Posted on July 3, 2012 by Nix
Available at DriveThruFiction.com
Haunted: Eleven Tales of Ghostly Terror
from Flames Rising Press
I believe this book is cursed, so I will begin with a brief history of my relationship with this book. It has brought me as much woe as enjoyment, thus I keep picking it back up. I first heard of this collection of ghastly mysteries several months ago and my fingers twitched with anticipation. I waited patiently, and was quite happy to see it appear on the shelves of my local game store. Soon it was purchased and in my hot little hands. I read through it in a day and a half, luckily my job at that moment afforded me a plethora of spare time, and was soon tapping out a review. At that point things went a bit sour. My desktop computer began to have issues. At first it would simply delete files, and if you were thinking that the files it deleted centered on this review.. then you were correct. After it deleted my work for a few weeks it started to truly die and before long I had a very large paper weight. A friend then sent me an old laptop, I was delighted and began catching up on the wonders of that exist on the internet. A couple months later I attempted to write, for about the fifth time, my review of Haunted. Again, I was about half-way through and the laptop died. By that time I had lost count of the times I had started, and failed, to get this review done.
At a recent convention I happened to bump into several of the authors where I gleefully obtained their signatures and praised their work. This rekindled my desire to express my utter amazement at this work.
The first tale was “What’s the Frequency, Francis” by Alex Bledsoe. It drew you in, building on the inept failings of a main character devoted to his television fame till he came across a kernel of truth that shook his feeble grasp on reality. His story then fell back in time to focus on a better educated occultist, a man who sought to keep humanity safe, but was equally unprepared for the revelations he came across. I have seen Mr. Bledsoe and his works around Madison, WI for a while, but it takes a lot for me to pick up a new author so I was quite pleased to see a short story by him proving that the praise I had heard was not false. “What’s the Frequency, Francis” was an excellent start.
Next up was “Immaterial Witness” by Jess Hartley. I have never been a fan of obsession, it blinds a person to everything around them and leaves little else but wreckage. “Immaterial Witness” focused on Liz Bordaine, a woman born with an exceptional talent that she was attempting to live off of, but not exploit. She still retained the empathy that the second character, Jackson Mane, had lost. It was a a good story, it kept my attention and started to eek out a little sympathy for Liz and her spectral friend.
After that was “Useless Creek” by Jason Sizemore, perhaps the only story I didn’t heartily enjoy. This was through no fault of the author, the characters were engaging and interesting. The characters had enough of a history to make them memorable, but for some reason I just couldn’t connect to either one. My inability to identify with either of the main characters was just because of me. I did, however, greatly enjoy the ending. I should note that even though I did not like either of the main characters, I was interested in the story enough to read through it several times.
I then read “A Quiet House in the Country” by Bill Bodden. Apparently it was his return to fictional writing after an eight year hiatus, and it was a glorious return. He has done this, now he should do more. When I do find an author I enjoy, and there were quite a few in this book, I get greedy. I get greedy and I want to see more from them. “A Quiet House in the Country” takes place in Wisconsin and focuses on a group of college students wishing to prove that paranormal activities are real. Unfortunately, they found what they wanted and I doubt that they will be as enthusiastic to dive headlong into a research project next time.
The fifth installment was “Ghost Catcher” by Georgia Beaverson. In her story, Alex is a very special boy. Sadly he is saddled with a conniving, oportunistic mother that seeks to abuse his gift as often as possible. It would be a grand world if Liz Bordaine found Alex, she would see his gift and would not seek to exploit him or it. By this story, I was still locked into reading with no pause and no break. It was only after reading the book a few times was I able to read one story, and lay the book down.
Tale six was “We Need Johnny” by Chuck Wendig, it was another story of obsession wreaking havoc. I am a glutton for times when those deserving of punishment are actually punished, so I was a giddy little fan-boy by the end.
“After Life” by Nancy O’Greene was next. It was another tidbit of writing excellence in which a group of poorly educated teens delve into a dangerous world. They found out that dim-witted bravado does not eclipse evil. I found it to be a sad story of lost promise.
Jason L. Blair, of Little Fears and Streets of Bedlam fame, also had a hand in this collection with “It Happened in the Woods at Night”. Stupid kids being stupid, although they probably considered it being brave and adventurous. They paid a heavy price, as one will often do when meddling with affairs well outside of your comprehension.
“The Man Who Built Haunted Houses” by Richard Dansky was odd. It was a pleasant read, but it was definitely odd. It was about a halfway decent man that happened to work for the Devil and he had questions for a small rural family. They were not evil either, they seemed to be more a of a loophole than anything else.
I was somewhat let down while reading “Missing Molly” by Alana Jolli Abbot. It lacked nothing, but after such a sweep delightful offerings perhaps my mind had become jaded. I liked both of the main characters, but perhaps after so many ghastly shenanigans and life and death situation a more basic mystery left me tepid. I don’t know, perhaps if it had just been offered earlier the book I would have enjoyed it more. But, I am merely a reader and those sort of decisions are beyond me.
Lastly, was “Angry Stick” by Preston DuBose and it exceeded my expectations. It hit me like a hammer and left slack jawed in surprise. It was an amazingly strong story and closed the roller-coaster of horror mysteries I had been reading.
Haunted was, and is, a great pleasure to read. I had plunked down my own money to pick it up, and attempted several times to write this review. Now that it is finished and I can finally focus on working on other pieces, I am fearful. I like my new laptop.. what will happen to it when I get this posted to the website (insert overly dramatic crescendo of swelling music and with lightning highlighting a grim expression on my face).
Review by Sean “Nix” Mc Conkey