Brian James Freeman began his foray into writing when he was very young, selling his first short story at the age of fourteen. Since then, he has written a number of short stories, novellas, novels and essays that have been published by many a firm over the years. Recently, I had an opportunity to review a new compilation of Brian James Freeman's short stories from Cemetery Dance Publications called Dreamlike States.
Dreamlike States contains six of Freeman's short stories with an introduction by award-winning crime and mystery author Ed Gorman, who sings Freeman's praises without giving too much away about the content of the book. It all starts with As She Lay There Dying in which an English professor named Sam witnesses a horrific accidental death that brings back memories of the devastating loss of his wife. The incident jars Sam to the core, especially when he hears the young dying girl's last words. Could it be that his dead wife was sending him a message?
Then comes One Way Flight in which a man wakes up to find he is the only live passenger on an airplane flight to who knows where. He certainly has no clue - he can't even remember what his name is, where he was headed or what could have happened to cause the death of every passenger except him. But how do we know any of this is real? We next find ourselves knee-deep in a robbery gone wrong in The Gorman Gig. When Mike decided to hit this house, he thought he had it all figured out. Get in, get the money and get out. Unfortunately, the woman of the house changed her routine and was home when Mike decided to break in...and Jimmy decided to bring along his brother for the heist...and the husband came home and...
This is followed up by The Punishment Room, a story I have read in the past that gives new meaning to the words Corporal Punishment. After that gruesome tale, we come to The Silent Attic, a creepy story about a young girl tortured by the death of her mother three years ago. The final story in the book is A Dreamlike State, another tale I have read before in which a young man, haunted by the death of his sister, returns home to discover something new about her death.
My favorite story of the bunch is One Way Flight - I simply loved the surprise ending, though I won't say anything to give it away. I have noticed that Freeman uses names and codes multiple times in his short stories - an interesting concept or perhaps his way of paying homage to former works. Second favorite is The Punishment Room which really doesn't come into its own until the final pages when you realize what is really going on. There is a struggle of conscience here, but not quite what you were expecting it to be when you first started reading, a twist I never get enough of.
What I do find unfortunate is Cemetery Dance Publication's propensity to use Freeman's stories over in various compilations. I was hoping to get six NEW tales from Freeman, what with his vast repertoire of work. But, I suppose four is better than none.
That being said, Dreamlike States is quite the interesting read with one major theme - nothing is ever what it seems. I can't wait to read more from Brian James Freeman, an author who knows how to tell a spooky story, weaving an interesting tale with surprising and often shocking twists at the end that leave readers with their jaws hanging in surprise.
Update: Brian James Freeman recently contacted G-POP.net with a response to "What I do find unfortunate is Cemetery Dance Publication's propensity to use Freeman's stories over in various compilations." Here's what he had to say:
"Melissa probably read my SEVEN STORIES eBook collection, which I put out as an experiment but used Cemetery Dance to promote. These new "proper" collections are replacing that one, if that makes sense. So the duplication between them is completely my fault and I apologize for that. It bugs me, too."
Melissa: Thank you to Mr. Freeman for that clarification. Hope to see more from you soon!