"Candy Coated Madness" Book Review

Written by Steve Pattee

Independently Published

candy coated madness jeff strand poster large

Written by Jeff Strand
2020, 286 pages, Fiction
Released on November 9th, 2020


There’s nothing quite like visiting an old friend, someone you know will say all the right things, the ones you need to hear. Jeff Strand is that friend. Except I don’t know him. That doesn’t change the fact that he always writes the right things I need to read.

His latest collection, Candy Coated Madness, is a perfect example of this. I read this while I was also reading Kelli Owen’s The Headless Boy. Both were on my to-review pile for far too long, but I didn’t double them up for that reason. I did it because Owen’s novel deals with some heavy topics, and I know Strand is always good for a laugh (in the best possible way).

While this came out in November, the stories are some you may have read before, as it’s a combination of tales from various anthologies, magazines, etc. Fortunately, the vast majority of these tales I had not read yet, so everything old was new again...for me.

As I say in about every review of Strand’s work, the man is versatile as hell. But here, the theme is consistent, just pure insanity and comedy. Things get bloody, gory and gruesome, and you will laugh when you’re not cringing, and this was exactly what I needed to cheer me up when I needed.

There are 28 stories here, starting with a hilarious introduction (which you must read, trust me). At the risk of sounding cliché (or at the very least, like a broken record), it’s so hard to pick a favorite. Each tale offers something and they are all a treat in some way or another. But I’m going to give you the ones that have stuck with me the longest.

First up is “Pointy Canes”, which deals with the frustration of someone who has a birthday in December and gets shafted on gifts because of it. I have a nephew whose birthday is close to Christmas, and after reading how Uncle Jack finally deals with getting the short end of the birthday stick, I’m going to make sure to buy my nephew a gift for both his birthday and Christmas. No one has time for the kind of slaughter found in this tale.

“Hostile” tells the story of Harry, just your average guy who paid good money to kill someone. However, Adam, the guy who arranged everything, is rather upset about how Harry ultimately murdered his victim. The back-and-forth between the two men is laugh-out-loud funny at times.

Two gangs of science-experiments-gone-wrong meet up in the hilarious “Lab Experiment Turf War”. If only The Outsiders had Grasshopper Boy instead of Ponyboy and Wally Two-Head instead of Johnny Cade, things might have ended up different. It would at least have been far bloodier.

Finally (as far as ones I’m going to talk about), the closest to a favorite I have from here would be “Good Deeds”. You know that seriously awful worst-Christmas-song-ever, “The Christmas Shoes”? This is Jeff Strand’s take on it. You won’t be disappointed.

Candy Coated Madness is another winner from Strand. Collections can be a great introduction to an author’s work, and this is no exception. If someone was looking for a recommendation for comedy/horror done right, I’d eagerly point them to this. They’ll thank me later. Pick it up.


Overall: 4.5 Star Rating Cover
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Steve Pattee
US Editor, Admin
He's the puppet master. You don't see him, but he pulls the strings that gets things done. He's the silent partner. He's black ops. If you notice his presence, it's the last thing you'll notice — because now you're dead. He's the shadow you thought you saw in that dark alleyway. You can have a conversation with him, and when you turn around to offer him a cup of coffee, he's already gone.
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