The Death Artist

J. K. Potter, Illustrator, Dennis Etchison, Author
J. K. Potter, Illustrator, Dennis Etchison, Author Dreamhaven Books $30 (200p) ISBN 978-1-892058-03-4
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HThis collection of a dozen short stories explores the disturbingDand usually urban, Southern CalifornianDterrain of what really scares us: not serial killers and vampires, but loss of identity, the inability to cope with loss, the haunting turns life can take, loneliness, manipulation, the thin line between sanity and whatever lies beyond. In sparse, subtle prose, Etchison (The Dark Country, etc.) spins these tales efficiently, surrealisticallyDand concludes them the moment just before things get truly frightening. In one story, ""When They Gave Us Memory,"" an actor, caught in the perfection of his role, discovers the importance of memory. In ""The Detailer,"" a happy soul discovers the depths of human depravity while cleaning a car. In ""The Dead Cop,"" a confused man and his wife try hazily to cope with sorrow and urban violence. ""Inside the Cackle Factory"" explains, chillingly, what happens to good television shows and why we never see them. Populated by ordinary people who have conversations like the ones you overhear every day and set in familiar places, these stories are not only completely believable, but they're all the more disturbing because they twist and distort the dimensions of the utterly familiar. (The manipulated photographic images by J.K. Potter illustrating the book complement this skewed version of reality.) Exquisitely well written and stunningly original, these stories serve as fine examples of the ever-evolving literature of horror. (Aug.)
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