or a recent long vacation drive, I picked up a couple of books on disk for our run through the pineys of Georgia and the Carolinas. Down these strange streets is a collection of urban nightmare tales, interesting takes of old penny dreadfuls twisted in such a way that you aren’t sure what sort of story you are in until the last word. If there is a crime scene sprayed with blood, was it a frantic vampire, a methodical werewolf, a deranged psychopath, or something far stranger? And that’s the great thing that made this collection enjoyable – you never quite knew where you were going.
A couple really stood out for me. A young Roman sightseer discovers a ghost living in a temple (the old Temple of Astarte women-providing-that-service both Early Retyrement and Fire and Bronze touch on). Or a story about a ghost-hunting fraud who suddenly finds that there is something behind his fakery. Or a vampire who falls in love with a mortal (briefly) and then avenges where when she is snuffed in her nineties. Most of the stories are classic PI detective, a creature of darkness (or a mortal who interacts with them) or goodness-something-else, who is pitched into an unstable mystery where anything can happen. Imagine Sam Spade’s surprise if The Fat Man had proved to be a demon. And that’s pretty much what every story is like – a disorientating opening, and just as you get comfortable, a surprising, devastating, or disturbing conclusion.
I was surprised at the length of some of these tales – most short stories are in a breathless rush to get to their conclusion. Here, the characters are allowed to stretch out, to unfold their leathery wings and yawn their toothy yawns, giving us a chance to really get into each tale. Yes, we rolled off a hundred miles or more with each tale. Distance flew past.
Dark horror novels are usually not my forte. However, I’ll admit that this collection was good – damn good. And if you want a story set you can take with you to unroll those miles, this is a great series to feed your CD player.
You might just want to drive up and down the local interstate and listen…