"Dark Screams: Volume Two" Book Review
Written by Steve Pattee
Published by Hydra
Edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar
2015, 131 pages, Fiction
Released on March 3rd, 2015
Back at the beginning of February, I reviewed a delightful little anthology called Dark Screams: Volume One. Edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar of Cemetery Dance Publications, the two picked out some great authors that made for a varied and enjoyable read. They have done it again in this follow up, Dark Screams: Volume Two.
Robert McCammon's tragic and terrifying "The Deep End" opens the anthology, following a man as he is determined to destroy whatever killed his son in the local swimming pool. Sure, everyone thinks it was a simple drowning, but the father knows better. McCammon seamlessly mixes rage, grief, and fear in this short tale and is packs the biggest emotional punch of the collection. This should come as no surprise as this is the man who brought such great works as Swan Song, Gone South, the amazing Boy's Life (which I desperately need to re-read), and countless others. "The Deep End" was originally published in 1987, but I'm glad it was included here because it was new to me and possibly my favorite story in the mix.
"Interval" by Norman Prentiss follows, and it's nearly as emotionally draining as "The Deep End". The tale centers on an airline employee, Michelle, who is pulled into a room by her supervisor, Wade, along with the family members of a particular flight. You are kept in the dark as much as the people in the room, and Prentiss does a fantastic job of stringing you along as to what the real story is here. When it finally comes to light as to what's really going on, it's both what you think, but with a sinister twist.
If you ever wondered what it would be like if those psychics on those ghost hunting shows were real, you're going to have a good time with Shawntelle Madison's "If These Walls Could Talk". Madison is the only author in this anthology that I had never read anything from before, and this first outing certainly impressed me. Following the character Eleanor as she makes preparations for the filming of the goings on in a "haunted" house, it takes an interesting turn that even though I saw coming, was handled nicely and did not affect my enjoyment.
Graham Masterson's "The Night Hider" is another winner in this collection that places a haunted wardrobe at the center of its story. I would love to elaborate on this one, but the less you know the better. It has a wonderful reveal that I admittedly did not see beforehand.
Rounding it out is my least favorite of the bunch, Richard Christian Matheson's "Whatever". I've read Matheson's work in the past and I have generally enjoyed it (his short story "Transfiguration" in the Visitants anthology is effectively creepy), but his story here doesn't do anything for me. "Whatever" tells the tragic story of a band that could have been the greatest ever, all through emails, letters, and magazine and news articles. The problem isn't so much prose (which, admittedly, took a bit to get into), but rather it doesn't really go anywhere. Ironically, I would have liked to have read more about this band, but as it stands now the tale's title is rather appropriate.
Hydra has another winner here with Dark Screams: Volume Two and as long as Freeman and Chizmar are behind the wheel editing, I'm perfectly content to be along for the ride. Volume Three hits in a few weeks with stories by (among others) Peter Straub and Jack Ketchum. A good editor can make or break an anthology, and when you have two great ones in Freeman and Chizmar, you're going to have a good time.