September 17, 2012

Rabid Reads: "Chilling Tales" edited by Michael Kelly

Chilling Tales: Evil Did I Dwell; Lewd Did I Live
edited by Michael Kelly
Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy Publishing (2011)
206 pages
ISBN 9781894036524

Being a Canuck and all, I should be reading more Canadian literature. Whether it be TV, movies, music, or literature, we are a nation whose voice that can be easily drowned out by our American neighbors. They do outnumber us ten to one though, so is it any wonder? I'd rather read a book based on the likelihood that I'll enjoy it, which luckily enough is what I got with Michael Kelly's anthology, Chilling Tales. Forget the fact that the contributing authors are all Canadian, this book has no borders.

The book starts off with a story that wound up being one of my favorites from the bunch, "Tom Chestnutt's Midnight Blues" by Robert J. Wiersema. A Crazy Heart kind of singer/guitarist finds himself searching his adoring fans for the perfect girl to tell his story, while suffering the eternal company of his dead wife. More tragedy than thriller, the story bleeds out the true nature of the story slowly, so by the time you hit the final page, the poetic punishment that Tom Chestnutt endures is all too clear and just.

From there the anthology dove into the weird with Richard Gavin's "King Him" and Barbara Roden's "404," the latter of which had a wonderful touch of satire. Simon Strantzas' "The Deafening Sound of Slumber" offered a really creepy look into clinical research with experiments on sleep aids, and the horrific secrets behind the apparent side effects. Nancy Kirkpatrick's "Sympathy for the Devil" was another memorable one with a drunk driver hospitalized and unwilling to accept the role he played in the death of a young man, and the fitting torment he must endure.

A couple of the stories were near misses with me, but the anthology was a real treat overall. The book also struck a balance with names both familiar and new. I've already had opportunity to read--and be impressed by--the stories of Gemma Files, Ian Rogers, and David Nickle. But the book gave me a chance to read stories from authors whose work I'm only beginning to find, like Suzanne Church and Sandra Kasturi.

You might not expect such an idyllic, quaint country like Canada to house such dark tales. We are, after all, just so damned polite up here. Canada has had its fair share of horrors, however, and we can write as chilling a tale as any country on the planet. Countries like Great Britain, Sweden, Japan, and spots in America like New England and the South have all got a kind of timbre to their horror literature. I don't think Canada has that yet. Maybe it does, and if so, I'd like to think this anthology lends to it. What this anthology does accomplish is shining a spotlight on eighteen inarguably talented writers, each with their own brand of bloody terrors.

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