BY REASON OF DARKNESS

William P. Simmons, Author, T. M. Wright, Afterword by, Gary A. Braunbeck, Introduction by . House of Dominion $29.95 (284p) ISBN 978-1-930997-44-8 ISBN 978-1-930997-45-5

Intense feelings of alienation and loneliness carve direct conduits to supernatural experience in the 23 stories that make up this debut dark fantasy collection. Avoiding horror's traditional icons and their premeasured fright potential, Simmons crafts impression-packed sketches in which characters made vulnerable by overpowering emotions find their reality giving way imperceptibly—but irresistibly—to a disturbing surreality. In "Following the Stones," a man finds himself unable to leave the seemingly endless cemetery where his loved ones are buried because he is lost in the vast wilderness of his own grief. "The Right Size" offers a moody meditation on the randomness of death with its account of an itinerant undertaker who chooses his victims by how well they fit a burial suit. Most of the stories are set in Harper's Mill, a sort of supernatural Spoon River that cultivates the despair of its ordinary citizens and concentrates it into an atmosphere of dread pregnant with uncanny potential. The influence of Ray Bradbury weighs heavily on the contents, notably "The Halloween Boy," a paraphrase of his classic "Homecoming," which, like several other selections, draws its power from haunting evocations of Halloween imagery. Though they can seem repetitive if read in one sitting, these stories are a memorable introduction to a writer whose approach to horror themes is both original and refreshingly unconventional. (July)

Reviewed on: 06/14/2004
Release date: 01/01/2004
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Hardcover - 284 pages - 978-1-930997-44-8
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