Monday, May 2, 2011

Book Review: Crucified Dreams edited by Joe R. Lansdale

Like any self-respecting horror fan, I’m a huge fan of Joe R. Lansdale’s work. So, I was very excited to check out this collection of short stories Lansdale had hand-picked to appear in Crucified Dreams. In the introduction, Lansdale explains how he set out to capture stories that were similar to his maverick writing style, and I think he has done a fine job with the selections featured in Crucified Dreams. He has plucked unsettling, off-kilter stories from the very best horror authors out there (among them Stephen King, Harlan Ellison and Lansdale himself) that span nearly four decades.

From the back cover:

A naïve young woman witnesses a brutal murder and discovers the soul-deadening price of being a New Yorker. The family man quits smoking with the sinister assistance of a family-friendly corporation. A truck driver takes a simple shortcut, and lands in a living hell and a battle to the death. An aging Hollywood screenwriter’s career is on the wane until he reinvents himself as a less principled man.

Crucified Dreams reaches down through the gutters into the shadowy depths of the imagination. These are the savage tales that unite noir with horror and the ordinary with the unfathomable. Combing the urban, the paranormal, and the downright terrifying, these award-winning stories go where your deepest fears—and inner demons—are already realized.

Classic tales from horror masters reside within the near 400 page collection, and while I enjoyed all of the stories, I did have a few favorites. Harlan Ellison’s “The Whimper of Whipped Dogs” left me breathless and paints quite a gloomy picture for apathetic city-dwellers. “The Mojave Two-Step” by Norman Partridge and “Front Man” by David Morrell show the danger of following fortune and glory, one from the view of a stolen ice cream truck barreling through the desert toward Vegas and the other through the eyes of an award-winning but aging screenwriter looking for work in shallow Hollywood. I wholeheartedly enjoyed the characterization of the two leads in Jeffrey Ford’s “Coffins on the River”, about two old artists who take quite a trip that results in a terrifying ghostly encounter. “Copping Squid” by Michael Shea is an excellent Cthulhu-inspired tale set in the ‘hood, and Ellen Klages gives us an eerie look into an alternate universe through the perspective of a little girl in “Singing on a Star”. “Nightbeat” by Neal Barrett, Jr. offers up another alternate (or future) world filled with made-up words that conjure up a beautiful yet sinister landscape.

These are but a few of the 19 tales featured in Crucified Dreams, and while those mentioned were my favorites I must say that all the short stories in the collection were well worth reading and left an indelible imprint upon my psyche. The collection is a mix of the gritty and graphic with the subtle and psychological and will be a welcome addition to any horror fan’s book collection.

Buy yours today on Amazon!

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