Editors Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar continue to bring together the brightest stars in genre fiction for their Dark Screams anthology series, now in its sixth incarnation with more on the way.
This time, I absolutely loved two of the stories, thoroughly enjoyed three others, and was a bit let down by the sixth.
The stories include...
The Old Dude’s Ticker by Stephen King - Even a King completist may have missed this one. Originally published in NECON 2000 for attendees of Camp NECON that year and later in The Big Book of NECON from Cemetery Dance. This is the story' s first wide release. King himself calls the story a crazed revisionist telling of Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.” It is so much fun. Read it just for the seventies slang if for no other reason. Written very early in his career, it's like something out of a time capsule.
The Rich Are Different by Lisa Morton - A brilliantly crafted story of love and madness. Given the chance at unimaginable wealth would you take it at any cost? “But the price is this: Your children will appear human until they feel lust, and then their desire will make them into my children, divine in appearance and strength. Should they seek to satiate themselves with a mortal, they will create a victim, not a lover. They will have only each other to fulfill their needs and continue your line.”
The Manicure by Nell Quinn-Gibney - Getting a dark fiction piece out of a free manicure. A wonderfully constructed piece of fiction from a writer new to me. I really enjoyed this story.
The Comforting Voice by Norman Prentiss - We've all had our experiences with crying babies, but Josh and Cheryl's newborn, Lydia, really has a set of powerful lungs and knows how to use them. The solution comes from an unlikely source in this charming tale.
The Situations by Joyce Carol Oates - I hate to say it, but this was my least favorite entry in the anthology. A trio of tales I just didn't connect with. I love Joyce Carol Oates, but not this set of stories.
The Corpse King by Tim Curran - I read this novella seven years ago when it was first published as a limited edition by Cemetery Dance and I just read it again for this review. What a terrific bit of writing this is. So well-crafted. Takes the reader to a time and place where grave robbing was common, even if it wasn't respectable.
The harvest of cadavers was piled in the beds of muddy wagons and taken to market, sold to the highest bidder to supply dissection room and anatomical house.
Brilliant dialog and dialect.
“You’ve been sweet on the drink for too many years, Johnny Sherily, and this is a fact, I say,” Clow said to them all. “Ain’t nothing in the North Grounds. Nothing but money a-moldering in the ground.”
And Arnie, by Christ, he said he saw something down there, something staring up at him from that hole. Something like a huge, horrible skull with teeth like knitting needles. It stared up at him with burning eyes, crawling and creeping about, chewing.
And witty to boot.
As things stood, she had one more tooth than eyes.
If Poe was writing today this would be a story he might write. Definitely recommended.
For this story alone it's worth purchasing Dark Screams Volume Six available now as an e-book published by Hydra, a division of Random House.