Night Shadows: Queer Horror – Greg Herren & J.M. Redmann, eds.

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Buy it direct from Bold Strokes Books

Having cut my teeth, so to speak, on the horror genre, I’m
always up for a good scare. Since I’ve read so much of it, unfortunately, many
of its tropes have lost their impact. I can still appreciate the artistry of a
chilling paragraph or a frightening chapter in the night, but they don’t have
the frisson they once did. However, many of the stories in Night
Shadows
are strong, top-notch terrors.

Even the introduction, A Question of Genre, is
interesting—a defense of genre literature that is sensible as it is scholarly,
taking lit-ra-chur down to its genre basics. I hadn’t thought about The
Great Gatsby
as murder mystery before, but it’s an argument I’ll use in the
future.

But the meat here is the tales and one of my favorite horror
authors, Lee Thomas, gets things off to a fine, creepy start with a tale of a
man and his ex, “The Hollow is Filled with Beautiful Monsters.” Even before we
get to the monsters, however, Thomas treats us to his usual pithy yet pointed
writing:

 

            If a
shirt didn’t fit or no longer met my aesthetic needs, it got dropped

            off at
the donation station; I didn’t keep it around to burden my closet …

            Relationships
fell under this same broad umbrella of organization, except

            they
were easier to come by in New York than closet space.

In fact, all of the authors appearing here acquit themselves
well, but this should be no surprise to anyone who’s read Herren and Redmann’s
crime collections Men of the Mean Streets and Women of the Mean
Streets
. Carsen Taite turns a nice table in “The Zealous Advocate,” Felice
Picano gives us a story about a cold room with a warm, welcoming shower in
“Room Nine,” gore expert Vince Liaguno takes us to several classic slasher
movies in “Matinee,” Steve Berman sideswipes us with a tale of an artist and
his comic book recreations in “Capturing Jove Lunge,” and Lisa Girolami mines
EVP for maximum effect in “The Roommate.”

Want more? Okay. You can’t do better than Jewelle Gomez with
one of her classic Gilda vampire stories, “Saint Louis 1990,” or ‘Nathan
Burgoine’s deliciously disturbed “Filth,” or the homophobic ghost in Jeffrey
Ricker’s “Blackout.” And our editors are no slouches either, J.M. Redmann
gracing us with “The Price” and Greg Herren scaring us out of an evening’s
growth in “Crazy in the Night.”

However, the piece that gave this jaded critic a nightmare
(seriously, folks) is Victoria A. Brownworth’s superbly visceral and altogether
wonderful “Ordinary Mayhem.” This novella centers on Faye, a disaster
photographer who comes by her work honestly due to her serial killer
grandfather, who took pictures of his victims. Brownworth explores Faye’s
psychodrama through her occupation, taking us deep into her childhood as well
as on location as she documents the real-life horrors of war and violence. The denouement
is as chilling as it gets. The last paragraph made me put the book down and say
“Oh, shit.”

And when you get right down to it, there’s no finer
recommendation. Buy this during the day, but read it at night for maximum
effect. Another volume, please, Jean and Greg?

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©, 2013, Jerry Wheeler

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