Dark Screams Vol. 1
Brain James Freeman and Richard Chizmar, ed.
ebook only, $2.99
publication date December 9, 2014 preorder
I’d like to start off this review by thanking Brian James Freeman and Hydra/Random House for the review copy of Dark Screams Vol. 1. I had originally intended to review the book closer to the release date. I finished the first story while waiting for my son to get back from All Region Band tryouts and kept going. It turned out there were almost twice as many students trying out than were expected, so after 2 1/2 hours of waiting past the time they were supposed to be back, I had finished the book. I decided to write and post the review while the stories were fresh on my mind.
As you can tell from the title, this is the inaugural volume in a series. There are currently five volumes planned, with more to come if sales and reader response are positive.
If the first volume is any indication, this should be a long-running series. The editors have stated that each volume will have a variety of different types of horror from some of the top names in the business.
“Weeds” by Stephen King is the story of a farmer who witnesses a meteor land on his property. His mistake is going to investigate rather than heading for the hills.
I’ve not read anything by Kelley Armstrong before, but that might change after reading this one. In “The Price You Pay” Kara wants to be free from her childhood friend Inga. It’s going to cost her, though. Every time you think you know which way this one is heading, it changes direction. Only when you reach the end do you really know what’s going on.
Bill Pronzini has long been a favorite of mine. I especially like his short fiction and wish he would write more of it. He’s a master of mood, voice, and suspense. “Magic Eyes” shows him at the top of his form. Edward is in an asylum, although he insists he doesn’t belong there. Maybe he does, maybe doesn’t. There’s a bit of ambiguity there, at least to my mind. I thought I knew the way this one was going to end, and to an extent I was right. But the obvious ending was merely a setup for the twist and a chilling last line.
Simon Clark is the other author in this volume whose work I hadn’t read. “Murder in Chains” is one of those paranoid stories where the protagonist seems to have no control over his situation. A man wakes up in an underground cavern chained to another man, one who is big and dumb and a ruthless killer. He has no idea how he got there. He just knows he’s got to get out, especially after the man he’s chained to brutally kills one of several people who are chained to objects in the cavern. This one reminded me a bit of Richard Laymon’s work.
Finally, Ramsey Campbell gives us a ghost story involving a young boy who lives next to some drug dealers. There’s a disgraced cop whose daughter died at their hands, and he intimidates the boy to being an informant. Campbell seems to be turning to child protagonists in his ghost stories, at least the ones I’ve read recently. Campbell’s world is a bleak and depressing place, so I don’t visit it as often as I used to. But it was good to stop by for a short while, especially when Campbell is at the top of his game as he is here.
The editors have set themselves a high bar to meet in future volumes, but given who the editors are, I think they can do it. Dark Screams isn’t published by Cemetery Dance, but with the editors of Cemetery Dance at the helm, it’s going to be a solid series. It certainly helped me pass a few hours in enjoyment.
This series is in ebook only. The production values were done right, with no weird line or page breaks. The price is more than reasonable. If you like horror, and I know some of you do, then this is a series you’ll want to follow. The first volume of Dark Screams goes on sale December 9, but you can preorder from any of the vendors shown here. Think of it as an early stocking stuffer.
Me, I’m looking forward to the second volume. Different authors, more stories. That’s something to scream about.