Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Book Review: Dark Delicacies III - Haunted edited by Del Howison and Jeff Gelb

In the third collection of short stories from Dark Delicacies, a Burbank bookstore that has all a horror fan could ask for, we are treated to new short stories from illustrious authors like Chuck Palahniuk, Mick Garris, Heather Graham, Simon Clark, Axelle Carolyn and even a new poem from Clive Barker! All the stories are unique, set in different locations with diverse characters facing their own horrors. Yet, after reading each and every one of the tales in Haunted that is the exact feeling you’ll be left with. You’ll be disturbed, anxious and a little spooked after finishing these stories, and those feelings won’t quickly dissipate. Instead, just like a ghostly apparition they will linger long after you’ve finished all the stories and closed the book. Are you ready to be haunted? Then keep reading…

With any Dark Delicacies book you know you are getting the cream of the crop in regards to authors, and Haunted is no different. All of the stories contained within the 300+ pages will knock your socks off! Kudos must be given to editors Del Howison (proprietor of the Dark Delicacies store) and Jeff Gelb (who gives us a fantastic intro) for compiling such talented contributors, whether they are well-known or not.

While all of the stories are absolutely stellar, I do have my personal favorites of the anthology. My absolute favorite is The Architecture of Snow by David Morrell, about an editor tracking down a reclusive author. While this is not an outright horror story and more of a personal journey of the lead character (though it does have its tension-filled and horrific moments), it is a very touching story that shows there are many different ways to be “haunted”. Morrell writes with a fluidity that sweeps you away and carries you into his imagination and  into the very story so you feel like you are standing alongside the characters.

Another two of my favorites deal with self-mutilation, with the first being Mick Garris’ Tyler’s Third Act about a down and out director who decides to make some money by giving the YouTube generation what they want…blood. Weaved throughout the story is also a cute love story…though it doesn’t end up so cute in the end. I loved the social commentary Garris offered with this tale, both about desperate people in the entertainment industry who are getting slammed hard by the recession as well as the public’s extreme view on what qualifies as “entertainment”. In a morbidly funny tale, Richard Christian Matheson tells us How to Edit. The author in the story keeps “editing” his life, continually cutting things out…including appendages he doesn’t think he needs. Matheson writes with a bitingly satirical tone that I just love!

Another favorite is Heather Graham’s Mist on the Bayou, about a touristy “haunted house” on the Louisiana bayou whose grisly tableaus of murder turn out to be a little more real than expected. And yet, wrapped up in that is also a very satisfying “haunted” story – of the haunted plantation house itself as well as a character in particular that doesn’t even realize they are being haunted. I loved Graham’s descriptions of the mansion, of each scarily themed room within the house and of the surrounding setting. Just the descriptions themselves give the story a spooky feel!

Starlets & Spaceboys by Joseph V. Hartlaub is one of the most bizarre and inventive pieces in the anthology. During a hot-air balloon festival in New Mexico, a teenager meets what she thinks is the man of her dreams. He tells her he is a manager for a band and they are testing out new type of music delivery technology – in pill form. If she takes the pills over the span of a week, she will begin to hear music in her head. Turns out, “swallowing music” is pretty bad and she soon finds the music drowning everything else out…not to mention her “dream man” turns out to be more like a nightmare. This story is truly one of the most original in the book and is so peculiar that it borders on bizarro.

I wish I had the space to go on to mention many of the other great stories, including Axelle Carolyn’s ghoulish Resurrection Man, John R. Little’s shocking The Slow Haunting, Maria Alexander’s elegantly stunning “Though Thy Lips are Pale”, Victor Salva’s satisfying The Wandering Unholy, Chuck Palahniuk’s inventive Fetch and many others. All of the stories within Dark Delicacies III: Haunted are phenomenal and not one of them is disappointing. Editors Del Howison and Jeff Gelb deliver yet another high-caliber and talent-packed anthology of terrifying tales. If you are looking for a guaranteed ghoulish time, this Haunted tome is sure to send shivers of pleasure (and fear) up your spine!

Order it on Amazon!

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