OR: Cemetery Dance #41

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


Edited by Richard Chizmar & Robert Morrish

The cover, by artist Glenn Chadbourne, has a nasty little critter with a big knife hacking up a pumpkin, though I’m not so sure about the almost monotone orange colour scheme; at first glance it looks like the label off a tin of baked beans. Inside there are the usual miscellany of book covers and photographs, film posters and illustrations by the likes of such talented artists as Caniglia and Richard Kirk, so looking good for your money.

Leading off the fiction this time around is ‘Communion with the Worm’ by Brian A. Hopkins. Central to the story is the concept of the vendetta, with Giovanni Butera returning to his native Sicily in search not only of ancient treasure but also revenge on the Mafiosi responsible for the death of his mother. From a plot viewpoint the story leaves much to be desired, with a supernatural McGuffin that seems somewhat fanciful and pre-story development that doesn’t ring true, but Hopkins writes with conviction, an enviable flair for characterisation and place setting, while the ending, if telegraphed by the title, is suitable cause for a genuine shudder or two. We’re on more familiar territory with ‘KOTL’ by Ron Serling, in which the makers of a cable TV show called Killers on the Loose have an (un)enviable knack for always being in the right place at the right time, from which you can probably extrapolate the ending for yourself and, although there’s lots of psychological twists and turns before we get there, ultimately you won’t be surprised. Kudos to Serling for attempting to ring some changes, but he sacrifices credibility for complexity.

‘Indian Rain’ by Chris Bevard is a ghost story, with two female friends seeing very different spectral manifestations. It’s developed with a genuinely creepy atmosphere and the final twist in which all the hens come home to roost, even if you do manage to guess what it is, still packs a real emotional jolt. Novelist Phil Rickman contributes a typical story, ‘The Local People’, in which a couple newly moved to a rural area with deeply felt traditions have to cope with the insularity of the locals and possibly the supernatural, with a sinister subtext simmering away in the background and the suggestion of a Machenesque dimension. Rickman writes deftly and the voice of his female narrator is a joy to listen to, but after drawing the reader into its web the story seems to just wind down, and I have to admit I’m not sure if I got the ending. Lastly there’s ‘Special Effects’ by Steve Vance, another story with a giveaway title, though here ironically intended. A film historian discovers a cache of old films, among them one made by his ancestor who retired immediately afterwards, a never satisfactorily explained family mystery. What he views may just hold the key to the identity of Jack the Ripper. The story is engaging, particularly for the way it shows how an obsession can come to dominate your life, but the obtuseness of the historian’s student at the end doesn’t ring true and the whole backdrop probably won’t bear too close an examination, providing more in the way of questions than it does answers.

If the fiction is a little bit disappointing compared to when I last reviewed CD, it’s only by the high standards which the magazine has set for itself, and the non-fiction content is as rewarding as ever. Both writers Hopkins and Rickman are interviewed, as is Insomnia director Christopher Nolan. The film columns by Ray Garton and Michael Marano are as entertaining as they are insightful and informative, written by people who are genuinely knowledgeable about the horror genre, while Thomas F. Monteleone’s ‘The Mothers and Fathers Italian Association’ must be the ideal for all aspiring opinion columnists to aim at, this issue hilariously detailing the author’s experience with a TV company wanting to adapt one of his stories, proof if ever it was needed that most TV producers are bottom feeders and that when they offer to do you a favour you should run for the hills as fast as your legs will carry you. And then there’s Bev Vincent’s column giving us rather more than anyone not married to or financially dependent on the guy needs to know about the doings of one Stephen King. This time around, among other things, he supplies weekly audience rating and demographics for the TV series adapted from The Dead Zone. He stops short of naming individual viewers, but maybe next issue. And finally there are the reviews, which is a part of CD, as a reviewer myself, I always find of interest, albeit also slightly vexing. Jack Lloyd’s opening review contains a warning about the dangers of raising high expectations in readers, yet in the issue’s thirty plus reviews not a single title gets the thumbs down. Maybe they only publish the good reviews, or is it simply that all CD‘s reviewers are nice people? Damn! Another window of opportunity closes.

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