By Mike Griffiths
Kelly, Michael, ed. Chilling Tales: Evil Did I Dwell; Lewd I Did Live. Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing (October 24, 2011).
The horror anthology, Chilling Tales, is a collection of 18 short stories from Canadian authors living around Toronto. At first, I worried that this could be a group of people trying their first go at horror tales, but this was not the case. Each of these authors has been in the game for a while and this is just one of their many credits in the field of horror writing.
The book opens with Robert J. Wiersema’s story Tom Chesnutt’s Midnight Blues. I found this a strange choice for an opening tale, for, although well-written, it did not ‘chill’ me overmuch. A betrayed love leads to the agony of an old man cursed by the ghost of the woman he loved. I will admit that it did fit in with the country music theme that story centred around.
Second up, we have King Him by Richard Gavin. This is an inventive story that certainly takes on an eerie tone. The monstrous figure, King Him, could be a figment of a cracked mind, or it could be something real, real enough to impregnate a woman with its horrible seed.
Third on the list is 404 by Barbara Roden. This is a fun tale and perhaps the closest thing to comedy in the book, although it can also strike a nerve for anyone who has worked in a larger office. When coworkers disappear, as if they had never existed, the others question their sanity. They should be more concerned with their own safety.
Stay by Leah Bobet is one of the collection’s more-memorable stories. A truck crashes in a small town in the middle of winter. Someone turns up dead and all minds turn toward the taciturn truck driver as the cause. However, this accident victim is far from what he seems.
Michael R. Colangelo is next with Blacklight. A class on pantomime leads to orgies. The appearance of a baleful clown doll does little to help matters.
The Deafening Sound of Slumber by Simon Strantzas could almost be a science fiction tale, if he did not keep the frightening aspects of the story poised on a keen razor’s edge. He weaves a dark picture and draws the reader into a place where, at least for his characters, there is no escape.
There is a piece of flash fiction called “Last Waltz” by Jason S. Ridler. This is a grungy short involving a couple of friends. Or are they really enemies?
In Sympathy for the Devil by Nancy Kilpatrick, we are exposed to a black-hearted man in a hospital bed, who would rather blame everyone but himself for his terrible mistakes. This story seems to be closer to a moral lesson than horror, unless the personal hell the guy stuck himself in is horror enough.
The Needle’s Eye is an inventive story by Suzanne Church. A deadly plague can only be cured by destroying an eye. When Rideau is exposed, he has no other choice but to accept the cure, though it will leave him blind.
David Nickle brings us Looker. This was an enjoyable story. Yes, there were uncertainties and mind games going on, but it was also a tale that just sucked you in and the reader wanted to finish the ride. This is an example of just telling a story and making it work.
Cowboy’s Row comes next. Driving down lonely country roads can be the death of you. This eerie story mixes flashbacks with the scare of who might be driving that car that plagues you in the middle of the night.
Safe is exactly the opposite of how Brett Alexander Savory’s main character feels when he sees the sun melting. He could have a special gift, or perhaps he is going mad.
The Carpet Maker by Brent Hayhard is another tale where the characters are placed in a hellish environment. How poor do people have to be before they would sell off their daughter? The only thing worse that doing that would be to not even receive the payment when you were done.
Foxford by Sandra Kasturi is one of the funnier tales in the anthology. A sister gets her revenge but not in the way anyone with a rational mind could ever imagine.
Ian Rogers brings us My Body. This is a well-thought-out tale with some great twists. A private detective meets a little girl who takes him into a haunted house. It is now his job to try to figure out who is doing the haunting.
The Shrines by Gemma Files was just plain weird but in good way. Shrines of refuse are built for uncertain reasons. These pagan structures give peace to some, but when one is altered, there could be an unexpected price.
Dead by Claude Lalumiere is a truly unique and profoundly disturbing story. Also, one of the stories that would be likely to stick with the reader long after the anthology is finished. A small child decides to live on with his family, even after he is dead – and changes his name to ‘Dead’, just so they don’t forget. It gets weirder from there.
The Weight of Stones by Tia V. Travis was intense and well-written. It didn’t seem like much of a horror story to me, though. More Steinbeck than King.
Overall, this was a strong anthology and an entertaining read. However, it wasn’t the scariest book I have come across. Of course, horror means different things to different people. Many of these stories did step up and try to deliver a strong punch. Others were more introspective than I usually favour. Troubled souls and personal hells can be horrifying if you are the person living through them, but sometimes, they do not transfer to the written word with the same effect.
It was impressive that Mr. Kelly was able to find and compile such a thorough horror anthology, using only people from Canada. These were professional authors who all stepped up and put some strong stories forth. The anthology was well-rounded, covered different styles of horror, and looked at the genre from multiple angles.
You can buy Chilling Tales: Evil Did I Dwell; Lewd I Did Live on Amazon.com.