Sunday, March 27, 2016
The Night Listener and Others - by Chet Williamson - A very strong collection of genre fiction
In his Introduction to The Night Listener and Others, writer Richard Christian Matheson says of Chet's writing, "Williamson could make a grocery list involving." Not that I'd like to read what's on the menu at the Williamson household, but we get the idea. As a writer, Chet Williamson sees beyond the ordinary and finds what is intriguing about a situation, gives it just a tweak from his imagination, and is able to get it all down on paper in a way that makes it compelling to the reader.
Included in this new collection are 21 short stories and another tale of novella length. There are ghost stories, tales of things that go bump in the night, sad stories and some that will bring a smile to your face, even a couple of tales inspired by Chet's brief time in Japan.
THE NIGHT LISTENER - A nice, quiet, little story which deftly creates tension and continues to build upon it, until...snap.
SEASON PASS - The tale of Carl and Ethel Younger who have been coming to the Magicland amusement park forever, even when it was still known as Rocky Grove Park. A charming little tale with a perfect twist, like an old episode of The Twilight Zone.
NIGHT DEPOSITS - A story of greed and how one man will go to great lengths to make things right late in life.
TO FEEL ANOTHER'S WOE - A terrific story of an actress who can steal other's emotion. Chet has been a long time member of the Actor's Equity Association and I love the way he took that experience and extrapolated it into a wonderful story of speculative fiction.
"YOUR SKIN'S JES SOFT 'N PURTY" HE SAID - Eustace P. Saunders is an illustrator from NYC who travels to the wild west seeking characters of ill repute for both inspiration and unsavory relations. What could possibly go wrong? Enjoyed the clash of cultures in this story. Well told.
THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. JAMES - John 7:53,56. Pastor Brandon St. James follows this scripture to the extreme. A really good novella length story with a couple of completely memorable characters.
THE ASSEMBLY OF THE DEAD - The one story in the collection that just didn't work for me, but it might turn out to be your favorite. Stories are often like that.
THE HEART'S DESIRE - Reminiscent of Chet's novel Second Chance. A story of temporal revisualization. A way to go back and re-experience life's greatest moments.
THE PACK - At the end of the book, Chet offers insight into each of the stories in the collection. This particularly grisly tale came about when his wife's uncle asked him, "Why don't you ever write about puppies and kittens." As, is so often the case, be careful what you wish for.
THE SWING OF THE KNIFE - Be careful of what you believe. It can literally be the death of you.
THE PEBBLES OF SAI-NO-KAWARA - A compelling tale of choices made and lived with, made more powerful by Chet's telling of how the story came about.
A FATHER'S TEARS - This story has my favorite opening line in the collection. "I remember my father crying only twice in his life. The first time was when I got married. The second was when my own son died. Both times he cried because he lost a son. Whether or not they stayed lost is open to conjecture."
JEAVES AND THE DETERIORATING RELATIONS - A wonderful combination of comedy and horror and one of my favorites for a very personal reason. It's the short that Chet read at Horrorfind in Gettysburg, PA a few years ago, my first horror convention.
THE SMOKE IN MOONEY'S PUB - Well-written with lots of passion. One of the best Chet Williamson stories I've ever read. Once again taken from personal experience and then adding a twist.
FROM THE BACK PAGES - This was a rather odd, but enjoyable story told completely through letters, news clippings, and police blotters.
"AND SO WILL I REMEMBER YOU" - This is a charmingly sweet ghost story that actually gave me chills.
A TRICK OF THE LIGHT - Strong speculative fiction concerning the truth about that light people see when they die.
MARLEY'S CAT - We all know Marley from Dicken's A Christmas Carol. This takes place prior to those events and is told by Marley's cat.
THE FINAL VERSE - Another wickedly enjoyable story about "Mother Come Quickly," an old song that's been covered again and again, but with a lost verse. Here we find out what happens when that lost verse is finally found.
APPOINTED - Inspired by Chet's visit to Horrorfind a few years ago. A touch of Lovecraftian horror.
SILKEN WORDS - This is a previously unpublished story of a man's descent into madness and a dead Vincent Price comes along for the ride.
BLANKET MAN - One more story inspired by the author's time in Japan.
The Night Listener and Others is a strong collection of mostly previously published material. Not every story was great, but the ones that were, far outweigh the few that didn't quite work for me. Overall, one of the better collections I've read this year.
Currently available in hardcover only, from the UK's PS Publishing, as both an unsigned jacketed hardcover and in a signed slipcased edition limited to 100 copies.
Chet Williamson has been writing horror, science fiction, and suspense since 1981. Among his novels are Second Chance, Hunters, Defenders of the Faith, Ash Wednesday, Reign, Dreamthorp, and the forthcoming Psycho Sanitarium, an authorized sequel to Robert Bloch's classic Psycho. He is the recipient of the International Horror Guild Award and has been nominated six times for the HWA's Stoker Award. A stage and film actor, and has recorded over 40 unabridged audiobooks, both of his own work and that of many other writers. You can follow him on Twitter @chetwill or at www.chetwilliamson.com.