Dark Screams: Volume 6 edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar
Available: Kindle edition
Freeman and Chizmar have curated stories from Stephen King, Lisa Morton, Nell Quinn-Gibney, Norman Prentiss, Joyce Carol Oates, and Tim Curran for this short-story anthology. Every one of them is a fast read, each with its own unique edge.
King’s “The Old Dude’s Ticker” is a different spin on Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Richard Drogan is a Vietnam vet working for this old dude whose eye, that vulture eye, is driving him insane, man. Drogan knows the old dude needs to die.
“The Rich are Different”, by Lisa Morton, tells the story of Sara Peck, who wrote a successful novel about the elite of society. When the family she based the story on wants to meet her, Sara discovers secrets far more twisted than her imagination could conjure. This was probably my least favorite short story out of this collection, but it was still quite good.
In Nell Quinn-Gibney’s “The Manicure”, a young woman getting her nails done professionally for the first time finds that her mind keeps wandering to the past. Her memories merge with the present, and her manicure turns out to be less relaxing than she hoped for. The tension-building in this story was incredibly effective.
In “The Comforting Voice”, by Norman Prentiss, Josh and Cheryl are expecting. Cheryl is in the process of reconciling with her abusive father, Lewis, which Josh does not support. When Lewis arrives, he is diminished; cancer has ravaged his body and effected a change in his demeanor. When the baby comes, she adores her grandfather, and he is the only one who can calm her screaming fits. What no one thinks about is who will take on that mantle when Lewis is gone. Who will have the comforting voice, and what will they say?
I love Joyce Carol Oates’ work, and “The Situations” did not disappoint. It should be mentioned there is animal and child abuse referenced in this story. In Oates’ story, there are certain lessons children must learn, and if they do not follow the rules, they must bear the scars of their punishment. When the children question Daddy, they learn the most important rule of all.
The last story in this anthology is “The Corpse King”, by Tim Curran. Clow and Kierney are resurrection men just trying to make an honest living. When Sherily warns them not to set foot in the North Burial Grounds, what’s a body to do? I’ve always loved the setting of Victorian slums and the subject of resurrection men. This novella will be added to one of my favorites of this type of story. Curran doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to the atmosphere and substance of the Victorian gothic.
Freeman and Chizmar selected some great stories for this anthology. It has a little bit of something to please most reading preferences. I’m looking forward to the next installment of Dark Screams. Recommended.
Reviewed by Lizzy Walker
Contains: animal abuse, child abuse, blood, brief mention of sex