Back in 2009 I did a Q&A for D.L. Snell’s Market Scoops. There was a question that asked what do I find horrifying, in fiction and in life. My answer for the latter: Humanity.
Jack Ketchum understands that well, I think. His horror is of the human variety. I’ve read a short of his that had zombies, but they were secondary to everything else. Ketchum’s stories are brutal in their honesty.
I’ve been reading his collection Peaceable Kingdom for a few months now—which is generally how I read short-story collections, snatching bits between longer works—and this past week I read the stories “Forever” and “Gone.”
“Forever” is something of a love story between a husband and his wife who’s dying of cancer. It’s a sad tale, and a good one…right until the last line, which I thought sort of ruined it, went for the shock ending. Good, though.
“Gone” is another sad one, about a mother struggling with the guilt of possibly being responsible for her then three-year-old daughter’s abduction (she left her in the car as she ran into a convenience store). This one fares better in its ending, which retains the same sort of melancholy felt throughout the tale without opting for a surprise ending.
Both quality stories in an already excellent collection.
I’ve been meaning to go back and re-read every Dean Koontz book I own—at least the early novels. Whether I’ll find that time or not remains to be seen. But I can definitely fit in some short stories. So I started with Strange Highways, his one and only collection of shorts despite having written over fifty short stories in his career. And the book has just eleven of those plus two novellas. (I think it’s time for a new collection, Deany-poo.)
I jumped right past the first novella, “Strange Highways,” and read “The Black Pumpkin.” It’s a rather traditional kind of spooky tale about a young boy that tries to stop his older—and meaner, crueler—brother from buying a evilly-carved and black-painted pumpkin from a creepy pumpkin carver. The pumpkin costs whatever he wishes to pay, but it comes with a cryptic caveat: You get what you give.
And later that night, they all do. Good stuff.
I’m a Kurt Newton fan. He’s a good dude and an equally good writer. Sadly, I haven’t read most of his work as it’s not available. I missed the damn boat! Good thing he’s still writing.
One of his more recent stories is “The Wooden Grandpa,” which is available in the fourth issue (spring 2010) of the very cool A Cappella Zoo. You can order the print version (always recommended), or read the story by clicking here.
“The Wooden Grandpa” is a tale of a family coming to terms with and finding strength, even companionship, in the extraordinary passing of their grandfather. It’s a sweet and sad and bizarre story. Excellent, too. Read it!
Read them all.