Sunday, August 14, 2011

Chilling Tales of Horror and the Supernatural by Patty G. Henderson (editor)

Publisher:                  P. D. Publishing

Editor's Warning: The reading and enjoyment of this anthology will greatly increase your chances of terrifying nightmares, lack of sleep and fear of your own shadow.

That warning plus one look at the cover picture will tell the reader that this is not meant to be a typical lesbian anthology. No tender scenes of romance, unless you find someone biting your neck and sucking out all of your blood charming. No thrilling adventure, unless you find a monster out of hell chasing you to your death exciting. There is humor in a macabre sort of way. Some of the resolutions of the stories are such fitting punishments or so bizarre that the reader will probably laugh. If you don't chuckle at the end of the first story, you're already taking these stories too seriously.

Patty G. Henderson has brought together some of her stories with the work of Mark Apoapsis, Victor J. Banis, Barbara L. Clanton, Moondancer Drake, Amy J. Ira, Crystal Michallet-Romero, Paul Milliken, Rick R. Reed, Hayden Thorne, Fran Walker and MJ Williamz. Some of them, like Henderson, have had books and stories in print and others are using this as their way to break into the medium. The stories are written as "flash fiction," which puts an interesting constraint on the writer. The plot and characters have to be developed in 1000 words or less, which is just slightly more than two pages. Not much room is available, so the writer is forced to condense and intensify everything.

Some of the stories are more successful than others. Several of the stories are so short they're like the authors shouting "Boo" at you, only in a few more words. There are tales of vampires, ghosts and succubi; rotting bodies, boogeymen and inhuman behavior; lost loves and vengeful love. The stories are short enough that, if you just have a few minutes, you can read a couple and put the book down until later. The book's major drawback is the problem of all anthologies. The stories are not uniform in quality. Many are extremely well written with interesting characters or viewpoints, making the reader wish that a longer format had been used so that the story had gone on. Others are flat and not very inspired. Then there are the one or two that may make the reader glad that the author doesn't live next door.

Does the book live up to the Editor's Warning? The stories themselves are not particularly scary, although a couple of them may make the reader shiver. The real terror in the story usually comes from the fear the character is feeling as the horror unfolds or in realizing the evil that humans can unleash on each other. Some of the stories aren't frightening as much as they are poignant. However, the cover of the book is almost guaranteed to cause you some discomfort. It's meant to be a fun read and it is.

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