Night Shadows: Queer Horror Edited by Greg Herren and J.M. Redmann is an anthropology of short stories that all have a horror and lesbian, gay or bisexual theme. It’s the ideal read on dark and cold winters night or on the run up to Halloween.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Night Shadows that was kindly sent for me to read and review by Publishers Group UK. Each Author had a distinctive writers voice, so let me take you through the stories one by one:
The Hollow Is Filled with Beautiful Monsters by Lee Thomas
Rawley helps Zach to sober up and Zach offers himself to Rawley, reminding him of their visit to Provincetown. Rawley is tempted but doesn’t want to be used by Zach to get back at his boyfriend. Plus Rawley has history with Zach’s boyfriend and he knows that one good night of sex isn’t worth the hassle that would come with it. So he turns him down and turns him away.
Later on Rawley gets a call from intoxicated Zach. Rawley knows that Zach needs help; so he finds out where he is and sets out to rescue him. He finds Zach in The Hollow with Monsters that helps humans live memories or fantasies so vivid that they feel physically and emotional real; but in exchange these monsters absorb energy and physically damage their human victim’s body.
Rawley wakes up in hospital with broken bones; apparently someone found him on the street after he was attacked. But he remembers is reliving his wonderful day in Provincetown. He never see’s Zach again and reports The Hollow to the Police as a location where drug use maybe going on; as he knows the Police won’t believe him if he tells the truth. This story is well paced, with good use of description and excellently written from Rawley’s perspective.
The Zealous Advocate by Carsen Taite
Written in the perspective of a lesbian Lawyer who is successful at getting murders off their murder charges; when the Detective from Dallas turns up it appears that her dark secret might be revealed. Although her dark secret is revealed to the reader far too early, it was an absolutely fascinating read from start to finish.
Room Nine by Felice Picano
The main character in this story is a heterosexual man; he is working at the local University when he uncovers that some of the football team are secretly gay and that there’s something not quite right with his hotel room. This story was overly descriptive that gave a lot of description of the monotonous everyday events in the main characters life; only really getting going as it ended. Initially there was little to grip the reader or encourage them to read on, but towards the end you finally get hooked. It was an interesting twist to see the gay footballers as the horror element rather than the victims.
The Price by J.M. Redmann
The Spanish inquisition Nun Malda is offered a deal to get out of her small room in Purgatory. The price for her freedom is to bring other souls to take her place from the present day world. Malda is given back her youth and targets Kerrie an insurance business owner; Kerrie is a ruthless women. But the same could be said about Malda. I flipped between these two women trying to decide which deserve Purgatory more; as I learned why Malda ended up there in the first place and learned more about Kerrie.
Cleverly written with an engaging writers voice it is a brilliant story; with an ending that although unexpected is perfect for all of the characters involved.
Matinee by Vince A. Liaguno
This story starts with Adam in the Cinemas describing the events in the film he’s watching along with his thoughts, which I felt didn’t translate well onto paper. Adam is a warped individual traumatised by his alcoholic mothers abuse. Adam’s escape from this abuse as a child came from his trips to the cinemas and is a habit he has maintained as an adult. The timeline of the story is indicated by identifying the months and I felt it could have been indicated with more use of the description. The description overall dated the story; but despite this it was a good story.
Adam develops a relationship with the young ticket seller; only to discover that he’s read far too much into their one conversation and developed this relationship out of fantasy in his head. The story ends on Mother’s Day when he goes to visit his mother in her care home. It’s at this point the reader realises the tables have turned and she will reap what she’s sowed.
Capturing Jove Lunge by Steve Berman
This was a truly brilliant horror story; although it was weird and difficult to follow at times. I felt unable to connect with the characters. It ended too soon, with loose ends and without a satisfying ending.
A Letter to My Brother, relating Recent Events with Unintended Consequences by Carol Rosenfeld
This is one of my favourite stories in the anthropology. Written in a letter format; a lesbian writes about her experience with what I think was a trans vampire. It was good that the author spelled out the genders of the characters, as it would have been difficult to workout their genders with the names used. This witty story contains lots of dark humour that made me laugh out loud. An absolutely fantastic read; that makes the book worth buying for this story alone.
All the Pretty Boys by Michael Rowe
One night on a full moon, Dale discovers the kid. He instantly knows what motivates this kid by what he wears and his body language. This brilliant first person description made me wonder if my motives are always on display like the kid. Dale manipulates the kid and then takes him home to meet his boyfriend Derek. The kid is led to the basement and locked in by Dale. He hears the kids screams knows that Derek will be satisfied until the next full moon. I enjoyed this story so much that I plan to read more of the author’s work.
The Roomate by Lisa Girolami
A story that starts with a scientific explanation of how ghosts can be sensed; which makes the rest of the story believable. When her girlfriend Nancy starts spending time at the house and she hears the ghost say “kill you” she becomes understandably worried. But it turns out that she needs to worry more about Nancy than the ghost.
Intelligently written the author led me to one conclusion, before she twists the story to a completely different conclusion that is a more satisfying ending.
Filth by Nathan Burgoine
Noah lives with his religious and abusive father. Filth is essentially a self-acceptance story with a twist of horror added in. Noah attends a LGBT Coffee Night and meets Rory. His father finds out and begins to beat him up before getting attacked by wasps. Although the story was well written the wasp scene wasn’t; I struggled to imagine the scene clearly. The story ends well with Noah realising his special gift. It felt good to know that his life will now be different and ultimately better for him now that he has his special gift.
Saint Louis 1990 by Jewelle Gomez
Saint Louis 1990 is a story all about vampires. Gilda bumps into Samuel and I got the sense that there’s history between them, but I wasn’t quite sure what it was. After their encounter Gilda isn’t sure about his intentions; but she knows they are never good. She rushes home to her lover Effie fearing the worst; but all she finds is a note from Effie telling her the bar she’s gone too.
As events unfold, the history between Gilda & Samuel is revealed and Gilda is faced with a few difficult choices. This story is exceptionally well written; with well developed characters. However the characters didn’t inspire any concern or care from myself.
Blackout by Jeffrey Ricker
Jason and his partner David are snowed in; no electricity or phone signal that’s normally non-existent anyway. Jason tells the story of a few weeks before David’s death. The use of humour between the two of them made me instantly like the couple. The couple recently bought the house; the previous owner Dan Richards had died in the house and starts becoming the resident homophobic ghost. They discuss the haunting before David dies in an “accident.” After the funeral Jason returns home and guess whose back, yep you guested it Dan the homophobic ghost.
The story is reasonably well paced with fantastic use of building tension before the action. The use of the cold to indicate the presence of the ghost did feel repetitive. Editors missed a typo, early on the story reads Jason & Dan which should have read Jason & David. Although only minor it was before characters were fully established in the story; so could have potentially caused confusion to some readers.
Crazy in the Night by Greg Herren
Crazy in the Night tells the story of Danny’s forced move after a thunderstorm. For a while he moves in with his muscle-Mary boyfriend Matthew who has a commitment phobia. But as Matthew hints that them sharing in temporary; Danny finds a new place. A beautiful apartment, in a good area and $200 less than what he was paying before. He senses that it’s too good to be true – but he needs somewhere to live so moves in. As strange things start to happen at night, starting with the unplugging of his night light the story starts to unfold.
It was unbelievable that Danny, a grown man would have a night light; but at the same time I understood why the author had included it. The ending felt vague and could have given much more detail; rather than leaving it my imagination.
Ordinary Mayhem by Victoria A. Brownworth
This was my least favourite story in the anthology. It had little to hook me, had too much description and at times was overly repetitive. It told me the same things over and over again until I became extremely frustrated. It was very slow paced; with visually inconsistencies in the use of font.
The story is about Faye, a girl obsessed by death who as an adult becomes a lesbian artist. The story switches from telling her story as a child to her as an adult and was a good way to show me the characters development which overall was reasonable. The ending was satisfactory but took far to long to get there. A story that could have been told in half the words.
Overall Night Shadows is one of the most captivating anthropologies I have ever read; at times it sent a chill of horror down my spine and other times made me reflect on the mysteries contained within. Without hesitation I would recommend Night Shadows: Queer Horror Edited by Greg Herren and J.M. Redmann which is available to buy on Amazon.