Author: Amy Grech
Published: Damnation Books (2009)
Genre: Horror; Short Story Collection
ISBN 978-1-61572-017-0 (Print)
ISBN 978-1-61572-018-7 (Digital)
It wasn't all that long ago that I read an article on io9 that highlighted some of the small press publishers out there turning heads. Among them, I saw Damnation Books mentioned for a couple of titles--one of them being a zombie-themed cookbook, aptly titled The Zombie Cookbook. So, it must have been a bit of predestination when author, Amy Grech, contacted me with a request to read and review her new short story collection, Blanket of White. I say this because I didn't realize until I received it in the mail that the book has been published by none other than Damnation Books. Go figure.
I was a bit surprised by the book's size, as it weighs in rather light with only 132 pages. Still, there are fourteen stories in all, and while many are brief, they can pack a punch to the unsuspecting.
When it comes to short story collections, the majority that I've read can be classified as hit-and-miss. I think Clive Barker's Books of Blood is the only collection I've come across so far that's held me rapt from cover to cover. While I wasn't wowed by every story Grech included among her fourteen stories, there were quite a few that I consider worth sitting down to read.
"Perishables," the tale of a man's buckling to hunger in the wake of a nuclear fallout stood out among the collection. The prospect of cannibalism as a means of sustenance is always disturbing. Then there was "Russian Roulette," where an adulterous affair turns to a dangerous game in order to keep the excitement at its peak ... and then the husband enters the scene. I was reminded of a Hitchcock kind of mood with that one, especially the hints of humor offered in the beginning. My favorite out of all of them would have to be "Damp Wind and Leaves," a romantic remembrance of Halloween during a boy's most formative year. It may not be a story that hits the high notes of Bradbury's classics, but I found Grech's story did justice to one of my favorite times of the year.
If I'm to note the hits, I may as well visit the other side of the coin and mention what I felt were misses. "Prevention" didn't resonate with me. A story of a neglected son inflicting his long awaited revenge on his mother, as he initially poses as his favored brother. The story started off well, but I felt the ending--the twist especially--missed the mark. Then there was "Raven's Revenge" and the relative ease with which the characters took to believing a raven was inhabited by the spirit of a murdered man. I might have gotten swept up in this story more had it not been for the suspected murderers apparent eagerness to confess once confronted.
Those are the peaks and valleys for me, and I'm sure the opinions vary for each reader of these tales of debauchery, deception, and departure. Such is the case with just about any collection of short fiction you find. I've seen reviews where people rave over the title story, "Blanket of White," though I was middle of the road with that one. And then there was "Ashes to Ashes," and the somewhat overlooked reactions it received, while I thought it quite enjoyable. If you happen upon this collection, either in paperback of e-book format, I don't doubt you'll come out of it with your own take on which stories stand out for you.
Grech's writing comes off as direct and unapologetic, which works for most of the stories, while a couple could have benefited from a more nuanced approach. It's all relative, in the end, and when Amy Grech is amassing compliments from the likes of Joel Sutherland and Nate Kenyon--two accomplished authors of dark fiction--she's certainly on the right path. It will be interesting to see where her writing is at as the years progress.