Book Review: 13 Horror Stories by John McDonnell

9476932Title: 13 Horror Stories
Author: John McDonnell
Genre: Short Story Collection, Horror
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: September 21st 2010
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13 bone-chilling stories about ghosts, vengeful lovers, scary mothers, and crazy girlfriends. In these stories time and space are no barrier to some truly horrible happenings. Each story is short enough to be read in a few minutes, but they’re guaranteed to haunt your thoughts for a lot longer than that. Whether it’s subtle horror or downright blood-curdling God-help-me fear, you’ll find it here. This collection is a good introduction to the horror writing of John McDonnell.

13 Horror Stories is a short story collection with several short stories written by author John McDonnell. This book is a very fast read – I think it was just under thirty pages. The stories are more like flash fiction than actual short stories, but I definitely didn’t mind. It’s my first time reading a flash fiction collection in the horror genre, and I definitely had a blast.

I liked “The Beauty Part”. It was well written, and left me in the dark until the end – I love this in horror. “Stuck” was dark, horrifying and scary, one of my favorites in the collection. “The Thing in the Basement” was my absolute favorite though. We’ve all been scared of basements at some time or other, and little Billy is no different, but his uncle’s basement holds more sinister secrets than mine ever did. “The Box” touches a bit upon myths and legends, and I didn’t like it that much. I didn’t think it was scary enough to be considered in a collection named 13 Horror Stories.

“Conclusions” isn’t exactly horror. It’s more like…weird. It would perhaps be scary if it happened in real life, and it’s a great piece of flash fiction, but I wouldn’t classify it as horror. I did enjoy reading it though. “This Won’t Hurt a Bit” on the other hand ventured back into horror territory, and did so very well. We’re all paranoid at some time or other, and maybe we have good reasons to be so, if you take this story into account. “Sin of the Flesh” was a nice, disturbing read as well.

“Don’t You Just Love Weddings?” was very short, a bit too short for me to get an exact grip on the horror elements of this story. I enjoyed “Heart Stopping Beauty” a lot more, it was a mysterious, interesting story. “Prime Cut” was one of the absolute top stories of this collection though. It was truly, wickedly disturbing, and left me wanting to read more. Definitely a nice warning for guys who decide they want to cheat on their girlfriends.

“The Smell of Love” was another nice one, and reminded me slightly of the book “Perfume”. I liked “Tick Tock” as well, the next story, although it could’ve probably been a bit scarier. It did make me think about how people would react to immortality. The last story, “The Returning” was one of the bests as well. It was your typical ghost story, but bloody and horrific.

All in all, I thought some of these flash fiction stories were outstanding, while others didn’t give me chills. I think it’s natural for all story collections: you’re bound to like some stories more than others. These stories were ideal to tell while sitting around a campfire, or on Halloween night when you want to spook your friends. I’m definitely going to use one or two of these to scare my friends on Halloween.

If you want a quick read before you’re leaving to somewhere, or if you’re a fan of flash fiction horror, you don’t want to miss out on this collection.

Author Interview

I asked author John McDonnell some interview questions to go with the review.

1) When did you know you wanted to become a writer?

I’ve always loved reading and writing, since I was a little kid. One of my favorite things was to ride my bike to my grandparents’ house and stop at the library on the way, pick up a few books, and then read the books in this little room they had near the kitchen, while my grandmother was making supper. In eighth grade I won a citywide essay contest, and in high school I had a lot of encouragement from an English teacher. It just seemed natural to me to write, and I always thought I’d be writing in some fashion.

2) What inspired you to write short story collections as opposed to full-length novels?

Short stories have always been my favorite form. I like the immediacy, the condensed form, the way short stories can grab you from the first word. I still prefer reading a short story by Hemingway, Flannery O’Conner, Stephen King, or one of my other favorite writers to almost any novel.

3) Why did you decide to write in the horror genre?

I always liked to be scared. I remember reading a short story collection by Stephen King years ago when I was alone in a house, and realizing all of a sudden that it was 3:00 in the morning and I was all alone, and it was very quiet. . . I just like that feeling.

4) Which story in “13 Horror Stories” did you enjoy to write the most? Which one was most challenging to write?

I enjoyed writing “Heart Stopping Beauty” the most, because it has a sense of urgency, the main character has to get his watch fixed, and I liked creating that sense of urgency. The most challenging one was “The Returning” because it has a dreamlike quality, and yet it takes place at two separate time periods.

5) Which story in “13 Horror Stories” did you find the scariest?

I found “The Returning” the scariest, because of the last scene, which I thought was truly terrifying.

6) How long did it take you to write “13 Horror Stories” from start to finish?

I wrote the stories in “13 Horror Stories” over several years. A lot of them started out as exercises in writing groups I belonged to, and I’d continue to edit and refine them as time went on. I have a lot of stories on my computer, and when I put out another horror collection I choose the ones that I think will fit best.

7) Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

My advice for aspiring authors is to just keep writing and publishing. There’s so much going on that you can spend all your time just reading about the new opportunities out there, or interacting with other writers on social networks, or marketing yourself. If you love to write you should just keep writing, and getting better at your craft. Don’t get distracted; just write.

8) Are you working on something right now? If so, can you tell us more about it?

I’m actually working on a novel now. I love short stories, but I know that the majority of readers like to sink their teeth into something longer. I’m working on a historical novel with some romance in it, and maybe a few supernatural elements. It will be part of a trilogy, and the first book will come out in early 2013.


I’m glad to host a giveaway for another short story collection by John McDonell, “13 Scary Stories”. The giveaway is for an eBook copy of “13 Scary Stories”. If you want to participate, just fill in the Rafflecopter form below!

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  1. I am a horrors wring I am looked to have someone to looked over at my story’s so I can go to a pubshilers my book can you please come back InTouch with me please mate martyn lewis

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