Tag Archives: John R. Little

Welcome to the Graveyard and Other Stories

I have long enjoyed the short fiction of Mark Allan Gunnells. I like his longer stuff as well, but I think the short story is where he shines. And why it shines is his attention to detail in character, in his taking everyday situations and incorporating a sense of oddness or unease and, at times, whimsy.

Welcome to the Graveyard is his newest collection and it’s pretty damn good. After a glowing introduction by John R. Little, “Dancing in the Dark” leads off with a sure foot. Named for one of Bruce Springsteen’s most annoying songs, this story follows a young man who feels that song is his bad luck theme and tries to avoid hearing it at all costs. “After” would be a humorous little tidbit were it not for the dark bitterness of the finale, a great smack to the face. “The Napkins” is a story that is so much deeper and nastier than it seems, and it takes the final paragraph to burn it into your brain.

“What Little Boys Are Made Of” reminds me a bit of the classic Charles Beaumont story “Miss Gentilbelle,” a version yanked violently by the hair through the last forty years and screaming and plant it firmly in the now. And it’s just as jarring when we get to the final punch. This one will stick with you.

Many of these tales are quite short, flash pieces. I was lucky enough to see a number of them as entries in flash contests and I love that he’s polished them up and served them here. One of the best is “A Midnight Errand.” Running about a page and half, this thing packs more emotion into its leanness than most novels.

The collection finishes with the title story, a tremendous tale of youth and the painful transition to adulthood, wading through the rapids of peer pressure, bullies, and self-loathing. It’s about finding the ghosts and standing up to them even when one of them is you. A great story.

Gunnells can always be relied upon to deliver the goods. His stories are sharp and I can say it’s been fun to watch him grow as a writer over the years. His prose is smooth and easy and his characters are believable. He wears his influences proudly and yet has his own identity showing through.

Welcome To The Graveyard is available through Evil Jester Press.

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Secrets/Outcast

JournalStone’s DoubleDown series was inspired by the old Ace double novels, which paired veteran authors with up-and-comers. Past DoubleDown series have paired Gord Rollo and Rena Mason, Lisa Morton and Eric J. Guignard, Joe McKinney and Sanford Allen, and Harry Shannon and Brett J. Talley.

In the fifth installment, John R. Little and Mark Allan Gunnells team up to tell the story of Karen Richardson. The stand-alone novellas share a prologue, but that’s about it.

In Little’s Secrets, Karen is able to stop time, though she can’t control when it happens or for how long. While time is frozen, she enters her neighbors’ homes and discovers their dirty secrets (and they’re all dirty). During one of her excursions, she meets another person able to slip through time, Bobby Jersey. At first she’s intrigued by the boy, but in time it’s clear he’s psychotic.

The premise is intriguing and Little does a great job ratcheting up the suspense as the Bobby Jersey character gets creepier and creepier. The ending feels a bit anti-climatic and predictable, but it’s still a fun ride.

In Outcast by Mark Allan Gunnells, Karen is a college freshman with no social life, no boyfriend, and the power of telekinesis. (Think a well-adjusted Carrie.) She befriends an older witch who helps Karen harness her powers, but the woman is keeping a bunch of deadly secrets. Bobby Jersey is here, too, but unlike in Secrets he’s a sweetheart. Still, he’s just as strange as his counterpart; maybe even stranger.

Whereas Secrets feels more like a dark thriller, Outcast plays out more like a paranormal romance. That’s not a knock on the story. It’s definitely a page-turner.

Secrets/Outcast is due out August 22nd.

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