Dark Screams: Volume Two

September 5, 2017 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

screams2Dark Screams: Volume Two, edited by Brian James Freeman & Richard Chizmar


For the most part, I’m not interested in short stories. I’ve read some that have made a tremendous impression on me (“Chivalry”, anyone?), but I’m more interested in longer fiction. I think it’s because I want to read a story with a narrative arc, and shorter fiction seems to be more focused on an image, or an emotion, or a particular scene. I wouldn’t have read either of the two Dark Screams volumes I’ve read, save for they were on sale.

Volume Two collects five short stories from a mix of well-known authors and lesser-known authors, with a couple of reprints, much like Volume One did. It starts off with Robert R. McCammon’s “The Deep End”, from 1987, which is about a haunted swimming pool. It hearkens back to McCammon’s heyday, and the story reflects that; it’s a decent story that’s well-paced and compelling, even if it is a little laughable. It’s solid, but nothing groundbreaking, and unfortunately it’s the best of the bunch.

Norman Prentiss makes his second appearance in the series with “Interval”, a story that’s effective, if disjointed. Prentiss builds tension well in this story about a plane crash, but he seems to have trouble deciding on what kind of story he wants to tell. It starts off as a suspense story but then goes full-horror at the midpoint. The supernatural element felt silly, but Prentiss created an effectively creepy scene near the end of the story.

“If These Walls Could Talk” by Shawntelle Madison follows, and is pointless and forgettable. A woman travels to a remote house to prepare it for filming, but winds up being a victim of a past connection. The imagery and setting are good, but it lacks that narrative arc I mentioned above. It feels incomplete, like it’s the opening chapter of a larger work.

Graham Masterson is up next with “The Night Hider”, a ridiculous story about the wardrobe that inspired C.S. Lewis. The dialogue is stilted, and the characters are unconvincing. They make stupid decisions just because the story needs them to, and they’re so thinly drawn that there’s no connection to them. Masterson is a well-known author, and this is a newly-published work, so it surprises me that it’s such a poor story.

Finally, Richard Christian Matheson wraps up the anthology with “Whatever”, a story about a popular band from the ’60s and ’70s. I like RCM’s short-short fiction, and one thing I noticed with this work is that he writes his stories like they’re prose poems, with his short sentence fragments that convey a moment, an item, or a feeling. It gets tiresome in his longer works, and this story takes up a good third of the entire anthology. I don’t understand its place in the “dark” category, but this is also the other reprint, so maybe the editors were just going for name recognition here.

I don’t expect to read any more releases in this series, even if they go on sale. The quality isn’t that great, and reviews of later releases suggest that the quality keeps going down. The best story in the collection is solidly mediocre, at best, and the rest of the works just aren’t worth the time.

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