Lethal Kisses: 18 Tales of Sex, Horror, and Revenge

Lethal Kisses: 18 Tales of Sex, Horror, and Revenge

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Stories of dark desire and wicked payback from Jonathan Lethem, Joyce Carol Oates, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Richard Christian Matheson, and more.

From Shakespeare to Poe, revenge has always been one of the great themes in literature. This anthology contains eighteen stories of ruthless vengeance. A philanderer spends a night with one nameless woman too many. A second-rate music video talent turns down a chance at superstardom and escapes a deadly contract. A comedy duo realizes that retribution is no laughing matter. And a single woman must face the shocking reasons for her solitary lifestyle.
Multiple-award-winning editor Ellen Datlow commissioned these and fourteen other tales from some of the most talented authors of our time to make up Lethal Kisses. Available for the first time in the United States, this is a collection of eighteen horrifying tales on evening the score.
This ebook features an illustrated biography of Ellen Datlow, including rare photos from the editor’s personal collection.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504025645
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 06/07/2016
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 228,156
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Ellen Datlow, an acclaimed science fiction and fantasy editor, was born and raised in New York City. She has been a short story and book editor for more than thirty years and has edited or coedited several critically acclaimed anthologies of speculative fiction, including the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror series and Black Thorn, White Rose (1994) with Terri Windling. Datlow has received numerous honors, including multiple Shirley Jackson, Bram Stoker, Hugo, Locus, and World Fantasy Awards, and Life Achievement Awards from the Horror Writers Association and the World Fantasy Association, to name just a few. She resides in New York.  

Edgar Award–winning author Ruth Rendell (b. 1930) has written more than seventy books and sold more than twenty million copies worldwide. A fellow of the Royal Society of Literature (London), she is the recipient of the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Crime Writers’ Association. Rendell’s award-winning novels include A Demon in My View (1976), A Dark-Adapted Eye (1987), and King Solomon’s Carpet (1991). Her popular crime stories featuring Chief Inspector Reginald Wexford were adapted into a long-running British television series (1987–2000) starring George Baker.

Michael Swanwick has received the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, and Theodore Sturgeon awards for his work. His short fiction has appeared in Omni, Penthouse, Asimov’s, High Times, and numerous other publications, and many pieces have been reprinted in best-of-the-year anthologies. He has written nine novels, among them In the Drift, Stations of the Tide, the New York Times Notable Book The Iron Dragon’s Daughter, Jack Faust, and, most recently, Chasing the Phoenix. Swanwick lives in Philadelphia with his wife, Marianne Porter, and their son, Sean.
Pat Murphy has won numerous awards for her thoughtful, literary science fiction and fantasy writing, including two Nebula Awards, the Philip K. Dick Award, the World Fantasy Award, the Seiun Award, and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. She has published eight novels and many short stories. Her works include Rachel in Love; The Falling Woman; The City, Not Long After; Nadya; and Adventures in Time and Space with Max Merriwell, a novel that Publishers Weekly called the “cerebral equivalent of a roller-coaster ride.” Her children’s novel, The Wild Girls, received a Christopher Award in 2008.

In addition to writing fiction, Pat writes about science for children and adults. She has authored three science books for adults and more than fifteen science activity books for children. Her science writings have been honored with the American Institute of Physics Science Communication Award, the Science Books and Films Prize for Excellence in Science Books, the Pirelli INTERNETional Award for environmental publishing, and an award from Good Housekeeping.

In 1991, with writer Karen Fowler, Pat cofounded the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, an annual literary prize for science fiction or fantasy that expands or explores our understanding of gender roles. This award is funded by grassroots efforts that include auctions and bake sales, harnessing the power of chocolate chip cookies in an ongoing effort to change the world.

Pat enjoys looking for and making trouble. Her favorite color is ultraviolet. Her favorite book is whichever one she is working on right now. 
Joyce Carol Oates is the author of over seventy books encompassing novels, poetry, criticism, story collections, plays, and essays. Her novel Them won the National Book Award in Fiction in 1970. Oates has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters for more than three decades and currently holds the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professorship at Princeton University. 

