Book Review – Served Cold by Alan Baxter

The first time I read Australian writer Alan Baxter’s work was the excellent “Manifest Recall.” So when I was offered an ARC by editor Anthony Rivera at Grey Matter Press, I jumped at the chance.

“Served Cold” is a collection of 16 chilling tales that blend elements of horror, fantasy, and the downright weird. And trust me when I tell you, this is a great collection. When it comes to anthologies, Grey Matter Press is the boss as far as I’m concerned. From the awesome “Peel Back the Skin” to John F.D. Taff’s “Little Black Spots” and now Baxter’s “Served Cold,” you don’t need to look anywhere else for great short stories.

Here’s the Goodreads/Amazon blurb:

Collected together for the first time ever, these sixteen provocative and intensely chilling tales by multi-award-winning-author Alan Baxter venture into the depths of the darkest and most shadowy places where unspeakable horrors are the predators and we the willing prey.

Prepare for an always terrifying, frequently heartbreaking journey in multiple stages, each piece echoing Alan Baxter’s unique voice that effortlessly blends horror, fantasy and the weird with elements of the dark fantastique, resulting in an unforgettable volume of fiction.

As I read the excellent introduction from John F.D. Taff, I knew I missed out on something special. Taff recounts a story of how he met Baxter for the first time at Stokercon 2018 in Providence, Rhode Island. I was poised to be there but the infamous New England weather had other ideas and I missed out on the chance to meet both authors.

My review could just have been a repeat of Taff’s quote from the introduction: “Alan Baxter can write a great goddamn short story.” However, when a short story collection carries glowing tributes from such luminaries as Paul Tremblay and Christopher Golden, a one-line quote will never do it justice.

I read “Served Cold” while on a recent vacation to Cape Cod. The weather was awesome and so was my choice of reading material. There wasn’t a single story I didn’t like. Each one had something to attract horror aficionados. They were that good!

Here are some of the highlights for me:

Served Cold” is a masterful tale of supernatural revenge. Every character jumped off the page – they were so well written. No more spoilers from me. Read it.

Crying Demon” is spooky as hell as two friends explore a satanic, dark web video game. This is another engrossing read.

Crossroads and Carousels” is Baxter’s take on the classic “Crossroads” theme. It tells the story of a musician who wants greatness and will do whatever it takes to achieve it. Naturally, there’s a catch.

The Goodbye Message” is a tragically haunting story about a writer who receives strange messages on pieces of paper, his typewriter, and answering machine. Read it. I defy you not to be a little misty-eyed by the end.

Exquisite” is the story of a man who breaks into a house just because he can. We follow him to the basement where the author cuts loose and takes the protagonist on a journey he’ll never come back from in one piece. Beautifully written, this would make a great movie.

That only covered five stories. There’s another 11 great pieces to enjoy after these!

I’ve read a lot of great reviews for another of Baxter’s anthologies, “Crow Shine.” That looks like it will be my next Alan Baxter purchase.

“Served Cold” is a fantastic collection of top-drawer short stories that blew me away. My sincere thanks to Anthony Rivera and Grey Matter Press for the advanced reader copy.

Alan, you did your best boy, Penry, proud.

The Haunted Pen Rating:

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