The Riot Act: Stories By Stephen Romano
By Stephen Romano
Arcaderetro Ink
Trade Paperback / Hardback $17.00 / $30.00
Reviewed by Nickolas Cook

Yes, I was dubious when I read the blurbage for this collection. I mean, you’ve got Joe Lansdale and John Skipp, two of my favorite authors, proclaiming Stephen Romano as the new s**t.

I wondered just how good could this guy really be?

Well, this reviewer is here to add his much less famous, but just as enthusiastic, praise for Mr. Stephen Romano, folks.

Cutting his teeth in Hollywood for the past few years, working with the likes of Don Coscarelli and scripting for The Masters of Horror, Romano knows how to keep his readers turning the page. This phenomenal collection of twenty-two stories never falters. Each entry is like a drip of acid, a punch in the face, and a big old wet hottie smooch in a dark closet at the most insane party you’ve ever attended, delicate as a flower and hard as cold iron saw blade teeth. If Quentin Tarantino decided to give up film directing, I think this is what he would try to write. But he’d fail, because Romano packs his stories with so much humanity that you almost want to cry as much as you want to grimace or laugh at his bleak characters’ escapades. Romano is an author well versed and grounded in the beatnik world of addicts, losers and near impotent survivors on the edge of a society that doesn’t care if they live or die. But, more importantly, he is an author who knows his cinema. His tales feel like deeply disturbing exploitation films you only wish had made it to your local grindhouse.

Some of the stories so impressed me that I found myself having to go back and re-read them were: “Wabbit Season,” “Rosalyn’s Revenge,” “Swallow the Hard Way,” and “Sister Sindi Kicks the Habit.” They did for me what great writing should do for all readers: I had to think about them afterwards.

But, the one story that made me want to throw my own PC against the wall in a frustrated jealous rage was “Ratboy and Dogbreath,” a post apocalypse tale ala classic Lansdale. Along with Cody Goodfellow’s Dawn series, this story reminded me of the bygone days of the splatterpunk movement in horror. I mean that in the best possible way. In fact, if there is such a thing as a post-splatterpunk movement, Stephen Romano is one of those leading the pack.

Now, let’s all hope he decides to try his hand at a novel length project … and soon.

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