Date of Birth:

February 17, 1930

Place of Birth:

London, England


Loughton County High School for Girls, Essex

Read an Excerpt

Lethal Kisses

18 Tales of Sex, Horror, and Revenge

By Ellen Datlow


Copyright © 1996 Ellen Datlow
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-2564-5




A. R. Morlan

A. R. Morlan lives in Wisconsin. Her short fiction has been published in magazines such as Night Cry, The Twilight Zone, Weird Tales, Worlds of Fantasy and Horror, The Horror Show, Phantasm, and in the anthologies Cold Shocks, Obsessions, Women of the West, The Ultimate Zombie, Love in Vein, Deadly After Dark: The Hot Blood Series, Sinestre, Night Screams and Twists of the Tale: An Anthology of Cat Horror. They have been reprinted in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror. She has published two novels, The Amulet and Dark Journey, and has recently finished a third.

Morlan is a flexible and talented stylist. Here she takes a poke at the sometimes sleazy world of rock and roll, in a story that, belying its title, gives the reader quite a chill.

Before Edan Westmisley faxed his summons to my agent, my only legitimate (as in you could see my face) claim to semi-demi-fame was the Steppe Syster's 'Love Victim' video where I licked the tattoo off the chest of their lead guitarist, Cody Towers.

Yeah, that was me. Not that anyone makes the connection between the big-hair, tits-swaying-in-a-bikini-top, thong-bottomed retro pre-AIDS bimboid slithering up the paint-drizzled riser towards Cody's semi-desirable, love-handled bare torso, tongue out and lashing against candy-apple lips, just before he notices me, slings his Stratocaster behind his pimply back and hoists me up by the armpits, so I can lovingly slurp off his licorice-icing tattoo (painted on over his Dermablend-smeared real phoenix-in-flames tattoo by a bandanna-covered bald-pated tattoo artist) in slo-mo close up, and what I am now, thanks to Edan Westmisley and his once-in-a-career offer –

– the offer he didn't share with my agent, or with anyone employed in his hidden/not hidden studio; the offer which held out the promise of me becoming something far more spectacular and memorable than just a tattoo-devouring bimbo ...

'Thaaat's riiight, kiddo, Edan Westmisley, Gran' Poo-bah-supremo at Genius Productions, as in get your mini-skirted bum down to his office, pronto –'

It wasn't unusual for my agent Gerhard Berbary to speak in italics, but for him to even come close to swearing (he was Canadian, which made 'bum' synonymous with 'ass' or worse), something much bigger than just another metal video shoot or frontal nude body-doubling part was at stake here, especially as far as Gerhard's cut was concerned. And at this point in my 'career', considering how few videos, walk-ons and tit-'n'-ass insert shots he'd been able to round up for me, I knew that he would've sold my corpse for morgue gape shots if it would've netted him a commission ...

Not that being dead could've made me feel any less uneasy than Gerhard's wake-up call about Westmisley wanting me to come to his studio early that afternoon; while I didn't consider myself an 'insider' when it came to the music scene, I did have subscriptions to Billboard, Variety, Rolling Stone and Spin ... and with all my free time, especially after the 'Love Victim' shoot, I'd had the opportunity to learn more than I actually cared to about Mr Westmisley, formerly of the sixties Fluxus movement (a well-to-do group of what Gerhard dubbed 'art-farts' which included Yoko Ono and her bare-buttocks-in-a-row film, really classy shit like that), and currently sole owner, stockholder, president and producer-in-residence at Genius Productions Ltd, a record company that produced hard-core industrial, techno, alternative and speed metal acts (like Steppe Syster), almost none of which ever charted higher than 150 on the Billboard Album Chart, but which were killers on the college charts – all the more ironic because Westmisley had supposedly (if the unauthorised bios reviewed in Rolling Stone could be believed) been all-but-bodily-thrown out of every university in Europe and the East Coast, for a little more than simply flunking out or missing dorm curfew –

(– as in things even pay-to-say journalists like Kitty Kelly were afraid to reveal after one unauthorised bio writer turned up belly-bloated on the Nantucket shoreline after interviewing some ex-Vassar co-ed in her nursing home bed ... the bed she'd been confined to after dating soon-to-be-ex-Harvard alumni Westmisley –

– one of the same universities he'd later endow with trifles like libraries, gymnasiums and radio stations during the early eighties, after he'd finished the last round of chemo-and-radiation for his near-fatal bout with skin cancer.

