Tucker Max retired from his lifestyle, and gave us this final book of adventures as a parting gift.

Sloppy Seconds collects all the Tucker Max “backwash”, all the little bits and pieces that weren’t good enough for the first three Tucker Max books. You’ll recognise some stories from his site. Others have already appeared in other books. As for the rest…well, Tucker himself admits that the signal to noise ratio is a bit spotty. Obviously these stories were left out of I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell et al for a reason.

Still, I had fun. Unlike the women in the stories.

The Great:

— The Duke Campout story…this is amazing, one of the best things he’s written. Favourine line: “She was the type who would cockblock endangered pandas at the zoo.”

— The buttsex story, an old classic. Tucker gets a girl to agree to anal sex, and he tries to covertly film it for posterity (posteriority?). This comes from Tucker’s early twenties, when he claims he was perhaps the worst person in the world.

— The Slingblade movie reviews. Holy shit, these were funny. I need a whole book of them.

— “Fuck the fucking headboard”… this one killed me. Tucker is railing some chick on a cheap hotel bed, she breaks off the headboard by accident, and she won’t stop obsessing about it. I feel like I’m being given a crash course in female psychology.

— A fair few “sexting” stories. Some of them are funny…

The Okay

— …some of them just go on too long and overstay their welcome. Tucker goes for surreal Kaufmanesque humour, with mixed results. By the end I was thinking “thanks, I get the point, let’s move on.”

— Some stories from Tucker’s childhood are found here. Not always funny, but they are interesting. He has never spoken much about his childhood except to say that it sucked so this is a side to Tucker you don’t often see.

— The Junior stories. Junior was one of the more memorable characters from IHTSBIH, along with Slingblade, and here he gets some more prime time in the spotlight. “Junior’s Marriage” was just…woah…

The Retarded

— A detailed description of how Tucker learned to masturbate.

— Some completely unfunny stories that amount to “I’m getting a blowjob while writing this”

— No, Tucker, I don’t care about your dog.

Sloppy Seconds is definitely a fun collection of some rare and hard to find Tucker Max material. It’s value is a little questionable as the two big stories, Campout and Buttsex, have already been published (and are still available for free on Tucker’s site.) Definitely something to get once you own I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, Assholes Finish First, and Hilarity Ensues.

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When you’re 12 years old, you read things like Hideshi Hino and think it’s the coolest thing ever.

You don’t stay 12 forever.

I would describe Hino as gory spooky-themed kiddie manga, heavily influenced by western comics in both story and aesthetic, with a weird art style (and not in a good way), and a strong imagination. The Collection is a heavily “enhanced” biography of Hino’s, presented as a series of short comics about all the sick shit his mother, father, brother, grandfather, etc do.

Between each episode we have Hino himself providing commentary (a framing device similar to EC Comics’ Crypt Keeper…Hino’s from Japan, but his muse lives on the other side of the Pacific!), and the stories themselves are just plain bizarre. The most memorable sequence in The Collection stars comic-Hino’s grandfather fighting a sword battle against an evil sentient tumor that’s attached to his own body.

If you’re looking for something more than wacky gross-outs — anything more — you will not find it. The stories are like bare threads connecting one gory bloodbath to another. The blaring one-note characters are not sympathetic or interesting. Hino’s Klasky-Csupo approach to art cuts the legs out from anything resembling atmosphere or scariness. Violence aside, The Collection seems like something written for children.

No, it’s worse than that. Kazuo Umezu’s “The Drifting Classroom” was written for children. By volume three I was engrossed in an amazing post-apocalyptic survival story and I didn’t care. The Collection is a series of bloody jokes. The first couple of pages involve a woman driving down a road at night. Who is she? Where’s she going? These are questions another mangaka might have asked (and found entertaining answers to), but Hino doesn’t care. He just skips right to the part where she dies horribly.

It’s cliche to refer to something as a joke with no punch-line. Hideshi Hino’s The Collection is actually the reverse…all punch-lines and no jokes. It’s a series of boom-boom-boom climaxes with scant substance to give them context and meaning.

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This 74 page collection by Mammoth Books contains six short stories.

Michael Marshall Smith’s “What Happens when you Wake Up in the Night” mines the most profitable vein of horror: childhood fear. A young girl wakes up in the night, and things are not as they should be. She wakes her parents, but only succeeds in bringing them into the nightmare. The story is told from a child’s perspective, thus the story’s creepiness is filtered through a layer of childlike credulity and acceptance of what is happening. There’s a point where a story like this should end, and I think this one steps over the line by just a little.

“Respect” by Ramsey Campbell comes next. No go.

“Cold to the Touch” by Simon Strantzas is excellent. A creepy and otherworldly setting, a strong cast of characters, and an ending that seems pregnant with possibilities. It reminds me a little of Stephen King’s “N”, although the two stories share nothing except a circle of stones.

“The Reunion” by Nicholas Royle is a tribute to Poe’s “William Wilson.” A man and his wife attend a 20 year high school reunion, and find that past and present are in quiet collision. The piece is creepy and powerful, both for its plot and its sense of dislocated wrongness.

Robert Shearman’s “Granny’s Grinning” will resonate with anyone who has endured a Christmas with miserable people. A family spends Christmas day with an older relative who has just lost her husband, (and she’s is the only one who can save them from financial ruin). “Granny’s Grinning” starts out innocuous and funny, and then whiplashes into genuine nastiness. There’s no transition. It’s a sudden change of tone, but an effective one.

“The Garden” by Rosalie Parker ends the volume. The story is shorter and more poetic than the others. It follows the format of “The Man Who Loved Flowers”…a beautiful picture with something awful at the center, but the awful thing is handled as lovingly as the rest of the picture. It apparently comes from a challenge to write a horror story entirely about gardening.

The Ramsey story was just annoying but the other five a good. This book is worthwhile, I was pleasantly surprised by much of what’s on here. Any flaws The Unexpected has are probably incipient to the short story medium. These tales are easy to get into, but maybe a little too easy to leave behind as well.

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