Horror Fiction Sampler Platter: April
This month in short horror fiction:
A quick check for birth defects from your local conjure man—best buds bite off more than they can chew—the author of First Blood exposes his horror roots
The Dark; Issue 35; April 2018; edited by Sean Wallace
‘We buried the first ones, nice and proper.’ And so begins Roberts’ backwoods barnburner of a story, spun with a thick, muscular prose that prods and provokes. It’s a given that most parents would protect their brood at any cost, regardless of any child’s flaws or weaknesses, and Roberts gleefully turns this conceit on its mutated ear. Sure, you might save your children from the conjure man, but who will save you from the children?
Bury Me with Broken Light Bulbs, Bury Me with Shattered Glass
Black Static; Issue 62; March-April 2018; edited by Andy Cox
In Westlake’s clever shard of body horror, a recovering alcoholic begins a budding friendship with kindred spirit Dwight, an ‘army-surplus avalanche’ with an addiction of his own. Things start out blissfully buddy-buddy, but as Dwight starts to share the skeletons in his own closet, the action takes a grisly turn. An addiction/recovery allegory with a very crunchy edge, this one goes down harsh.
But at My Back I Always Hear
Black Evening; 1999
Before he churned out a series of prolific spy novels in the 80s, David Morrell was a top-notch purveyor of short horror stories. Still widely unrecognized for his mastery of the form, Morrell’s best tales of ‘dark suspense’ were collected in the excellent 1999 anthology Black Evening, still available new from most online booksellers.
Although this particular tome is crammed with treasures, But At My Back I Always Hear will always remain a personal favorite of mine. What begins as a riveting ‘student-stalks-professor’ suspense tale takes a sudden, chilling turn into supernatural territory. It’s a stealth ghost story of the best kind. Even on a re-read, the ending gave me chills.