He'd contracted said skin cancer during a two-year round-the-world junket in his favorite yacht in the mid-seventies, when he was on his collecting binge ... and he'd sped home across two oceans with close to a dozen countries breathing down his burnt-to-jerky neck, threatening legal action for whatever illegal/endangered baubles he'd 'bought' ...)

And now Edan Westmisley wanted me to drive to his office, for a reason even my agent didn't know –

I asked Gerhard twice, 'You mean to meet with him, like face-to-face?' and both times, his answer was the same ... and as maddeningly vague:

'You want me to read you his fax? Here it is: "Gerhard, please send your client from the Steppe Syster 'Love Victim' shoot to my office for a private meeting, noon today." Hear that, dearheart? The man said "Please" ...'

'He didn't mention me by name,' I'd countered both times, as the phone cord wrapped itself around my wrist like a curly python, but Gerhard was adamant – I was his only client to appear in a Steppe Syster video.

'But Ger, Westmisley only produces records, as in musicians ... his people handle videos, he just oversees what they come up with.' As I pleaded with him, I squeezed the receiver anxiously, my skin crawling under the remembered pressure of Westmisley's smoke-glass-shielded eyes.

I suppose people who saw the 'Love Victim' video assumed that my tattoo-slurping cameo was morphed, but that wasn't 'Edan's style.' Or so said Kenny, the director, while everyone waited for Mr Bandanna to finish embellishing Cody's chest as he stretched out like a fallen Christ on the drum riser, bitching about how much the black paint-thin icing tickled as the glumly sweating tattoo guy spent an hour of studio time painting faux needlework between Cody's nipples. There was only so much butt-wiggling for Kenny to do in that hour, so eventually he confided, 'Great Scarface's into sensation, albeit visually simulated sensations ... he can't feel a damn thing any more.' Kenny whispered in his irresistible Capote-esque drawl, glancing towards the rear of the studio, past the terminator of on-set lights, between every word. After the third or fourth glance, I looked back towards what he was staring at ... Edan Westmisley, or some of him. He was a featureless, dark slice of shadow against the murky studio shadows, with only the plump, convex ovals of his sunglass lenses reflecting the arc-light glare.

'Looks like roadkill before it's run over,' I whispered in Kenny's hoop-lobed ear; he whispered in my thrice-pierced ear, 'Oh no, Edan's not roadkill ... he's an immobile, hulking beast that smashes and twists grillwork, before sending your car into the fucking ditch,' just as the suspended-in-darkness lenses drifted away to the clup-clup of his retreating lizard-skin boots. Once Kenny seemed sure that he was out of range in the huge studio, he added, 'I've developed "shoulder eyes" while working for him ... all Edan has to do is stare at me, and my skin writhes ... like getting a sunburn while staying dead-fish-white.'

I thought Kenny was just blissfully melodramatic, but once Bandanna-Guy was finished, and Kenny started flat-clapping his hands, begging for 'Qui-et,' as he cued the lights and the assistant director set the electronic clapboard, I heard that steady, rhythmic clup-clup echoing in the far reaches of studio, a staccato wooden-heeled counterpoint to the fuzzed-out tape the band was syncing to ... and while I could barely see those disembodied shimmering discs of reflected light hovering behind Kenny's muscular, T-shirted back, they began to bore down on my exposed skin, the way light rays exert a trace of real weight – an unseen, yet measurable pressure. If Kenny endured 'shoulder eyes', I endured 'body eyes' ... and by the time I snake-slithered up that riser, and tiny splinters dug into my exposed midriff, my skin felt as if it were being smothered, each pore screaming for air, and once Cody's sweating, calloused hands hoisted me up for my tattoo-tonguing close-up – Kenny barked orders at the Steady-cam operator, but his voice seemed filtered, as if unable to penetrate Edan's suffocating stare – I forgot Kenny's directions about keeping my eyes open, and began furiously lapping and slurping up bitter black icing, not caring where or how furiously I licked, until Cody jerked back, yelping, 'Hey! Watch the nipple ring, wouldja?' after my left incisor snagged the gold ring jutting out from his raisin-like nipple, and Kenny soothed, 'Go with it, Codeee, make it work for you,' but all the while I couldn't shake that hand-firm pressure all over me, as if Westmisley's eyes were doing a King Kong on my Fay Wray skin, so I wound up licking Cody's Adam's apple before Kenny burbled, 'Cut! Per-fect ... it's a wrap. Hon ... Honey, time to get up –'

