Thursday, July 30, 2009

Book Review: Mama's Boy by Fran Friel.

Sorry I've negelected ye old Blog, I've been hard at work on a novel this month that has eaten up all my time. Almost done.

Mama's boy and other Dark Tales by Fran Friel

I only know Fran Friel personally in a 21st century way. Having interacted with her for years on various message boards, websites and e-mail. As soon as Apex Publications published her collection of stories I was sold. Apex is one of the most respected magazines publishing dark fiction of the last decade. It took me a little while to seek out this book, remember this is a independent press, we independent press authors have to rely on our online presence since borders or Barnes and Nobles are not making displays for our books.
Fran is a graduate of the borderlands boot camp and finalist for the Bram Stoker award which is basically the oscar for horror writers. On top of that I discovered that her book came with an introduction by Gary Braunbeck who is a favorite writer of mine. Needless to say I am excited to add this to my collection.
Friel radiates a charming and spunky personality and even in the darkest tales in the book her sense of humor and morality shines through. Case in point is the award nominated title novella which ends the book. Mama's boy is a serial killer tale that despite the over saturation of this type of tale has no problem finding an original hook. Mostly told through the killer's therapy sessions the story lends itself to multiple readings.
Other highlights of the collection include the pirate tale “Sea Orphan” and the charming story from the family dog's point of view “Under the dryer.” Friel's greatest achievement in the collection might be in the various pieces of flash fiction. These stories show an economy of words that wielded with surgical skill. If you like Horror fiction you can't go wrong here.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Book Review: Midnight Walk Edited by Lisa Morton

Midnight Walk Edited by Lisa Morton
254 pages
Dark House publishing

I have said more than a few times that Lisa Morton was the best short story author currently working in the field. Her command of the short form in horror tale reminds me of two other greats from her home town Dennis Etchison and Richard Christian Matheson. I am not alone in this opinion, Morton won the Bram Stoker award for best short story. So I was pretty excited to get this book in the mail. I was hoping for a great collection edited by one of the best.
The good news is that Morton shows she has a keen eye by putting together a great collection, featuring almost entirely authors from the city of angles where she is a rare native. This book features 14 authors who might not considered A-list writers now, but it should be in library collections because it is a showcase of talent that will some day reach that point for sure.
Highlight stories include 'Late Night check-in' by Vince Churchill, Alley Opps by Del Howison and Eddie G. At the Gates of Hell by RB Payne. The quality of the writing is quite strong and it is likely that your list of favorite stories may be different from mine. If your looking for a tradtional horror collection that spins it's yarns in literate and exciting directions take a Midnight Walk it's a top notch collection.

The Editor Lisa Morton contributed a story called 'Diana and the Goong-Si' which I enjoyed, being an author of Chinese Vampires myself. I am afraid unless you are fan of the Chinese hopping vampire movies such as Mr.Vampire or Crazy Safari you may not enjoy this strange story as well as those of us who have. It was is a well written yarn, but it is certainly more suited for fans of this obscure genre.

The book is introduced with an essay from the editor. The first point Morton makes about the anthology is the connection the writers have. I have always been a fan of regional anthologies and certainly this unique worldview helps set a tone for the book.

Is the horror genre stuck in the 80's recycling Stephen King settings and plots? Morton suggests that the genre needs to explore some new directions. Of course she is right, but the irony for me is that some of the more traditional horror stories in Midnight Walk such as Richard Grove's Silver Needle to me were the strongest. There is nothing wrong with nailing a traditional horror tale in your own voice.

Science Fiction writer Rudy Rucker referred to these aspects of genre as “Power cords.” Certainly the mainstream vision of horror fiction does involve Anne Rice novels re-written for tweens and 100 takes on Romero rules zombies. Sadly the authors who rely on recycling in that way are having no problem selling books. The original horror tale is alive in well in small press, the collection proves that you can make original variations with the traditional power cords.

It's fine line between traditional and original, the discerning horror fan enjoy writers who fall naturally on the that line without effort. I think you'll find several writers doing just that in Midnight Walk.