Vampires, vengeful family ghosts, collectors of souls, and Nazi necromancers stand side-by-side with the merely grieving to populate these tales of dark moments.
Every tale has a unique setting, yet evokes a familiar feeling: that back-of-the-neck sense that someone or something is watching you. After all, there are many definitions of the word “haunted” and everyone has their own ghosts.
Book Title: Dark Delicacies III: Haunted Type: Trade Paperback 336 Pages Editor: Del Howison & Jeff Gelb Publication Date: October 2009 Publisher: Running Press ISBN: 978-0-7624-3352-0 Genre: Horror / Anthology / Short Stories Purchase: The Book Depository
My Thoughts on The Stories
*I’ve decided to split my review of this collection into four different posts since there are so many stories in this volume. Also I am reading this as a catch-up for the 31 Shots of Shock challenge. Basic story descriptions are in black and my personal thoughts follow in blue. Check out Part 1 of 4 here.*
The Mr. and Mrs. of this story have a tradition to vacation at a certain hotel on their anniversary. No matter where they are, whether together at home or separated by work they make plans to meet. This short story begins on day that the Mr. will be continuing with the tradition despite his wife’s death. Perhaps because of sentimental reasons, or maybe just to feel closer to her in this room where they shared so much history, the Mr. arrives and starts to settle into his memories. However, the things he begins seeing are a little to vivid to be memories and he quickly thinks that he may have been given a suite already occupied by a woman. He thinks this until the woman who enters the room turns out to be the Mrs. This is one of my most favorite stories of the collection, it feels much like a traditional ghost story, and is the most relevant to the collections subtitle Haunted. It’s about a haunted man, but it’s also a love story, and I found it so touching.
♦ Church Services ♦ Kevin J. Anderson
Set in the early times when people rode wagons across the American west searching for a place to set down roots, build homesteads and families, this story focuses on a husband and wife who host a traveling church revival. Finally finding the place they have been looking for they stow the tent aside and become a part of a community. The husband showing his powerful religious abilities to cast out demons that inhabit human souls becomes a respected member of the small town. However, it isn’t only his talents that drive out evil spirits, it has a lot to do with the demon jar he uses to trap the demons. But is the space within the demon jar an infinite area or only a temporary holding cell? Not a bad story in any way, but it was a little predictable and the good versus evil theme was overly familiar so that you could see what was coming.
Sparkle is just an ordinary girl looking for fun at a hot-air balloon festival, instead of running into her friends though she gets cornered by her mom’s creepy boyfriend who thinks it’s no problem to fool around with mom and daughter. Before he forces her into something messy Sparkle is saved by a handsome stranger who asks her to join him for lunch. Lunch turns into hours spent together in bed at his hotel room. She finds out that he is a front-man looking to drum up interest for a music event out in the desert. And to make it an even more impressive sounding gig, he gives her the all-new promotional materials for the music – a baggie of capsules that you swallow. Once in your system you start to hear the music – but you can only take one capsule a day! Sparkle is in love, with this amazing stranger, and his music-filled pills. She has a hard time believing that any of this is real – but soon she will find out just how real it is. The question is will she be able to listen to her inner sense over the roar of music in her head? This story was definitely original. While reading I wasn’t sure of where it was heading at all. Knowing about all the mood-enhancing drugs available for raves made the music-capsules all that more real. Very neat twist on that old adage that you should never talk to strangers.
♦ A Nasty Way To Go ♦ Ardath Mayhar
A small-town means for many law enforcement officers, not very much business aside from neighbor squabbles and driving home the occasional drunk. The narrator of this story is a constable in Hackberry, Texas during the early 1930’s and even though his job is boring he enjoys it. Until the Pindars start making trouble for him – Miz Pindar to be specific. Seems she liked to fight with her husband and she was a tough little lady. So the constable kept his eye on them, and broke up a few fights every once in awhile. The Pindars were reclusive though, and aside from the weekly prayer meetings they had nothing to do with the other townsfolk. However when Mister Pindar hasn’t been seen much and the regular fights cease, the constable of Hackberry thinks something may be wrong. Plot-wise there wasn’t anything spectacular about this story, but the writing and details made it more than enjoyable. Told in first-person from the constables point of view, the reader is given a very close look at the workings of a small-town, both from his own memories and his present situation.
♦ The Flinch ♦ Michael Boatman
Action-packed from beginning to end, this story follows Sonny Troubadour, a boxer, as he accepts a job from a local black market mobster named The Scrape. Sonny needs to find The Scrapes girlfriend Harmony and bring her back to him. Finding her is no problem for Sonny, but Harmony isn’t exactly a normal girl. Once she’s with a man, she sucks away the very best part of him – and keeps it in a crystal vial around her neck. In case you couldn’t tell from my very bad description above – I hardly had any idea what was happening in this story half the time. Part of it was the choppy-fast pace, partly the abundance of people (bad guys, good guys, who the hell knew) the other was that the language and names were a bit too slangy (not so much the narrative, but the dialogue, for example “You look like you could use some scratch, brah.” It took me awhile to figure out “scratch” meant cash.) That’s why I hate slang used in writing – for people like me who aren’t up on speech variations it’s distracting and it also ages a work.
To be continued …
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