Only, I didn't want to get up, not with Edan still there, behind Kenny; I stayed on my knees until Cody hoisted me up by the armpits, roughly, and whispered, 'Get lost, wouldja?' then stalked off for his dressing room, whining to Kenny, 'She almost yanked my ring out, man.' I still couldn't open my eyes, though, until Kenny shot back, 'Just as long as it wasn't in your dick ... not that that's big enough to pierce,' and under those playfully drawled words, I heard the ever-more-distant clup-clup of Edan's boot heels, as he left the studio.

'Don't mind that pimpled twit, dear, he'll never stop you from working,' Kenny began as I opened my eyes, as if it was Cody I was so obviously scared of; not wanting to spoil Kenny's fantasy about Edan being hung up on him, I just smiled, nodded, and took the hand-down he offered me, before stepping off that riser and out of the studio, into the fading-but-real touch of sunlight on my oxygen-starved flesh.

'– listen, kiddo, do I question Edan West misley and still expect to make any more deals in this charming burg? If he faxed me a request that I personally swab out his private vomitorium with my tongue, I'd glaaadly do so – am I speaking English to you, or am I jabbering in fucking Greek?'

Privately replying, 'No, Gerhard, you'd gladly do him if he'd stoop to dropping his pants for a third-rate wanna-be-like you,' I mumbled, 'English, Ger,' before asking (even as my brain protested), 'When did he want me there?'

'Noon ... do you realise that any other of my clients would already be at Westmisley's as I speak, doing the knee-dance under his desk in gratitude? And swallowing every damn drop? If he hadn't of asked for you in particular, I'd have called one of my other clients ... what's the matter, you scared of the stories about him?'

Even though he had no way of seeing me, I shook my head of would-be-video-queen big-hair No; crazy producer stories were as commonplace as urban legends – didn't Tina Turner once see Phil Spector pick up an apple core coated with cigarette ash out of a tray and eat it? The quirks and foibles of producers were the stuff of Rolling Stone's 'Random Notes' column, weren't they? But the underground zines, the grungy hand-Xeroxed jobbies sold at the bigger book stores, they had the real, fresh dirt on No-Eyes Westmisley: the over-lord attitude with his engineers; the sudden, blackball firings; the kinky stuff his ex-lovers only hinted at; the way he circumvented customs with whatever fetishes or artifacts he'd glommed on to during that cancer-causing last jaunt of his; and how he'd beaten said cancer by going to Third World doctors who'd try anything, from whatever source, to heal what should never be healed ... yet, despite all the weirdness he'd indulged in from the sixties on (long past the time when his fellow Fluxus members went respectable – like when Yoko made huggy-kissy with McCartney at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction), Edan Westmisley was the original Teflon Dude, and never mind Ronbo Reagan.

No union could touch him. No woman – no matter what bed or cell or worse she occupied – could blackmail him. Whether it was out of fear, or because he was so well insulated (old money rich, from a peerage in England), no one knew for sure, save for knowing that Edan Westmisley was about as close to a god as a man could be and still need to shake his dick after pissing (or so Kenny advised me during a chance meeting outside of Spago).

Yet, as powerful as Westmisley was, he'd said 'Please' to the cut-rate agent of a would-be actress ... someone who couldn't do a tattoo-licking shot without almost removing a guy's nipple ring the hard way.

To get a 'Please' from Westmisley was far rarer than gobs of manna dripping on the Walk of Fame ... a courtesy he wasn't obliged to give to anyone, for anything. But as Gerhard gave me directions to Westmisley's office-cum-studio, I wondered just what sort of price-tag – be it actual or something less tangible – was attached to that unexpected show of civility ...

