"Bury the Children in the Yard" Book Review
Written by Andersen Prunty
2012, 122 pages, Fiction
Released on July 31st, 2012
I've said it before and will say it again now: short stories and novels are two very different beasts, and an author who excels in one format does not necessarily do so in the other. Andersen Prunty is a master of both, and Bury the Children in the Yard is yet another collection in which he proves that beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Bury the Children in the Yard contains seven tales of varying length and very unique premises. Instead of ghosts, zombies, cosmic horror or any other of the plethora of horror tropes available, Prunty opts for bizarre tales populated with unusual characters and then uses his writing chops to construct tales that are unexpectedly creepy, very entertaining, and never fail to deliver a few surprises or a bewildering finale.
The collection kicks off with "The Library of Trespass", a tale about a rich woman's books and the strange things that go on with, and within, those books. With its combination of bizarre characters, gritty atmosphere, attention to detail (i.e. you'll probably be able to smell one of the two main characters), and outré nature, this one lets readers know that they've entered Prunty's realm and nothing will be normal for the rest of the book.
"Music from the Slaughterhouse" is a smart, creepy deconstruction of our obsession with beauty and the lengths to which we'll go to change our appearance. It builds relatively slowly in comparison to most of Prunty's short stories, but the payoff is superb.
"A Butterfly on Ice" is one of those surprising tales that fit inside our idea of horror while simultaneously stretching the genre in a multiplicity of directions that go from love story to fantasy and a few things in between. This one's cerebral, plays around with time, and has something very rare when it comes to its finale. I'll let you figure out what that is on your own.
One of the things that make Prunty's work so enjoyable is the balance he achieves in everything, and that includes pacing and length. "The Spot" is a really short story, with a deceptively simple plot: a wet spot on a bed that has a life of its own. What follows is mayhem, gore, and death. This is a fast read, but also the kind of read that forces the reader to stop and take a breath before diving back into horrific strangeness.
"The Laundrymen" starts off as a hilarious bizarro narrative and quickly morphs into a disturbing horror story. Once again, the plot seems very simple: a man whose clothes are stolen by someone at the cleaners, someone who's then caught wearing them and pursued without success. The humorous beginning puts the reader at ease and increases the punch delivered by the story's conclusion.
"The Warm House" is perhaps the most cerebral story in the collection. It follows a young woman who decides to take a package over to her weird neighbor so that its organic content won't suffer too much in the cold winter. Inside the house, the woman is confronted with plant/human hybrids and a man who tells her of a different dimension. Then, as in all great fiction, decisions are made, and they have consequences. While this one possesses some very recognizable horror elements like a basement and a creepy neighbor with a face full of nasty scars, it's also incredibly well written and brings a drug-induced world of visions to the table that allow the author to flex his poetic muscles and throw the reader into a place where the ghastly and the beautiful meet.
"Bury the Children in the Yard", which gives the collection its name and closes it, is a horror/bizarre/erotica/crime mixture that's one of the longest and best tales in a collection that has no throwaways. In fact, this one has enough in it to satisfy fans of Edward Lee and Elmore Leonard alike. Yeah, I won't tell you more, just go buy this and read it.
Andersen Prunty is a great storyteller who keeps readers on their toes, and this collection will dig bad memories out wherever there are some and bury some very eerie ones wherever there's unplowed memory terrain. If you like your horror weird and wonderful, get this now and dig in.