Peter Straub, Jack Ketchum, Darynda Jones, Jacquelyn Frank, and Brian Hodge contribute five gloomy, disturbing tales of madness and horror to Dark Screams: Volume Three, edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar of the celebrated Cemetery Dance Publications.
THE COLLECTED SHORT STORIES OF FREDDIE PROTHERO by Peter Straub
A mere child yet a precocious writer, young Freddie records a series of terrifying encounters with an inhuman being that haunts his life . . . and seems to predict his death.
GROUP OF THIRTY by Jack Ketchum
When an award-winning horror writer on the downward slope of a long career receives an invitation to address the Essex County Science Fiction Group, he figures he’s got nothing to lose. He couldn’t be more wrong.
NANCY by Darynda Jones
Though she’s adopted by the cool kids, the new girl at Renfield High School is most drawn to Nancy Wilhoit, who claims to be haunted. But it soon becomes apparent that poltergeists—and people—are seldom what they seem.
I LOVE YOU, CHARLIE PEARSON by Jacquelyn Frank
Charlie Pearson has a crush on Stacey Wheeler. She has no idea. Charlie will make Stacey see that he loves her, and that she loves him—even if he has to kill her to make her say it.
THE LONE AND LEVEL SANDS STRETCH FAR AWAY by Brian Hodge
When Marni moves in next door, the stale marriage of Tara and Aidan gets a jolt of adrenaline. Whether it’s tonic or toxic is another matter.
Praise for Dark Screams: Volume Three
“Well worth picking up and reading . . . If you have not tried the series yet, do yourself a favor and grab a copy of any (or all) of the books for yourself.”—Examiner.com
“Freeman and Chizmar have brought their A-game to Dark Screams: Volume Three. If you pick just one installment in this series to read, pick this one.”—LitReactor
“A gathering of perfect little bites of fiction . . . As you finish one story you’ll definitely be ready to move on to the next one.”—Sweet Southern Home
“Every story has something to offer for horror fans. They’re creepy, thought-provoking, scary and quick reads.”—The Reader’s Hollow
“[Horror] needs to hit you in the sweet spot where the amygdala and the cerebrum whisper to each other, where intellect and emotion intertwine, and all of these stories do that, and they do it well.”—Bibliotica
“A fun, frightful read . . . If the editors keep raising the bar, I’ll be back again and again.”—Atomic Fangirl
Customer ReviewsSee All
Another solid collection of stories from some veteran and newer (to me) authors.
I'm a huge Peter Straub fan but The Collected Short Stories of Freddie Prothero didn't grab me. Always love his writing, but this story missed the mark for me. After that, though, it was all gravy. Loved Jack Ketchum's Group of Thirty, a story of a writer who gets his mojo back in an unexpected encounter. I was not familar with Darynda Jones but after Nancy, I will keep my eyes open for her other work. A ghost story that had me from the first page and kept me turning pages until I was done. I Love You, Charlie Pearson by Jacqulyn Frank was a love story gone bad with a twist that I didn't see coming. The best was last - Brian Hodge's story with a long name and a plot that mixed parkour, philosophy, infidelity, and the inevitability of the post-apocalyptic world. Another fun collection, and I'll be picking up the next one soon
strong third volume in this anthology
I received an advance reader copy (arc) of this book for the purpose of providing an honest review.
As I have mostly enjoyed the previous two installments of this anthology, I was truly looking forward to this, the third installment. With three (supposed) heavy hitters and two (to me) unknowns, this anthology certainly had great potential. Whether it lived up to that potential or not remained to be seen.
The brightest star was certainly The Lone One and Level Sands Stretch Far Away. At the complete opposite end of the spectrum was The Collected Short Stores of Freddie Prothero. I have never been a fan of Straub's writing and this story is a pretty darn good explanation as to why. Overall, I would consider this anthology a bit stronger than volume 2 buoyed mostly by Hodge's story and would rate it just over 4 stars.
