told piece.
In “Vacation” by J. Tanner we meet a young girl reluctant to go on holiday with her family, so much so that duct tape is employed, and we slowly learn why through her grave reminiscing. Gripping from the off, this is an original tale that doesn’t just rely on concept and shocks, full of real characters and dialogue.
Finally, Mark Budman brings the issue to a satisfying close with “Off With His Head”, a flash piece about a man who awakes to discover he has quite literally lost his head. It’s an odd and brave story, but well executed and palpably real, and owes more to Kafka than bizarro.
Despite the occasional flaws, this is a robust mix of horror fiction. It doesn’t have a specific theme, but certainly its own flavour: the stories all possess a wickedly gleeful streak beneath the darkness that prevents the magazine from sinking into bleak. The lay out and editing are perfect – credit to the editorial team – and although a relatively slim volume, it’s great value for 99c, and I’ll certainly be sampling again.
One Buck Horror is available for 99c from Amazon, Smashwords and all usual e-book venues.