Copy of Add a subheading 5 - REVIEW: The Dead Inside by Laurel Hightower & Sandra Ruttan

REVIEW: The Dead Inside by Laurel Hightower & Sandra Ruttan

I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Dark Inside Published by Dark Dispatch on March 1 2022
Genres: Horror Anthologies
Pages: 285
Format: ARC, eBook
Source: Editor
Buy on Amazon

Our identity is the essence of who we are … But what if our identity is threatened?

What if our family members or partners reject our identity? What if educators and employers push us to conform to their prejudices or expectations for us? When we twist, contort, bleed, unravel, and die on the vine—what becomes of the pieces that remain? How much can we cut before there’s nothing left?

Through the pages of The Dead Inside, some of the best horror writers of our era examine the forces that can threaten our identity, exposing the ways identity horror threatens our well-being, our dreams, our very existence.

Featuring stories and poems by:
S. H. Cooper, M. Lopes da Silva, Paul Michael Anderson, K. P. Kulski, Robert Bagnall, Belicia Rhea, Eric Raglin, Robert Stahl, Sarah Jackson, Daniel Barnett, R.J. Joseph, Sam Kyung Yoo, A. K. Dennis, Ali Seay, Michelle Cadiz, Joe Koch, Jaecyn Boné, Avra Margariti, Michelle Mellon, Evelyn Freeling, Katie Young, Marcus Woodman, Sarah Wu, Elle Turpitt, Renee Cronley, Mary Rajotte, Patrick Tumblety, Roxie Voorhees, Tabatha Wood, and Scott J. Moses

Foreword by weird and horror author Donyae Coles

The Dead Inside is a horror anthology that tackles the sensitive subject of identity. Never have I read an anthology that so profoundly affected a part of my heart. I am secure in my identity, I know who I am, what I am meant to do in terms of my career, and how I project myself to others. However, I have close friends who aren’t secure in their identities. They struggle to accept their sexuality, and their gender, they deserve to feel this inner peace without persecution. It very rarely plays out this way and this anthology examines the horror of both the human psyche and the hurt it can inflict on itself and others.

The Dead Inside is a phenomenal collection of short stories by authors that know how to break down the walls of the heart and build bridges between experience and fact. I don’t envy the job of the two editors, Laurel Hightower, and Susan Ruttan. The quality of the final stories is some of the best I have had the pleasure of reading. Long short stories and poems are sprinkled for maximum effect throughout the anthology and the impact is like a punch to the face.

I don’t want to talk about the stories individually too much, but I do want to mention a few that affected me immensely. From Within by S.H. Cooper is the perfect start to The Dead Inside. Katy is preparing for the promotion of her career, but she doesn’t expect to get something else instead. It’s gruesome and shocking and Cooper always brings her A-game. The author is always able to trigger something in me. The urge to create something unique and invigorating is clear to see, and I constantly hunger to consume more of Cooper’s work.

Are You Queer? By M. Lopes da Silva is an exquisite poem about both acceptance and hate. It is a poem that really makes you think. It makes you question both your own sexuality and how you treat others. What really is normal? My normal might not be someone else’s but that shouldn’t make it a topic of ridicule. We are all human and we all deserve love and respect.

A Most Bulbous Congregation by Eric Raglin is my favourite story in this collection. It might be an unpopular opinion, but I detest all religions. I am a proud atheist for many reasons but their unbridled homophobia and views toward abortion just leave me feeling disgusted. Raglin has examined the very real human horror that is steeped within the church. There is no horror more disturbing than that committed by humans in the name of a supernatural being. The imagery and prose of this story left me ignoring everything else and just absorbing the emotional resonance that it emitted.

The Dead Inside is a guidebook to horror, a masterclass in how identity can both make us and break us. Disturbing, utterly original. This is something special.


Laurel Hightower

Laurel Hightower grew up in Kentucky, attending college in California and Tennessee

before returning home to horse country, where she lives with her husband, son and two rescue animals, Yattering the cat (named for the Clive Barker short story) and Ladybug the adorable mutt. She definitely wants to see a picture of your dog, and often bonds with complete strangers over animal stories. A lifetime reader, she would raid her parents’ bookshelves from an early age, resulting in a number of awkward conversations about things like, “what does getting laid mean?” She loves discovering new favorite authors, and supporting the writing and reading community.

Laurel works as a paralegal in a mid-size firm, wrangling litigators by day and writing at night. A bourbon and beer girl, she’s a fan of horror movies and true life ghost stories. Whispers in the Dark is her first novel, though there are always more in the pipeline, and she loves researching anything horror related. She can usually be found working on the next project into the wee hours, sometimes as late as ten at night, as long as her toddler allows. Follow her on social media, even though she’s really bad at it, and she’ll follow you back. Plus you’ll be rewarded by pictures of cute dogs and kids.


Editor: Sandra Ruttan

Sandra Ruttan was a walking disaster in her formative years. At age eight she was hit by a car while riding her bike home and her head was cut open. Just before her ninth birthday she was running along the beach, landed on broken glass, and her foot was partially severed. The muscle had to be stitched back together, leaving some uncertainty about whether she’d walk again, and the doctor was so fed up with her screaming he told her if she didn’t shut up he’d cut her foot off. She went to school with the doctor’s son, and forever felt sorry for him. After her tenth birthday she fell down a waterfall and almost drowned. Her later adventures have included being in Seville when they found 4.5 tons of explosives set to blow up the Semana Santa parade and being in a car crash in the Sahara Desert. There is absolutely no explanation for how she’s managed to stay alive as long as she has. Keep up to date at her website. Find out more about her writing and editorial services via her website and check out her patreon here:


Leave a Reply