Among all the other books I am currently reading, I managed to read through this one. I was looking forward to this book because its a collaborative, small-press/self-published work that at 159 pages, I knew would be a easy reader. I have previously read an item by Armand Rosamilia, but I have not read any of the other authors. One of the things that I found appealing about the work was that it was just supposed to be a good fun read – these authors allegedly get together and drink beer and write out some horror stories and have fun with the genre. The book has a second volume, but I do not own that one. Beers and Fears: The Haunted Brewery was first released in 2019.
I like the concept for the structure of the book a lot. In fact, it was one of my main reasons for getting the book. One author writes a present-time framework story and then the other authors contribute backstories or sidestories to that frame. The frame story in this one is called “The Last Taproom on the Edge of the World” and it was written by Tim Meyer. The first story is “No Fortunate Son” by Chuck Buda, the second “Have a Drink on Me” by Frank Edler, and the last story is “Alternative” by Armand Rosamilia.
I have run across the names of Buda and Meyer before, I kinda feel Meyer does not write what I would like to read, generally, and though I have not yet read any other Chuck Buda items, I would be open to doing so. Anyway, the frame story starts off really well. It does a good job of setting the scene and making the reader settled in for a rough and rowdy horror funhouse. The characters are introduced and the purpose of the frame and the included backstories is sufficiently set up. Nothing at all wrong with this segment. But the first story… its got a lot going on in it. The Vietnam backstory (which comes with intense flashbacks), the Mafia, the drugs, the porn, the brewery, etc. The story is completed, fairly polished, and there is nothing wrong with it, I guess. But I did not like it. I feel like the drugs and the Vietnam and the porn and the mafia took away from what could have been. I can imagine a story with the miserable veteran who is on hardcore drugs. I can imagine him making bad choices. I can imagine his choices affecting the brewery. However, this story, as it was written, seemed to go on too long, the porn chunk made the story lose a lot of the build-up of the psychedelic confusions, and at the end of the day, I hated every character. The horror was lost to the parts.
I was trying to imagine readers after having read this story. Is the story relevant and readable? Yes. It is also gritty, dark, violent as hell, and gory. But after, I think, a day or two, I do not think the story sticks around. Its just easy in and easy out consumable junk food. There is a surprising amount of sex in the book, though it just feels like another avenue of violence. So, you have violence between humans, violence through alcohol, violence via sex, violence from demons…. So, the first story tends to lean more towards just violence than horror or macabre or anything like that.
Frank Edler’s story “Have a Drink on Me” is much opposite of Buda’s story. This story was more like what I expected from the book. Over-the-top outrageous insanely creative, but still horrific and amusing as hell. This was the fun and wild and utterly ridiculous story that captured what this book could be. Unlike Buda’s story, which was really just violence upon violence, this one was the pinnacle of ridiculous. I do not know if calling it humorous is valid, because this is not quite humor. The level of ridiculous that plays into this one encapsulates that B-movie, but oh-so-fun wildness that horror movies often contain. So, Buda’s story is just gory and violent, I did not like it and I will shortly forget it. Edler’s story is the ridiculous horror that is so outrageous I know I will not forget. I mean, its still a bit gory and savage, if you know what I mean. However, I had fun reading it and I imagine Edler had fun writing it. This is the story that author dudes with beers in October are supposed to be writing! I am still chortling over the “bad guy” in the story. I want to have drank about three beers and nod with a lopsided grin at the author and say things like, “makes sense, bro! totally!”
Now the frame story segments that came before and after Edler’s work started to go downhill. For one thing, leaving a setting and going to another is hazardous because the author just built up a scene and now all that work is swept away. So, there needs to be a real purpose. Frankly, there was not a purpose. These segments should have been exciting little interludes and really scary moments. Instead, they just read as pointless.
The last story is Rosamilia’s. It is probably the most realistic, if one can say that, of the stories in the book. By that I mean that the characters and setting seem natural and real as opposed to seeming cardboard or created cartoons. The main characters Trevor and Jackson are engaging and the storyline moves around them without hiccup. I think the horror is really most developed in this story. Of all the stories, this is the only one that could claim “spine-tingling” or “creepy.” There is still a bit too much of the sex/violence in this one, which is probably just there because this story somewhat circles back to the first story and its contents. I did not really find the interconnectedness very crucial to the stories, though. They all take place at the particular location – at some point. Sadly, on the last page of the story is a nasty typo – the wrong character is named, “Trevor nodded” when it should be “Jackson nodded.” Yeah, it was clunker of an error. Overall, it was a good story, a little more work and this would have been very creepy.
The structure of the book is difficult to separate stories out to rate. I think the frame story needs a lot more purpose and function. I am only going to give it 1 star. “No Fortunate Son” is also a 1 for me. I really did not like it. No beers, no fears for that; just revulsion. The Edler story is 4 stars without a second to think. I will remember that one for a long, long time! Armand’s “Alternative” is a solid three. Overall, I think the concept is an awesome one. I think the execution was not so great. Some overwriting (Buda), some lack of direction (Meyer), but the other stories are good enough for a fun October splatter horror mess.
And after all of this, the concept is so good that I think I will read volume 2.