"A Psycho’s Medley" Book Review
Written by Terry M. West
2013, 142 pages, Fiction
Released on September 7th, 2013
A Psycho’s Medley is a good, quick, don’t-overthink-it, blink-and-you’re-done read. I can’t say it really stands out or will stick with me for any time to come, but I’m not sorry I read it either. It’s a collection of six stories ostensibly looking at the deep thoughts of killers. The first, A Psycho’s Medley, a death row death-bed pseudo-confessional has the potential to be great, but is oddly lacking a target. As the killer is writing his journal of his deeds, it needs someone other than a moderately surly guard to stick the proverbial knife to. I would have probably liked it better if it were addressed to a single person, perhaps a grieving parent of one of his victims or even the wife he professes to love. Either way, it is a good read, but lacks some sort of emotional anchor to push it to the next level.
In “The Night Out”, author Terry West explores the deprivation and specific psychosis of a demented killer doomed to repeat his actions until he dies or gets caught. There is a very real sense of nostalgia and missed opportunity that chugs this one along and makes the protagonist at least marginally sympathetic. And that’s a key factor in stories of this nature. It’s okay to write from the perspective of a morally reprehensible character, but you have to give the reader a toe-hold’s worth of relatability and empathy to latch on to, otherwise you’ll lose them.
The same key is found in “Morsel”, perhaps the most disturbing of the stories presented here. A lonely, browbeaten, sad sack of a man traveling on business calls up an escort service to get something that’s been missing in his life. But of course, there’s more here than meets the eye. I have to say I was expecting a twist in the story that never happens, but I wasn’t dissatisfied by this. It is a very straight-forward tale, and probably comes out better for not trying to manufacture a twist ending.
This brings us to “Waiting for the Thunder”, my personal favorite story in the book. It’s also the shortest, clocking in at a mere three pages. Yes, you barely have time to settle in before it’s over, but that can be said for the whole book in all honesty. What struck me about “Thunder” is the raw naked emotion in it. There is a very heart-felt sadness and real feelings that, while not the normal feelings most of us tap into, those feelings are tied to and related to familiar emotions in ways. Anyone who has ever felt unrequited love for another can immediately sympathize if not understand the lead’s pain.
“Traiteur” [sic] is a fun little anecdote that almost belongs as a side story in Hatchet or True Blood, mostly for its setting and grisliness. Another incredibly quick but compelling story of a boy who just wants to make his father proud. Given the book’s themes, it isn’t hard to picture the twist coming a mile away, but it’s not ineffective, and it’s almost ancillary to the true story of traditions and proud lineage.
The last story in the collection, “Hair and Blood Machine”, is the one I wanted to like the most, but ultimately was let down by a flatter ending than I hoped for. Being as spoiler free as I can, young Johnny is a disturbed boy. His parents have recently passed, and he is not coping well. He commits an act of grief and is forced into counseling. He feels himself an outcast in his small town and is looking for a way out or through the darkness. He meets that in a carnival worker named Clea, who provides an escape and more. I won’t spoil the ending, which is fine and works to wrap up the story, but left me a little cold and unsatisfied.
Overall, West is a good storyteller. There’s nothing here to blow your mind, but if you’re looking for a good, quick horror read, this is it. Available currently on Amazon Kindle for $.99, it’s worth grabbing.
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