Reviewed by Bill West
I have always been a sucker for good horror stories. I cut my teeth on the work of Algernon Blackwood and for me, a setting somewhere old with something dead but still moving and lurking nearby are the ingredients guaranteed to set my pulse racing. This modern anthology is a new experience for me and one I would happily repeat.
Twisted Tails III Pure Fear is a varied collection of eighteen twist-in-the-tail stories written by twelve authors, including the editor, linked by the theme of fear. It does what it says on the cover. All are well written by able authors who present the reader with believable and engaging characters in compelling situations. The cover illustration by Deron Douglas might suggest a sword-and-sorcery theme with its armored and winged beast and chained maiden, but these 266 pages span several genres, stories like Coming Alive by John Klawitter, a compelling tale of man versus machine intelligence, alongside but contrasting with Divine Messenger by K.L. Nappier. Set during the depression of 1933 Southern Missouri in which newly wed Emily dupes Death to save her husband's life, Divine Messenger is beautifully rendered and memorable tale with mythic resonance and a clever denouement.
Even where themes are similar the outcomes are strikingly different. In Lunch Was Not Enough by Kim McDougall, Flora has recently lost her husband but what is the presence that joins her between the sheets, texts her mobile phone and finally leaves her naked in the snow? In J. Richard Jacobs' The Beast in the Basement Angela attends the funeral of Eleanore, an old friend. The locals seem nervous. Why did Eleanore insist on sleeping with the light on and was it really fear that killed her, or something else?
If you like the feel of fear this collection is a feast with a variety of flavors and many courses. There is a wide catchment of talent represented here. John Klawitter is a writer, producer and director based in Hollywood. Geoff Nelder, who contributes the nail-biter Abandoned to this collection, is an award winning thriller writer. He is British and a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society which may be why bad weather features so prominently in his vertiginous thriller set five hundred feet in the air above a flooded London. Nelder's industrial setting is a strong contrast to a story by another award winning author, Marilyn Peake, whose tale Day of the Dead features children, a magical shop and the paraphernalia of the Hispanic festival of the same name.
The Twisted Tails series is a winning formula, and IV and V are already in the pipeline. For me there are plusses and minuses. I particularly liked the inclusion of a prologue to each story which whetted my appetite and kept me turning the pages to the next story. However there was one minus. I think the page formatting could be improved by putting the author and story title at the top of each page rather rather than the editor and the anthology title, and how about some author bios? I don't know if this anthology has the power to convert those not already attracted to this kind of entertainment but I am confident that those already converted will savor this welcome addition.
Read an excerpt frm one of the stories from this collection on JRichardJacobs.net.
Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing
Publication Date: April 2008
First anthology?: Third
Editor bio: The anthology compiler and editor, J Richard Jacobs also writes SF and speculative fiction. In addition to producing the Twisted Tails series he is the author of several novels, Seeds of Memory, Xenogenesis and others including a collection of nifty shorts entitled, Eat My Shorts.
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