by Carol Reid
Mama's Boy and Other Dark Tales
is a meaty collection, serving up both the filet mignon of
micro-fiction and the slab-like expanse of novella. Why the
heavy-handed references to butchered flesh? I think I'll leave that
question unanswered, for now. I will say that Mama's Boy and Other Dark Tales
should be avoided by the squeamish and easily rattled, but there is
much more to savor here than gore.
Friel is a generous, spellbinding storyteller. Her love of a well-told
tale is clear, from the first words of the opening story, Beach of Dreams:
"With dawn still hours away, the storm howled in the cavernous spaces
between the carcasses on the beach."
The protagonist, Simon Rodan, intends to examine evidence of the
existence of monsters from two equally inadequate perspectives. He has
spent his life studying humanity but is obsessively self-centered.
Buried deep in his psyche are the nightmares which draw out monsters
and whet their appetites. This story takes the reader on a dark journey
with a surprisingly gentle ending.
struck me as worthy of a Tales
from the Crypt treatment. Leonard Hogtire loves his gravy,
and he is growing ever fonder of the little librarian, Miss Appledine,
one of the very few who shows Leonard any kindness. Guess who's coming
favorite in this collection is The Sea Orphan, the
tale of a plucky, put-upon young hero whose mother is hanged as a
witch. Friel doesn't flinch from the array of dangers which face an
unprotected boy in eighteenth century Virginia. Will Pennycock must
deal with all manner of cruelty, from paranoid witch-hunting villagers
to pederastic pirates, but just as magic has doomed his mother, it
ultimately saves Will.
I find interesting about many of these stories is that kindness is
presented as being as random and inexplicable as evil. Often in Friel's
stories, the two become conjoined and deeply confused. This theme
appears in many guises and manifests itself literally in very short
pieces such as Connected
at the Hip and at length in the
Bram-Stoker-award-nominated novella, Mama's Boy.
her author's notes, Friel says: "Mama's Boy had a strange growth
process. It started as a micro-mini flash fiction response to a
Valentine's Day writing prompt. The prompt was simply, 'And that's why
I love you.' " Friel follows the progress of twisted, toxic love
through generations, a love which reaches its full expression through
had a bit of trouble with Fine
Print, the other novella in this collection. This is a
story of secret societies and deals with dark forces and the nature of
free will which felt to me more like a novel that went through the
dryer or a short story that was hung too long by its sleeves.
King is famously quoted as saying that the highest aim of dark fiction
is to terrify, the second to horrify. Friel achieves moments of terror
and horror in this collection.
King's quote ends with, "If I cannot horrify, I'll go for the
gross-out. I'm not proud."
all fifty seven words of it, goes for the gross-out. I won't forget
this one, no matter how I try!
Read one of the stories
from this collection on the Apex
Book Company web site
lives and writes in a small community on the west coast of Canada. She
is an assistant fiction editor of Sotto Voce magazine.
Publisher: Apex Book Company
Boy novella nominated for 2006 Bram Stoker Award for Long
Friel writes and blogs on the coast of southern New England.
Her work has been featured in the 2006 anthology Horror Library, Volume 1,
and has appeared online and in print in Insidious Reflections, Wicked
Karnival, The Lightning Journal, Lamoille Lamentations, The Eldritch
Gazette and Dark
with Fran Friel
Buy this book (used or
Publisher's Website: Apex Book Company
recommended bookseller: Horror Mall
forget your local booksellers and independent book shops! Visit IndieBound.org to find an independent bookstore near
you in the US
you liked this book you might also like....
Poppy Z. Brite
Tanith Lee "Forests of
Angela Carter "Saints
other reviewers thought: