Tag Archives: Rebecca Jones-Howe

Paper Tigers

I have been excited to read this novel since before it was written. No, I’m not psychic…well, maybe a little. But I recall a conversation on our forum, probably more than two years ago, where Damien told me she was going to soon be working on a story about a haunted photo album. I was in from that moment and waited patiently for it to materialize. This year that finally happened.

Paper Tigers is the haunting and sad story of Alison, a young woman scarred by disaster and flame. She has retreated so far within herself there seemed no hope of coaxing her back. Her mother smothers her and the public looks at her (in her mind) as a monstrosity. She drags herself through the days and nights—until the night she goes out walking and visits an odd little thrift shop and finds the antique photo album that reeks of smoke and years. Upon taking the album home, Alison begins to see things, hear things, feel things. She is lured to the promises within the book and finds that the prices are high and contracts have a long and strong reach.

Damien writes with strong and elegant prose. Her words flow with an ease and beauty that adds to the already intriguing premise. The emotional depth here is staggering, and while it is very easy to dismiss this novel as another haunted thing tale, it is so much more. The characters are so realistic and hurting that you ache with them and for them. I’ve been reading this author since she first started entering stories in the flash fiction contests we used to host on our forum. And it has been a pleasure to watch her grow, releasing her first novel, Ink, and her collection, Sing Me Your Scars. I’ll gladly read whatever she puts out.

Paper Tigers is available from Dark House Press.

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The New Black

The New Black is a collection of twenty neo-noir stories. That is the promise from the back cover of this new anthology put out by the fine folks at Dark House Press and edited by Richard Thomas. No, not the guy who played John Boy on The Waltons. This cat is cooler. Way cooler.

Now, full disclosure: I have no idea what neo-noir means. I don’t much give a flying fig about genres and sub-genres and their sub-genres. I like good stories, interesting stories. I love strange stories, especially. And I loved this anthology. Loved!

After a forward by Laird Barron, we get to the stories. Opening with a tragic and deeply troubling tale by Stephen Graham Jones, “Father Son, Holy Rabbit,” which stuck in my head for days! This is followed by Paul Tremblay’s “It’s Against the Law to Feed the Ducks.” Another gut-puncher of a story about loss and regret and fear…and love. I almost jumped ship after this one, as I was not sure I could troop through another eighteen tales of this caliber of heartbreak. But I soldiered on.

Lindsay Hunter’s “That Baby” is a sideshow freakazoid parental nightmare. “The Truth and All It’s Ugly,” by Kyle Minor, is a disorienting re-tooling of Pinocchio or Blade Runner. Kind of. Craig Clevenger’s “Act of Contrition” gives faith fangs and something sharper and deadlier. With “The Familiars,” author Micaela Morrissette delivers what is my favorite of the bunch, a stunningly beautiful and terrifying tale of a child and his imaginary friend. Really, this one will knock you out.

“Dial Tone,” by Benjamin Percy, is a tale of loneliness and loss of one’s self. Roxane Gay’s “How” is a unique and wonderfully odd little story told in short instructional blocks. Roy Kesy’s “Instituto” is about vanity and its ultimate price. Craig Davidson’s “Rust and Bone” concerns a boxer and revenge. “Blue Hawaii,” by Rebecca Jones-Howe, is a scathing diorama of a deeply flawed pair and their demons. Joe Meno’s “Children Are the Only Ones Who Blush,” is a stunning and strange drama about an ostracized and pained young man and his struggles with getting on in his world.

“Christopher Hitchens,” by Vanessa Veselka, tackles faith and loss and stars grief and dolphins. “Dollhouse,” by Craig Wallwork, is an effective haunted house story, and that’s a very simplified synopsis. Trust me. “His Footsteps Are Made of Soot,” by Nik Korpon, is a haunting tale of home surgery, resentment, and mortality. Tara Laskowski’s “The Etiquette of Homicide” is a how-to guide to being a killer for hire. This story has one of the best last lines EVER!

“Dredge,” by Matt Bell, shows us a twisted glimpse into the lonely and odd circumstances of a sad man and the dead girl he finds. Antonia Crane turns in the metaphorically titled “Sunshine for Adrienne,” wherein we wallow in the tragic misery of a very broken girl. Richard Lange’s “Fuzzyland” is a brutal excursion into denial and running from yourself. And then we hit the final story, Brian Evenson’s “Windeye,” a delirious nightmare about a house with an extra window.

The New Black is a great collection of incredibly unique fiction. I honestly liked every story in here, and I usually don’t say that about an anthology. It was also nice to encounter so many authors with whom I was unfamiliar. A strong compilation of talent. Very strong.

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