Dark Screams: Volume Eight

Edited by: Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar

Published By: Hydra

Reviewed by Melissa Minners

                I was so stoked about how great Dark Screams: Volume Seven was, when I was offered the chance to read Volumes Eight and Nine, I nearly jumped through the computer to hit the request button.  I couldn’t wait to check out Volume Eight for our October readers who are looking for some dark fiction to get them into the Halloween spirit.

                Dark Screams: Volume Eight opens with Walpuski's Typewriter by Frank Darabont.  In this tale, Howard Walpuski is a writer of sorts – he writes smut for a rather racy magazine.  It’s how he makes a living and, though he’s not really happy with it, it’s what pays the bills, so when his IBM Selctric II typewriter stops working, he absolutely has to get it fixed.  Unfortunately, the owner of the one shop he finds that will repair the typewriter on credit uses something other than tools to fix things – he uses demons.  Frank unwittingly allows this shop owner to possess his typewriter with a demon that will inhabit this domain for a total of three novels.  In exchange, Frank will pay the shopkeeper ten percent of the royalties.  Sounds too good to be true, right?  That’s because it is!

                This is followed by Bentley Little’s The Boy in which a woman named Christine has just moved into what she considers the perfect neighborhood to raise a family.  That is, until an abnormal stench invades the area and she allows herself to be persuaded that the smell could only be attributed to the lone Middle Eastern child that just recently moved in.  Next is Tumor, by Benjamin Percy, in which a never-do-well man talks about how he narrowly dodged death after a golf-sized tumor is removed.  Only trouble now is how obsessed he’s become with the darn thing.

                Twisted and Gnarled, by Billy Sue Mosiman, is a story about a genius serial killer who has been extremely successful at his chosen night profession while performing as a child psychology professor at the University of Stanton by day.  He meticulously plans his kills, never visiting the same person twice or choosing a specific “type” for his kill, and he never chooses anyone from the college campus.  He prides himself on never making mistakes or leaving behind enough evidence to lead police to his door…until the one day when he underestimates the prowess of one kill’s mother.

                Kealan Patrick Burke’s The Palaver is about a barber named Oscar Dennihy who is beginning to realize that it may be time to close up the barber shop that has been passed down through his family.  The shop has little business and Oscar isn’t getting any younger.  Just when he makes up his mind to retire, a new customer comes in and tells Oscar a fantastic tale about a barber from long ago that makes him change his mind.

                We wrap things up with India Blue, by Glen Hirshberg, in which a troubled MC named Enrico is offered a job to announce for America’s Rockin’ Professional Cricket game in a rundown stadium in San Bernardino, California.  He knows so little about cricket that he actually has to do some research before the date in question.  When he gets there, he’s underwhelmed at the initial setup, but actually gets into it once things really get into motion.  But a misstep on the field leads to a deadly confrontation and this job will end up becoming one Enrico will not soon forget.

                I enjoyed every tale in Dark Screams: Volume Eight, but I actually have two favorites: Walpuski’s Typewriter and Twisted and Gnarled.  In Wapulski’s Typewriter, we actually have a nod at Stephen King’s Needful Things – the monetary prices are low, but there is always something that has to be done to repay the shopkeeper.  In Frank Walpuski’s case, he not only owes the shopkeeper, but the demon possessing his typewriter as well.  Just when you think Frank has finally come to his senses and found a way to fight the demon, there’s a nasty, bloody twist.  The serial killer in Twisted and Gnarled reminds me of Dexter in a way.  I love it when the tables are turned on our serial killer.  How could this woman possibly find him?  How could she know who he is?  What mistake did he make that led her to him?  Can he get to her before she gets to him?  I loved this one the most – the way the author moves back and forth between the two characters as they plan their attack was awesome. 

                I should also mention just how disturbing The Boy is given the unrest in our country right now.  The fact that someone can be persuaded to believe that someone different from them doesn’t belong and brings down the community is scary, but that sort of thing is exactly what is going on today.  Christine is like every psychopath out there who decides they have to do something to wipe out the stain of the people who have “invaded” their communities and their lives.  Scary story simply because it has basis in the truth.

    I had a great deal of fun reading the stories in Dark Screams: Volume Eight and I can’t wait to tackle Volume Nine!


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