Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Dueling Minds - Edited by Brian James Freeman - Six horror shorts inspired by the cover art

4 of 5 Stars  (Review Copy)

First of all, let me thank the editor, Brian James Freeman, for the ARC of this truely intriguing anthology.

This Novella length book is a printed version of something Brian had tried on his website, DuelingMinds.com, back at the turn of the century.

Each author, some of the best working in the horror genre today, was shown a haunting piece of artwork by acclaimed artist, Alan M. Clark, and then asked, "What worlds do you see hidden in this painting?"  The stories collected in this book are their answers.

In addition, because this is a selection in the Cemetery Dance signature series, it required additional interior art work, which was provided by Erin Wells.  So what we end up with is Erin painting interior artwork inspired by stories that were inspired by Alan M. Clark's cover art which was originally inspired by a Ray Bradbury story.  How about that?

Now to the stories.  It all begins with Purple Reign from Brian Keene.  Keene took a rather literal approach to this exercise.  When you look at the cover art, you can see where many of the aspects of the story come from, but the ultimate horror of the tale could only come from the mind of one of the masters of modern horror.  Brian has a knack for taking an ordinary day and quickly turning it upside down, immediately putting his characters into life threatening situations.  This one is not for the kiddies, lots of swearing, but a great ride for adult horror fans.

Next, from Gary A. Braunbeck, another familiar name in the field of scary stories, is Bargain, a more prose driven tale with great lines like..."what better spot, then, for a certain corner of hell to open one of its back doors."  Whereas, Keene's story was about the effects of the "Blue Ballon", Braunbeck takes us inside the mind of a man riding in the ballon's basket.  A troubled mind, to say the least.

The great stories from great writers continue with Between the Dark and the Daylight from Tom Piccirilli.  While the first two works deal with rather fanciful interpretations of the balloon in the artwork, Tom finds his horror in a story that seems all to possible, featuring a runaway hot-air balloon with a 6 year old child alone in its basket.

Tim Lebbon's Falling Off the World still haunts me with images of Holly caught on one of the ropes of yet another runaway hot-air balloon and she's not alone in her cirumstance.

The only newcomer in this collection is Jenny Oroset.  She certainly doesn't write like a newcomer as she goes toe-to-toe with the established writers in this collection with her story That Which Binds.  She doesn't pull from the obvious pieces of the artwork for inspiration, but it's there if you look hard enough.

This anthology finishes just as strong as it starts with Breath of Bygone Spirits from Gerard Houarner.  Another prose driven entry as Bill returns home, at the behest of his Grandmother, to deal with the ghosts of the past.  I loved this line as he gets off the train at his old hometown..."the bag in his other hand seemed to want to follow the wind out of town."  Again not the obvious choice of inspiration from Alan M. Clark's artwork, but it's there.

Overall, I was quite pleased with the experience provided by this anthology.  Some stories were stronger than others, but that could be more a matter of taste on my part.  I will say I enjoyed each and every one.  My favorite, and the one I see most clearly when I look at the book's cover, is Purple Reign from Brian Keene.  I'd like to invite you to read Dueling Minds when it comes out in October and let me know which is your favorite.

Dueling Minds will be published by Cemetery Dance as selection #10 in their popular Signature Series and will be available in 2 versions...
• Hardcover Limited Edition of 550 signed (by all of the contributors) and numbered copies bound in full-cloth and Smyth sewn with illustrated endpapers ($35)

• Traycased Hardcover Lettered Edition of 26 signed (by all of the contributors) and lettered copies bound in leather and Smyth sewn with illustrated endpapers and a satin ribbon page marker ($175)

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