Monday, November 10, 2014

Dark Screams, Volume One

  

DARK SCREAMS, VOLUME ONE is the first e-book in a planned series, featuring new short stories by noteworthy Horror authors, as well as a handful of rarely-seen classic tales.
 This initial volume features five stories, four of them brand new, with the fifth being a rare reprinting of Stephen King's "Weeds", a nearly forty-year-old gem that served as the basis for the "Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill" segment of the Romero/King collaboration CREEPSHOW.

 "Weeds" leads off the volume, and it's good, solid, old-school Stephen King at his finest. Jordy Verrill is a country bumpkin who finds a meteor on his property, and makes the mistake of touching the strange material that spills out of it. I was pleased to find that, while Jordy is no Rocket Scientist, he wasn't as outright goofy as he as in the film, where he was memorably portrayed by Stephen King himself. Reading this story made me remember discovering King's work via his NIGHT SHIFT collection, which is high praise, because I still consider that book to be a high-water mark for King's short fiction.

 Next up is "The Price You Pay", by Kelley Armstrong. This was my first exposure to Armstrong's writing, and she more than earns her spot in this book with her grim tale of a pair of lifelong friends who share a horrific secret that propels their symbiotic relationship into ever darker places.

 Bill Pronzini's "Magic Eyes" finds an accused wife-killer languishing in a mental institution relating the circumstances that led to his incarceration, as he becomes drawn into a friendship with an attractive fellow patient. Pronzini's matter-of-fact style makes this story extremely readable.

 The final two stories seemed like they could be problematic for me, since I'm not a fan of either Simon Clark or Ramsey Campbell, but both stories proved to be pleasant surprises.Clark's "Murder In Chains" features a man who wakes up to find himself in an underground chamber, chained by the neck to a hulking, murderous brute. While Clark remains maddeningly vague about the hows and whys of their predicament, his story had enough breathless momentum to keep me from minding too much.

 Ramsey Campbell's 's "The Watched", the most straightforward Horror story in the collection, had a fairly predictible formula, but was enjoyable nonetheless. I'm not a fan of Campbell's work, and I enjoyed this story, so if you are a fan, you'll probably love it.

 Future volumes in the DARK SCREAMS e-book series are supposed to be forthcoming every few months, with a print omnibus planned somewhere down the line. Editors Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar have assembled a solid initial offering, and I'm eager to see where they take the series from here.

 Random House provided a review copy.