OR: Wicked Hollow #4

A review that originally appeared in The Fix #6:-


Edited by Jon Hodges

This little magazine fits conveniently into the jacket pocket and so is useful for those who like to have their fiction on hand no matter where they are. With 84 pages, an easy on the eye layout and no non-fiction it contains somewhat more than you might expect. There’s attractive artwork from the likes of Russell Dickerson, David Grilla and Rick Hudson, while there are six poems, all well done and heavy on the ketchup, with Christina Sng and William P. Robertson the most familiar names.

‘Jack’s Masterpiece’ by Kendall Evans is the least substantial of the seven pieces of fiction, a simple one pager that deftly plays with our perception of what’s taking place as a young boy carves his Halloween pumpkin, or maybe not. A good teaser for what’s to come. Ambiguity is also a selling point in ‘Dance Therapeutic’ by Darren Speegle, with a detective investigating a gruesome murder that brings back unwelcome memories from his own childhood, a story where the subtlety of the plotting and characterisation is complemented rather than undercut by the gory imagery. ‘Trick Candles’ by Stephen D. Rogers has the father from a broken marriage trying to build bridges with his daughter on her birthday, but things take a turn for the worse when they can’t blow out the candles on the cake. Rogers does a good job of depicting the relationship between the two main characters, but instead of exploring the psychology of this in greater depth he opts for the easier route of supernatural deus ex machina, with increasingly inflated overtones of spirituality when a more down to earth approach might have worked much better.

Set in the tenth century and told in reverse over a period of sixty odd years, Michael Greenhut’s ‘The Samhain Incident’ captures the genesis and working out of an ancient curse, the vivid writing and snapshot technique holding the interest as the mystery unfolds. ‘Familiar Faces’ by Kealan Patrick Burke pushes self-obsession to the max, with a man driving home late at night and finding that everyone he meets looks like himself, a low key and surreal portrayal of madness, quite convincing and unsettling in what it does, giving the hint that this just may not be a case of mental illness after all. One of the two brothers in ‘The Endless Hunt’ by Richard Dysinger is a vampire. The twist is that he can only be sustained by drinking the blood of members of his own family and so the other brother has to continually hunt up distant relatives to preserve his own life. It’s an interesting idea, but this gory offering doesn’t exploit it as well as it might. leaving the characters and their dilemma as peripheral to the main course of in your face violence. Spencer Allen’s ‘Purity’ has a concerned neighbour looking out for the elderly guy who lives opposite and finding that the man’s relationship with his albino pets is far more sinister than it at first blush appears. A nicely told variation on the idea of the sin eater, this genuinely creepy story has a payoff that should confirm all of the reader’s fears about eating out at swanky restaurants. It’s a great note on which to end the magazine, a story that won’t win any awards for shock value but is quietly entertaining and confidently written, which about sums up Wicked Hollow itself really, a magazine that does the business without making too much fuss.

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