Book Review – Dark Screams: Volume Five

I’ve long been a fan of short horror fiction, from the early works of Etchison and Barker–true masters of the form–to present day publications from such huge editing talents as Ellen Datlow, Anthony Rivera, and Paula Guran. Two other such editors are the team most well known for their work on the legendary Cemetery Dance Publications and Cemetery Dance Magazine. Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar have been at this for a long time and have curated some of the best long and short fiction in the genre. So when I see their names gracing the cover of a short fiction anthology, I’ll always jump at the chance to read it.

ds5From the product description on Amazon

Mick Garris, J. Kenner, Kealan Patrick Burke, Del James, and Bentley Little pry open a sarcophagus of horror and dread in Dark Screams: Volume Five, from Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar of the esteemed Cemetery Dance Publications.

(You can read the entire synopsis here.)

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DARK SCREAMS: VOLUME FIVE is a novella length collection of horrific stories with the unified themes of love, loss, and pain by some of the most talented authors in horror, some of them new to me and some of them pretty much household brand names.

Following are the synopses of each story followed by my thoughts. The synopses are taken from the Amazon product page:

EVERYTHING YOU’VE ALWAYS WANTED by Mick Garris
It was supposed to be the night of his life: a celebration of his one hit slasher flick. But the price of admission is higher than this has-been filmmaker ever could have imagined.

This is a creepy little piece of body horror that left certain parts of my anatomy itching with empathy. It’s a fun, enjoyable story by a talented author and–though I felt like it could have gained some impact had it been shorter–it’s still a good read and worthy of your time.

THE ONE AND ONLY by J. Kenner
When he was seven, Will Underwood’s nanny told him she had the Sight. Years later, a broken heart sends him to New Orleans . . . but it’s fate that leads him to Madame Darkling’s Voodoo Emporium. 

~ J. Kenner is one of the pen names used by the versatile and skilled author Julie Kenner. THE ONE AND ONLY is the first short story I’ve read by Kenner, but it certainly won’t be the last. One of the shorter stories in the book, it’s also one of my favorites, containing beautifully scripted prose and a horrific shocker of an ending.

THE LAND OF SUNSHINE by Kealan Patrick Burke
Although she was mute long before the affair that nearly wrecked their marriage, her silence has tortured her husband ever since. Now he will seek out what he has lost—or be driven mad by remorse.

~ Kealan Patrick Burke is one of the best authors working today and one of my favorites. THE LAND OF SUNSHINE showcases Kealan’s ability to reel you in with moody, surreal descriptions and a sense of impending disaster around every corner. It’s a heart-breaker of a story and my favorite of the collection

MECHANICAL GRATITUDE by Del James
Arnold loves his ’68 Camaro almost as much as he loves his wife, and he’s willing to do anything to protect them both—especially after hearing strange noises coming from his garage.

~To me, this is the least horrific story of the collection, fitting better into the category of dark, speculative fiction. It’s a quirky little story about a couple’s love for each other and their car and the lengths they’ll go to protect it. The story has a delightful twist of an ending and is a welcome and worthy entry in this collection.

THE PLAYHOUSE by Bentley Little
A real-estate agent is drawn into a children’s playhouse behind an abandoned property she’s trying to sell—and finds herself strangely reluctant to leave.

~ The story of a playhouse on a foreclosed property and the realtor who is strangely attracted to it. This is a creepy tale stamped with Bentley’s trademark ability to take something mundane and make it terrifying. Little is a legend in the field of horror and THE PLAYHOUSE demonstrates why. One of my three favorites in the book.

As with the other entries in the DARK SCREAMS series of books, this fifth volume a top notch collection of delightful terrors. A perfect read for the Halloween season.

You can purchase this book on Amazon or at barnesandnoble.com. You can also purchase it directly from Penguin Random House

Published by: Hydra
Editors: Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar
Authors: Mick Garris, Kealan Patrick Burke, Del James, J. Kenner and Bentley Little.

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