Review

Hot Blood Xi: Fatal Attractions

Jeff Gelb and Michael Garrett



Just as there is a thin line between love and hate, there is a fine
line between the horrific and the erotic. A prime example of this
is DRACULA, which at simultaneous turns, is frightening and
arousing. Our modern cinematic examples --- Freddy Krueger, Jason,
Michael Myers --- continue this theme, if rather heavy-handedly. It
is somewhat surprising, then, that more editors haven't taken the
road that Jeff Gelb and Michael Garrett have taken --- soliciting
and collecting original stories combining the fantasy of the dark
with the sexual. Then again, it is doubtful that anyone else could
do the job as well as Gelb and Garrett have.

The HOT BLOOD series has never received its rightful due. Gelb and
Garrett's works have been groundbreaking but not properly
appreciated. What they have managed to do, notwithstanding the lack
of deserving accolades, is to create a series of volumes that have
quietly become, to those "in the know," indispensable sources for
both present and future masters of the horror genre. This did not
occur by accident. Gelb and Garrett have both been actively writing
and editing publications since the mid-1960s. Gelb is in his fifth
decade of producing the wonderful comic book fanzine MEN OF
MYSTERY. Garrett, a writing instructor and editor, has the
distinction of being the first to publish a kid named Steve King,
whom you may have heard of. For the general public, however, HOT
BLOOD has been the 500-pound elephant camped out in the living room
that everyone knows is there, but no one wants to talk about it.
This unfortunate state of affairs should change with HOT BLOOD XI.
The world has caught up with Gelb and Garrett.

It should be stated at the outset that the stories in HOT BLOOD XI
contain graphic descriptions of sexual encounters, some of them
quite, ah, innovative, to say the least. None of them are
gratuitous, though. The erotica, however, is not the common thread
that ultimately unites all of the stories in HOT BLOOD XI into a
common tapestry. No, there is an almost biblical morality infused
into each of these tales or, if you will, a graphic illustration of
the ancient caveat that "one must be careful with what one wishes
for." Every protagonist in HOT BLOOD XI, with one exception,
receives what he or she wants --- and ultimately regrets it.

What is most interesting here, however, is the care with which
these stories appear to have been selected. While some in HOT BLOOD
XI are better than others, there are no bad stories, no tales that
by omission would have resulted in a better collection. Each story
will resonate with readers days after reading it and will do so for
a different reason. And the favorite story will keep changing. My
own was originally "Epiphany" by horrormeister Graham Masterton.
"Epiphany" concerns an upwardly mobile ad executive who, in the
middle of a stressful day, inadvertently wanders into a homoerotic
photography exhibit and is subsequently haunted, both figuratively
and literally, by the subject of one of the photographs. This is
more than a ghost story, however. Masterton tacitly raises a number
of issues concerning hidden and forbidden desires and the
relationships that arise because of them and in spite of them. It's
the type of story that makes the reader question their
worldview.

Lately I've been favoring "Nude In Magenta" by the New Orleans'
husband and wife duo, O'Neil and Debra Gray De Noux. "Nude In
Magenta" is ---dare I say it --- the perfect short story. Just over
ten pages long, it drops the reader into the middle of Jackson
Square, sets up the primary characters --- a mysterious,
deliciously erotic couple and a judge --- and romps down a
deceptively simple path that deceives as it titillates. I was
absolutely sure a half-dozen times that I knew where this story was
going and I was wrong. Being wrong didn't stop me from guessing
and, when "Nude In Magenta" ended, I was happy I had been wrong, as
the De Nouxs' ending was much better than anything I was able to
imagine. And, most importantly, it left me wanting more.

In between "Epiphany" and "Nude In Magenta" the stories that keep
rising to the surface of recollection are, interestingly enough,
two stories individually written by Gelb and Garrett. I am always
suspicious when editors of an anthology include their own work, so
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the editors' respective
stories were among the best of the volume. Gelb's offering, "Night
of the Giving Head" has a lot more going for it than a clever
title. The story, perhaps inadvertently, extrapolates on the "sex
packets" urban legend that was circulating around San Francisco a
couple of decades ago. Imagine a drug that took away all sexual
inhibition. All you would need is a hot tub full of Dixie Chicks,
right? Well, no. Gelb indelibly demonstrates what an ultimate
nightmare such a drug would be. Remember the admonition concerning
being careful about what you wish for? "Night of the Giving Head"
may well be the penultimate morality tale illustrating that
point.

Garrett's "One to Die For," on the other hand, takes quite a
different tack. A man and a woman, strangers to each other, are
kidnapped and forced to participate in a sex show in which they
must perform as if their lives depended on it because, in fact,
their lives do depend on it. The real shock, however, comes at the
end in the aftereffects. You won't read "One To Die For" and take a
walk through your neighborhood again without looking over your
shoulder, whether in apprehension or anticipation.

I've just scratched the surface here. There's "Switchblade," by
Christina Faust, which is as dark a tale as any I've ever read; the
darkly beautiful "Saturnalia" by David Schow; and "The Cry of the
Longaroo" by the under-acknowledged John Edward Ames. And more. Of
the HOT BLOOD volumes, this is by far the best of a heretofore
terrific series. Very highly recommended. WARNING: Extremely
graphic sexual content.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011

Hot Blood Xi: Fatal Attractions
Jeff Gelb and Michael Garrett

  • Publication Date: February 1, 2003
  • Genres: Fiction, Horror, Short Stories
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Kensington
  • ISBN-10: 0758200994
  • ISBN-13: 9780758200990