James R. Cain's Australian publication, Dark Animus, took me back to a time here in the states when horror was horror and King was king.
Massachusetts's office worker John Grover, who has placed over 60 short tales in the small press, penned the lead story, "Dark Song." Charlie and Reggie, equipped with blessed daggers and earplugs to protect them from a devilish supernatural diva, track down and do battle with the mythical siren that killed Charlie's brother. So maybe for subtext we're pretty much left with boys versus girls! Action-driven escapism seasoned with great descriptive interludes; Grover's prose commands the reader's attention.
Michigan factory worker Tim Curran's novel Street Rats has just been released by PublishAmerica. He wrote the long novella, "One Dark September Night. ... " Superficially, the premise recalls Stand by Me, as high school boys in the sticks get themselves into a peck of trouble over a dead body. "Night" has some great characterization, and the climax is a sucker punch that haunted me long after I read it. I need to commend publisher and editor Cain for running novellas, as there aren't a lot of places where they can see print.
But enough with the Yanks! Davin Ireland was born in England and now lives in the Netherlands. His cleverly titled short story "Spook" concerns ghosts, and the nightmare of going, not to hell, but heaven, and finding that it leaves quite a bit to be desired—particularly if you're the wrong color.
Darrel Pitt contributes "Flesh," a story about a man and his wife going to the house where his parents lived and died, a place haunted by his memories of childhood abuse. The familial evil is soon revealed to be an insidious, predatory organism.
Rounding out the fiction, Michael Arnzen, who won a Bram Stoker Award in 1994 for his novel Grave Markings, composed the short story "Flunking the Assassin" about an illiterate youngster named George Pickett who blunders his way through an elite murder academy.
There are four poems and a lot of great black and white illustrations. Australian Regina Brewster's picture of the monstrous siren in "Dark Song" is powerful. Also from Australia, Heesco Khosnaran's representational image focuses effectively on the grisly conclusion of “One September Night. ... ” Marcia Borell's detailed drawing for "Flunking the Assassin" is very nicely conceived, letting the viewer share the main character's perspective of his own face reflected in an apple for the teacher, a body bag between his sneakered feet. The surrealistic colorful cover is by Flament Herve, who resides in France. With his blending of Biblical figures, a cosmic setting, and what appears to be a ghostly aborigine, among other mysterious touches, it compels you to seek out every detail.