by Karl Edward Wagner
“I was your friend, Curtiss.”
“Writer’s don’t’ have friends. Only deadlines.”
This is an excellent, dark collection that comes at you from an unsuspected angle, often due to a sense of gravitas permeating the stories. A black and white picture early in the book reveals about 9,000 truths of the writer in a beautiful and tragic way. In this picture you can’t help but notice a deep intelligence, tempered by the accumulated pain of a life felt perhaps too deeply. Awe, pity, and the highest respect to the man shown here, and high marks to the photographer.
Containing some of his most famous stories including “Sticks,” a Lovecraftian slow-brewed horror story, “The River of Nights Dreaming” about a female prison escapee who finds herself a prisoner again in a house with 2 other ladies, “.220 Swift” and “Where the Summer Ends,” there were two other standout tales stealing center stage in this volume 1 collection: “The Fourth Seal” provides a scathing and unapologetic look at our medical profession, and “Neither Brute Nor Human” lifts the curtain for us to see part of the private lives of authors struggling to succeed and has this author’s own struggles written all over it.
There is a sadness present, and this might be one of those volumes that is best read in spurts, here and there. It’s not happy horror, but the weight of the author’s voice over the course of these tales really shouldn’t be missed. Reading this will temper thoughts on the art of writing, and this slight shifting of view will always be with you.