After the friendly, if slightly critical, intro by T.E.D. Klein - he relates how impressed by Schow's work he was as editor of Twilight Zone magazine in the early '80s and wonders if Schow is "too smart for horror" - the opener "Red Light" is one of Schow's best but was also in Lost Angels. "Bunny Didn't Tell Us" is a gleefully gross revenger about hapless graverobbers. "Incident on a Rainy Night in Beverly Hills" might be too much of a Hollywood in-joke; L.A. is Schow's bread and butter and the movie industry figures largely in many tales here, but I found "Incident" distractingly talky. "Coming Soon to a Theater Near You" is one of two stories set in movie theaters, and is straight-up repulsive, flesh-crawling horror.
Original Twilight Zone mag art
The willfully obnoxiously-titled "Blood Rape of the Lust Ghouls" is a true entertainment of a creepy gore-movie reviewer whose critical savaging of the titular film puts him in a delicate and unexpected place. This is the kind of insider-style horror story I truly dig. Another fave is "One for the Horrors," which has warmly occupied my heart of horror these many years. How could I not love a story about a movie theater that shows the movies that never were, shows the scenes the censors demanded cut, and is a love story about movie-lovers to boot? Cinephiles rejoice, it's wonderful.
A graffiti sigil stands in for the title of another, a tag from the beyond; a seriously authentic tale of street-punk lowlifes hustling on Hollywood Boulevard: Where was Sid Vicious's star? Jello's? Wendy O's? Nothing on the Walk of Stars related to Eye Man's reality. Fuck it. Schow's detailing of a horrific car crash that kills one of the punks hits dead-on. It also provides the collection with its title. "The Embracing" did nothing for me and was a drag to finish; it seemed like a pale imitation of one of Harlan Ellison's dystopic moral screeds of dark fantasy; it's also the earliest story here so maybe that explains its derivative quality.
The star of Seeing Red is easily "Not from Around Here," the last in the collection, and one not published previously. Herein Schow's prose is more thoughtful and measured but not to fear: when the gore comes it's graphic and upsetting. Set in the rural areas outside San Francisco, it's sort of a story about a city slicker in the big bad woods who gets more than he bargained for. There are shades of Klein and King and Wagner, yes, but the sexual nature of the violence is presented in an unexpectedly new manner. "Not from Around Here" is actually scary, monster scary, which isn't something you find in horror fiction as much as you'd think. But it's about something too: there is bravery, loss, realization, and a new life to be had when fear is conquered.
Seeing Red, some that I didn't even get around to discussing ("Lonesome Coyote Blues," "The Woman's Version," "Night Bloomer"). I find that dated quality kind of charming in a way. He liked to play with the genre and wasn't out solely for shocks; this probably lost him as many readers as it gained him. Schow may have moved on to a life of crime-writing these days, but I'll always remember him for Seeing Red.