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“You possess a most dangerous gift; the capacity…to understand,” says the pig farmer to the strong, noble yet hideous protagonist in the story “The Ugly Truth,” one of nine tales of the terrible and bizarre in Michael Boatman’s first fiction collection. And that pretty much sums up what makes Boatman’s writing so good: he really understands this stuff.

Best known for his role as Carter on the television sitcom “Spin City” (an observation which he’s probably grown really sick of reading in reviews by now), you might be surprised to discover that Boatman is also a talented writer, with a deep understanding of not only the horror genre, but of the sorts of things that go on in the real world that make it so frequently horrific itself. There’s murder and mutilation galore, some of it described in ghastly explicit detail, but you never get the sense that he’s just trying to shock you with the gore for shock value’s sake. He’s making important social points with all of it, which is what great horror is supposed to do, and what’s been sadly lacking in most contemporary work in the genre of the last decade or two. There are a couple of weak points in the collection, but overall this is a refreshingly entertaining and thought-provoking bloodbath. (Richard Rosenbaum)

by Michael Boatman, $12.02, 146 pgs, Dybbuk Press, 516 W 188th Street, Ste 25, New York, NY, 10040,

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