cover image Ghouljaw and Other Stories

Ghouljaw and Other Stories

Clint Smith. Hippocampus (, $20 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-61498-065-0

The 14 stories in Smith's first collection of short horror fiction range from the poignant and unsettling to the viscerally horrific. "The Hatchet" tells of trick-or-treating brothers who confront a horror at an abandoned house that haunts them for the rest of their lives. In "Dirt on Vicky," another haunted house story, a father and son share a ghostly encounter that unites them with the boy's dead mother, who may have experienced it herself back when she dated his father. "Don't Let the Bedbugs Bite" is a speculation on the strange life form that might evolve from the detritus sucked up by a vacuum cleaner, and "Like Father, Like%E2%80%A6" is a ghoulish meditation on the significance of blood ties between parents and children. Virtually all of the horrors that Smith conjures take their shape and substance from the emotional responses of characters to the estrangement, loss, or death of spouses and family members. Although narrated in a straightforward fashion, these stories have refreshingly unpredictable plots that spring their horrors unexpectedly. (May)