Now, I realise that Edan's adding 'Please' to that fax had nothing to do with politeness, or any normal human civility, but was perhaps meant only to forestall suspicion.

Genius Productions Ltd was located out in the Hills, or almost past them, to be exact; to this day, I can't find the spot on any map. But then again, since I've never driven near the place again, let's just say it's Out There. Anyhow, if you were to drive past it unknowingly, you'd never realise that you'd just whizzed past the entire complex – not that the building was hidden by trees or by a fence (Edan detested the obvious, in all things). It was just that the place was so unassuming that it barely registered. Oyster-white stucco exterior, minimal smoke-tinted windows, three squat storeys, flat tile roof, superbly earthquake-proof in that there was nothing to break off (and reinforced from within by double-strength I-beams, as Edan proudly informed me), with only a bizarre metal sculpture adorning the brownish stubble of grass directly in front of the entrance to indicate that it wasn't a warehouse or sweatshop garment factory.

Yet, the sculpture itself was the key to both the identity of the building and the mentality of the man who designed and built it; from every angle but one, it resembled randomly staked Christian and Coptic crosses, of varying heights and widths, fanned out in a crescent shape across the lawn. But once a car was almost past the entire building, if you happened to look just so in the rearview mirror, the assemblage would suddenly meld together into a concave, seemingly smooth unbroken surface – save for the open spaces which read (in reverse, since it was meant to be read in a mirror):


It was so perfectly executed it was chilling; even if a motorist noticed the solid version of the sculpture (including the squared-off words), it only remained solid-looking long enough to barely register the words before dissolving into a scattering of haphazard steel as soon as the car sped forward.

But I didn't feel privileged to have caught on to Edan's single-glimpse-only sign, as I backed my Escort up and then drove into the nearly empty parking lot to the east of the building; the selectiveness inherent in the design of that sculpture/sign galled me, perhaps because it gave no concession to unavoidable, human things like an eyelash getting in one's eye, or someone blinking at that exact second, or something going wrong with the car, or with traffic. Happen to miss that fraction of a second of the sign's wholeness, and a person might spend hours combing the freeway, searching for the elusive edifice just passed.

But the true pre-eminence of Edan Westmisley was waiting to be revealed to me; the double-paned smoked doors in front of the building were operated by a sensor, like those in a store, so that in itself didn't spook me ... but the lack of anyone – security guards, receptionists, cleaning men with big sloppy galvanised metal buckets, wanna-be recording artists hoping to get past the non-existent receptionists – I-mean-anyone, inside that stucco, steel and glass edifice did get to me. In a major way ...

All I saw was a quarter mile of empty hallway, carpeted in the sort of plushy beige carpeting that mats down if you sneeze at it, extending in a straight line from where I stood to the back of the building. Which culminated in another door, this one industrial-steel-with-pneumatic-hinges (the emergency-only type usually seen in the rear of by-the-highway chain stores), and surmounted by a red-lit 'EXIT' sign.


Excerpted from Lethal Kisses by Ellen Datlow. Copyright © 1996 Ellen Datlow. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Introduction Ellen Datlow,
... Warmer A. R. Morlan,
Anamorphosis Caitlín R. Kiernan,
A Grub Street Tale Thomas Tessier,
Back in the Dunes Terry Lamsley,
Leave Me Alone God Damn You Joyce Carol Oates,
Butcher's Logic Roberta Lannes,
A Lie for a Lie Pat Cadigan,
Keeping Alice Simon Ings,
A Punch in the Doughnut David J. Schow,
Unforgotten Christopher Fowler,
O, Rare and Most Exquisite Douglas Clegg,
Martyr and Pesty Jonathan Lethem,
Foreign Bodies Michael Marshall Smith,
Ships Michael Swanwick & Jack Dann,
The Dreadful Day of Judgement Ruth Rendell,
A Flock of Lawn Flamingos Pat Murphy,
Touch Me Everyplace Michael Cadnum,
The Screaming Man Richard Christian Matheson,
Rare Promise M. M. O'Driscoll,
A Biography of Ellen Datlow,

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