Nutshell: Enjoyed the hell outta Volume 2. But Volume 3 is even better. As with Volume 2, there’s a slight hiccup, but this time that’s on me and my particular
reading abilitytastes. Let’s hope this is the start of a long-lived series. Grade: A
“I have seen the future of horror, and it’s all over the place.” – Stephen King, courtesy of Frank Ketchum (in “Group of Thirty”)
Editors Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar show that they’re no one-trick pony in their newest batch of e-Horror. And why would they be? They’ve been knockin’ it out of the park at Cemetery Dance, so this anthology series should be no different. And it isn’t. Dark Screams Volume 3 is a fun, frightful read that seems over before it’s begun. I kinda wanted more, but I was also pleased that I didn’t have to wade through a lot of padding as is the case in so many other short story anthologies. So keep things short and sweet, dearies. If the editors keep raising the bar, I’ll be back again and again. As there’s only five stories here (another echo of Volume 2), I’ll keep this intro short and sweet, and show you my thoughts on each tale…
“The Collected Short Stories of Freddie Prothero” — Peter Straub
V hard to read once I got to the stories, because Straub shifts gears into kiddie writing mode. While I understand that this story is about a not quite 8-year-old boy who died under mysterious circumstances and left a “body of work” that new causes professorial debate…the childish prose is tough to wade through. Props to Straub for his poke at research blowhards, and for digging in and writing as a child might. But? It’s like wading through The Canterbury Tales in Old English. With a slightly spookier payoff. [Note: This is the only re-published tale in this volume.]
“Group of Thirty“– Frank Ketchum
One of those Old Writer Being Morose stories. But this guy decides to shake it off for a bit and head to a book signing thrown by a Science Fiction book club. Big mistake? Well, they’re meeting in a church… Interesting, and downright creepy at times. There’s meditations on fanaticism, casting blame, and the desperation of some people to pinpoint the causes of violence, regardless of the facts or simple common sense. Excellent. My favorite of the bunch. And that’s saying something.
“Nancy” — Darynda Jones
Best opening sentence I’ve read in quite a while. Jones has an amazing gift for storytelling, and for crafting characters readers can connect with immediately. A great mash-up of ghost story, mystery and YA. I need to read more Jones.
“I Love You, Charlie Peterson” — Jacquelyn Frank
A sophomore stalker pines for the head cheerleader. I’m sure this’ll end well. A Twilight Zone kind of tale that…well, see for yourself. An ending that is deliciously perfect. Creepy fun that has echoes of Bloch and Richard Christian Matheson.
“The Lone One and Level Sands Stretch Far Away” — Brian Hodge
New neighbor Marni is a free spirit. So of course her neighbors Aidan and Tara are intrigued, and cautious. But then Aidan joins Marni’s parkour/urban exploration group, and finds that things may not be what they seem, or may hold a darkness that’s been waiting… Love Hodge’s beautiful description of what it’s like running parkour, or at least what I assume it must be like. Hodge makes me want to try, even though I’m sure I’d end up on TOSH.0. But then the creepy sets in, with a strong hint of King in it’s build-up and quiet, stealthy terror. So maybe I’ll skip the parkour thing. Maybe.