These 30 short stories are bound by a collective eclecticism, shades of darkness and narrative twists.
The darkest themes – violent crime (‘Blood Red and the Eighth Dwarf’), suicide (‘Pin Back Your Ears and Smile’) and the spectre of incest (‘Terror by Torchlight’) – are tempered by the light (‘If Horses Could Talk’, ‘Old Lady’s Dream’, ‘Crown for the Coronet’). But even in the lightest, darkness lurks.
No character in these tales – the overzealous cop in ‘Sweet Transvestite’, the brutal husband in ‘Cutting Board Killer’, the mysterious man on the run in ‘Strangers on a Plane’ – will stop to smell the roses. The convicted rapist / killer in ‘Devil’s Doorway’ will hardly get the chance … but is the Death Row inmate guilty, or innocent?
The reality is that the world can be a dark place. It turns bleak and forbidding in the futuristic ‘Thirty11’ when, fortunately, none of us will be around.
The reader, I hope, will feel for the victims: the terrified eyewitness of ‘Snitch in the Ditch’, the bullied boy in the ‘Sheriff of Rottenham’, and desolate paraplegic in ‘Crushed’. They may see humour in ‘Nuts at Christmas’, and the sadness behind it. ‘Day of Reckoning’ and ‘Rush Hour’ are meant to be fun.
This is a book for those who love animals. They have important roles to play in many of these tales – as does the odd insect.
It is the writer’s most earnest wish that no story will end the way you think it might.