The Dark Screams series have been able to boast some truly big names in horror since the first book was published. Among those authors one can note Stephen King, Peter Straub and Richard Matheson and now once again Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar have compiled a small collection of stories, this time with names like Clive Barker and Heather Graham.
Here follows a short summary from the publisher:
THE DEPARTED by Clive Barker
On All Hallows’ Eve, a dead and disembodied mother yearns to touch her young son one last time. But will making contact destroy them both?
THE NEW WAR by Lisa Morton
Mike Carson is a war hero and a decorated vet. He doesn’t deserve to be trapped in a hospital with some black thing sitting on his chest as patients die all around him. His only hope is to take out the nurse—before it’s his turn.
SAMMY COMES HOME by Ray Garton
It’s what every family prays for: a lost pet returning home. But when Sammy, the Hale family sheepdog, appears on their doorstep, he brings back something no parent would ever wish upon his or her child.
CREATURE FEATURE by Heather Graham
What could be better publicity for a horror convention than an honest-to-goodness curse? It’s only after lights out that the hype—and the Jack the Ripper mannequin—starts to feel a little too real.
THE BRASHER GIRL by Ed Gorman
Cindy Marie Brasher is the prettiest girl in the Valley, and Spence just has to have her. Unfortunately, Cindy has a “friend” . . . a friend who tells her to do things . . . bad things.
If one goes into the collection with the hopes of being frightened, horrified or kept in suspense then Dark Screams volume four is going to be disappointed. Even though the storytelling in itself is flawless, it is quite obvious that these writers know their trade; the stories are far from engaging. There is no common ground between them either something that would be preferred in a collection like this, a similar theme at least.
Even Barker’s story feels as if he wrote it with his left hand, sure there was room for quite an emotional tale here, but being far too short and brief it falls flat. This is the story of all the tales here; there is something that doesn’t click. Graham’s story is far from original and has more of Scooby-Doo than a true tale of terror. Morton and Garton’s fiction it trite and derivative, far from suspenseful in the least.
In the end the best story is the one produced by Ed Gorman. It is far from unique, but his storytelling ability keeps the reader quite uncomfortable. It is not a surprise that Gorman thanks Stephen King in his afterword; his tale contains all of King’s elements. Small town, youngsters and a hidden evil unknown to others it is all there.
Alas Gorman’s story isn’t enough to make the collection in itself worth reading, if one has the ability to find Brasher Girl through other venues then one should take the opportunity to read it.
The earlier installments of the Dark Screams series have been well received and boasts fine reviews and it seems as if number four grinds it all to a halt. If one is interested in well written fiction from a wide spectrum of authors than this collection may be of interest, but if you are looking for horror and thrills, than this is not for you.
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