A Little Gray Book of Shadows

September 10, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

shadowsA Little Gray Book of Shadows by William F. Nolan


I found out about Borderlands Press’s Little Book series way too late to get in on a full collection, but they’ve published some short story collections by some pretty heavy hitters, including Laird Barron, Joe Hill, Joe Lansdale, and Neil Gaiman. When the publisher announced their newest wave of Little Books, they hinted at getting one from Stephen King, so of course I jumped on the chance to get a set. A Little Gray Book of Shadows is the first in this latest line of collections, and it contains seven stories by the writer best known for co-writing Logan’s Run.

The first story, “Saturday’s Shadow”, was a little puzzling to me. It’s a story about obsessions, tied in with movies, but it was hard to say whose obsession this was, since the narrator is unreliable. He described the hallucinations as someone else’s, but it’s clear the narrator is unhinged, too. It didn’t do much for me, and it didn’t help that the style used a lot of parenthetical asides that threw off the pace of the narrative.

“Vympyre” follows, and is more a prose poem than an actual story. It’s about a vampire’s “life” passing before his eyes as he dies a true death, and he reflects back on all the history he’s seen during his existence. It’s fine, but it’s nothing spectacular.

The next story, “Lonely Train A’Comin'”, is a more traditional story, and starts out strong. He captures the emotion of a character whose sister has gone missing, and is grieving her loss. The story peters out toward the end, and rushes to a conclusion that’s not all that satisfying, but given how well Nolan captured his main character at the beginning of the story, it’s well worth the read.

Next is “The Partnership”, an odd story that, honestly, feels pretty pointless. It’s grisly and disturbing, but not for any particular reason. It’s not splatterpunk, but neither is it a subtle take on the genre that will settle with you long after you finish the story. It’s just kind of blah.

“The Yard” is the next story, and is fairly forgettable. I read it just last night, and had to struggle to remember the details just to write this review. If this had any point of meaning beyond just being a horror story, it went over my head.

Then there’s “Dead Call”, which is about a character receiving a call from a friend who died the previous week. It’s not an original premise, but what Nolan does with the idea is actually interesting. It doesn’t have a strong finish, but it’s a short, shocking story that manages to get under your skin without any violence or gore.

“Alex” concludes the collection, and is the only original story of the seven. It’s a strange story, because it’s either an homage to Stephen King, or a fictional gripe against the author’s success. The tone doesn’t make it clear, so it’s hard to tell what point Nolan was trying to make with the story.

Like any short story collection, Shadows has its hits and misses. For the most part, I’m not the audience for short stories, but I do appreciate a good, effective story when it packs the right punch. This collection just doesn’t hit that mark for me, but Nolan is a well-respected author, and the reprints were taken from well-regarded anthologies. I’m perfectly willing to admit that it’s just me.

Started: September 4, 2018
Finished: September 5, 2018

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