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BAD SEED - 2001
Medium Rare Books
It begins with the sound of snapping bones as a child abuser is folded up and sucked between the floorboards of an old shack by a vengeful spirit in "Them Bones". I cringed and rubbed down the goosebumps sprouting on my arms when the more than deserving victim's femur snapped in half and a lascivious grin ripped across my face as I settled down to read the rest of the stories in this collection. These, apparently, were going to be my type of tales. I love it when the guy who most deserves it, gets
it and gets it good! Get past the few typos that will no doubt be corrected
in the second printing. Get past the one or two stories that this collection
could have really done without ("Head Trip" and
"House Call" can safely be eliminated from Stoker contention) and
you have one hell of a short story collection!
flows easily back and forth between horror and crime noir. Occasionally
I found myself wishing it wouldn't. "Along Comes Mary" and "Thumbs" being
the exception, and perhaps only because they came so early in the book
and seemed fresh and original (and perhaps because "Along Comes Mary" completely freaked me out!) I found myself wanting
more of the horror and less of the Mickey Spillaine stuff. I think Shannon
handles horror fiction amazingly well but, and maybe I just don't know
enough about crime fiction to appreciate it, I found some of the hard-boiled
detective stuff a little predictable.
Now for my glowing endorsement! I'm generally a pretty hard sell when it comes
to vampire tales. I think that, for the most part, all that can be done
with them has been done. And no this story didn't give us any new take
on the vampire mythology. What it gave us is a very real, sympathetic,
believable character. What it did was suck you right into the mind of
a frightened eight-year-old boy named Timmy and make you share his terror
as his loved ones turned into blood-drinking "Vampers". This story scared
the hell out of me not because the monsters were so scary but because
little Timmy was so helpless, and innocent, and real. Shannon somehow
makes you feel every second of Timmy's fear as he cringes alone in his
bedroom waiting to confront his undead sibling with nothing but a croquet
mallet. I did not sleep well after reading this. Being of the sound-bite,
news flash, fast edit, low attention span generation, it almost feels
blasphemous to say it but, I wish the story were longer. Damnit, I really
want to know what happened to Timmy! I love that kid!
Also, be sure to check out "She Who Is Kali", a disturbing little tale about
a man who discovers the Hindu death goddess in old news photographs. These
two stories alone more than make the $13.99 price tag a bargain.
BAD SEED is packed with fast paced, "go for the jugular" type writing. Harry Shannon
builds characters and atmosphere with subtle and powerful skill. Many
of the horror stories in this collection stayed with me all day like a
good story should. "Along Comes Mary" did this as well but some of the
other crime noir tales felt a little like filler. "House Call", yet another
predictable hit-man story, definitely had no place here in such an otherwise
standout collection. I think much of the "Guy hires assassin to kill his
wife but gets more than he bargained for" stuff could have been eliminated
and more horror tales like "She Who Is Kali", "Quickie", and "Echo", all
of which have received Stoker recommendations, added. Even the title story
seemed to pull too many punches to really do it for me.
BAD SEED is a standout collection of horror tales and a fair collection of crime
fiction. I for one can't wait to see more of Harry Shannon's work as he
continues to grow and develop and I will definitely be in line for his
next book. I give it three bookwyrms.
This review copyright 2001 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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