.It's been almost a month since I've posted. End of the semester grading and Christmas preparation got the better of me. I am pleased, though, to pass along a recent interview I gave on Creativity @ Work. Enjoy
romehow I’ve never managed to read any work by Adam Nevill. So, when he offered a free trilogy of short novellas on Kindle, self-published under the title of Before You Sleep, I jumped at the chance. All three were fantastic, although I have my personal ranking of the stories. Overall, each was riveting and eerie with predominantly subtle passages of horror. The first, “Where Angels Come In”, was my favorite. A boy recounts his experience while recovering from traumatic injuries obtained while he and a friend explored an off-limits haunted house (the big, white house in the woods). The friend didn’t make it out, while the nature of narrator’s injuries are beyond imagining. I mentioned that the horror was subtle across the three stories (and for the most part it is), but the escape attempt from the haunted house doesn’t exactly qualify as “subtle” – and is gripping.
The second piece, “The Ancestors”, involves a little Japanese girl who has moved to a new house with her parents. She’s lonely at first, but then befriends the ghost of another little girl and the toys left behind when other children have “left” the house. This one was my least favorite, although it was by no means a dud. The narration is creepy and unnerving, and you never quite get a sense of what the heck is going on.
The last story is “Florrie” and it recounts the behavior of a young man who recently purchased a townhouse from an elderly woman – whose furniture and belongings remain mysteriously within the house. I found this story surprising in both the tone and the plot line and was sucked into the story.
Overall, these are not gore fests and the endings are rather ambiguous, so those of you who need closure might be disappointed. However, I found the prevailing sense on uncertainty quite satisfying.
Cold as Hell by David Searls is a relatively short novella that contains an emotionally chilling wallop. Peter Craig is Christmas shopping with his wife, elderly uncle and two kids at one of those “lifestyle” malls – which means it is outdoors. The weather is brutally cold, but he kids still want to ride an electric kiddie train that runs around the mall. The parents relent and allow the kids to go, despite the uncle’s warnings that things don’t seem quite right. The mom takes the opportunity to complete some last minute shopping while Peter and the uncle hang out for the train to return. After Peter ducks into a bar to warm up, he returns to find the uncle missing and no sign of the kids or the kiddie train.
The nightmare begins.
The rest of the story involves Peter frantically trying to find the kids. No one has ever heard of (or seen) the kiddie train. The subsequent events become increasingly bizarre and terrifying. For a short piece like this, the characters are nicely drawn. Peter’s frenzied inner dialogue is spot-on, and anyone who has ever misplaced a child for a brief period of time will recognize the distraught sensations of the character. I was able to gulp down this story in one sitting, not only because of its short length, but also because of the intense nature of the plot. Unnerving and scary, Cold as Hell has a distinct Twilight Zone feel to it.
Anthony Hains is a horror & speculative fiction writer.