This anthology includes these stories:
—The Collected Short Stories of Freddie Prothero, by Peter Straub. As I have read reviews of other works by Straub, one overwhelming opinion is that you will either love his work or hate it. I can honestly say that the only thing that I have read by Straub that I even remotely enjoyed was The Talisman and Black House. I just with that I could get back the time I invested in reading this short story. The idea was intriguing, but it shouldn't require so much effort to make heads or tails out of a story. As others have said, what's the use of a story that can't even be deciphered. 0.5 Stars
—Group of Thirty, by Jack Ketchum. I more often than not like Ketchum's writing. I have to be careful as it is usually brimming with violence and depravity that puts it on the borderline of what I can stomach. Not so with this story, which seems at least slightly autobiographical. While there was great tension and build-up at which Ketchum is an artist, the shocking turn was jarring without being bloody (much). 3.5 Stars
—Nancy, by by Darynda Jones. I wasn't familiar with Jones' work before this story but, based on this taste, am interested in seeking out more of her work. This was essentially an olde timey ghost story with a little murder mystery thrown in. It wouldn't have hurt my feelings if it had been longer. 3.5 Stars
—I Love You Charlie Pearson, by Jacquelyn Frank. Another author with whom I'm not familiar which, given how much I enjoyed this story, is a very bad thing. What appears to be your typical stalking and kidnapping story turns out to be nothing of the sort! The tables are turned and then some! 4.0 Stars
—The Lone One and Level Sands Stretch Far Away, by Brian Hodge. I have enjoyed what I have read by Hodge and I was surely not disappointed with this read. I felt that the atmospheric buildup was so in depth and involved that I surely must have been reading for dozens of pages. There was also a depth of character development, even for the peripheral characters, the belies this story's short length. Certainly a testament to the condition of our man-made world as it ages and decays around us. 4.5 Stars
Another great collection!
This is a review of an uncorrected ARC that I received from Cemetery Dance Publications for the purpose of posting a review for potential future readers. As with volumes 1 and 2, this book consists of five stories by five authors.
The collection begins with “The Collected Short Stories of Freddie Prothero,” by Peter Straub. I am a huge Peter Straub fan, but I was puzzled by this story. It collects the short stories written by Freddie before his untimely death at the age of eight. The stories are concern the presence of a “bood gig” (bad guy), and all contain such interesting spelling (the author is supposed to be young). A sense of menace does pervade the piece as one reads (sequentially) the tales written by this boy. One really has to concentrate and ponder to make sense of the piece, and although it was interesting, I would not rank it among Straub’s best works.
“Group of Thirty,” by Jack Ketchum, concerns author Jonathan Daniels, who accepts an invitation to speak at the monthly meeting of the Essex County Science Fiction Group. What begins as a typical speech / Q & A takes a dramatic turn when his readers begin questioning him concerning the inspiration and direction of his writing. From my experience with Ketchum (“Off Season” may be the MOST horrifying thing I have ever read), this story is pretty sedate. Anxiety and suspense builds throughout, and I found it a fitting story for the Dark Screams series.
Next is “Nancy,” by Darynda Jones, an author I have never read nor heard of. I will be looking for more of her work. The strongest and best work in the collection, it follows a student at a new school as she is torn between the popular clique who have accepted her and Nancy Wilhoit, who appeared to have no friends due to her habit of twitching, making odd sounds, and talking to herself. You see, the town of Renfield is touted as the most haunted city in Virginia, and Nancy may have her own personal ghost. I don’t want to say anything more about the plot, but for a short story there are plenty of twists and unexpected turns, and I was hooked from the beginning. As previously stated: best story in this volume!
Jacquelyn Frank’s “I Love You, Charlie Pearson” also deals with high school, this time with the author’s crush on cheerleader Stacey Wheeler. When an opportunity arises to get Stacey to his house, Charlie jumps at it. Does either one know as much about the other as he/she thinks? Is it a good idea to be alone with someone you know so little about? This story gets under your skin, and it is easy to see why it was chosen for Dark Screams.
The collection ends with “The Lone One and Level Sands Stretch Far Away,” by Brian Hodge, an author who is no stranger to Cemetery Dance fans. When Marni moves in next door, Aidan becomes intrigued with the parkour runs she and her friends take (I had to look it up on my Kindle; short definition runs that take place in an urban space using whatever movement is deemed suitable for the situation). Finally, he accepts the invitation to join them. As they run through long abandoned buildings, Aidan realizes that empty does not equate to idol, and there is more in the world than what we understand. Another totally original story (I have never read anything similar) this is a fitting conclusion to a great collection.
With the exception of my wobble on the opening story, I loved everything in this collection. So far, this series has been very strong, no surprise considering its editors! My only advice to make these books better --- more stories, please!