Dark Screams Volume 2 is a Solid Horror Anthology

Dark Screams Volume 2Dark Screams Volume 2
Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar, ed.
ebook only, $2.99
release date March 3, 2015

I’d like to thank Brian James Freeman for providing the review copy of Dark Screams Volume 2. He and Richard Chizmar set themselves a high standard with the first volume, and it’s good to see that they have maintained that level of excellence.

The Dark Screams series is an ebook-only horror anthology series in which each volume contains five stories by five of the best practitioners of horror fiction working today. I’d only read one author, Richard Christian Matheson, prior to reading this book, although I was familiar with the names of all but one contributor.  Here’s what you get in the second volume.

The lead story, and my favorite, is “The Deep End” by Robert R. McCammon.  I’ve not read McCammon before, although I have some of his books and have heard good things about his work.  They just moved up in the TBR pile.  In this story a grieving father believes that there’s something hiding in the local swimming pool that has killed not only his son but other swimmers.

The pool is an old one that is directly connected to the local lake.  At the beginning of summer, water is pumped from the lake, treated, and used to fill the pool.  At the end of the summer, the water is drained back into the lake.  The day before the pool is to be drained, the man breaks into the pool and goes hunting.

This was an intense story, and although it was obvious at one point where the monster was waiting for him, that didn’t lessen the impact.  “The Deep End” is proof that the monster story is alive and well.

The second story is “Interval” by Norman Prentiss.  Michelle works for an airline that just announced it was filing for bankruptcy.  Amidst all the concern she has for her future employment, a new crisis is added.  One of their planes has gone down, a plane that was due to arrive at Michelle’s airport in a small town.

Now Michelle’s boss has her help him isolate the family members of the passengers in a small lounge until a formal announcement is made.  Only one of the people in the room isn’t there to mourn or to comfort the bereaved.  I’ll not say more to avoid spoilers.

This story would have worked for me, or at least would have worked better, if it hadn’t descended into preaching at me.  Michelle has some issues with how she perceives one of the characters is treated.  One or two mentions of this would have been enough, but instead the author stressed this part enough that it threw me out of what was a solid story.

Shawntelle Madison was the only author I’d not heard of when I started the book.  “If These Walls Could Talk” concerns Eleanor who is the head of a production crew for a television show that deals with the creepy.  (It wasn’t 100% clear to me if the show a true crime show, a ghost show, or some combination.)

Eleanor is overseeing the preparation for a shoot in an old farmhouse outside of a small town.  Rumor has it that the original owner of the house killed his wife, although there has never been any proof that that was the case.

At first I thought this was going to be a ghost story, but it went in a different direction.  Although if you consider unresolved issues from past trauma to be ghosts, then there are ghosts aplenty.

Graham Masterton provides a different kind of haunting and invokes C. S. Lewis in “The Night Hider”.  Dawn has been given an old wardrobe from her aunt who owns an antique shop.  She’s rather startled when a man who has been badly burned comes out of the wardrobe and tries to assault her.

There’s a definite connection to C. S. Lewis in this story.  Masterton handles the creepiness factor of the man from the wardrobe with ease.  He also kept me guessing.  Every time I thought the story was going to go a certain way, it changed directions.  I think I may have read some of Masterton’s short stories in anthologies.  I’ll definitely be looking for more of his work.

The final story is by Richard Christian Matheson, the son of the late Richard Matheson.  He’s got some big shoes to fill, but he’s more than up for the task.  I first read Richard Christian Matheson in college, when his first (I think) collection was published.  I’ve kept my eye out for his work ever since.

I’m not entirely sure how to describe “Whatever”.  It’s the story of a 70s rock band named Whatever.  Told as a series of articles, interviews, and notes, it’s a nonlinear tale of the rise and fall of the band.  A number of bad things happen to them.  The horror here isn’t supernatural, but rather in the way the industry destroys lives and careers.  At least that’s what I got out of it.  Unlike the other selections in Dark Screams Volume 2, this story is complex enough to require a reread.

Dark Screams Volume 2 goes on sale this coming Tuesday, March 3.  If you like good, solid horror, check it out.  I’ve found some new authors to read.

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