In this book, Twisted Tails III, we are dredging up fear and wallowing in it as if it were something to be played with, cuddled and fingers lovingly run through its fur like a cherished pet. What we’re doing here is tinkering with terror of the primal kind. You know what I mean, the sort of fright that lies coiled and ready to spring from the dark corners of the mind with no warning. It awaits all, lurking in the deeper shadows of consciousness. No one is immune and, frequently, there is no cure, you just sink into its roiling depths and are no more. If you do manage to escape, life will no longer be what it was before and you will find yourself glancing nervously over your shoulder whenever you hear something strange in the darkness or see a shadow move in the night…or day. Enjoy….
Includes two tales by Kim McDougall:
Lunch was not Enough: An intimate message on a dead man’s phone leaves a widow to spiral out of control.
The Raft: A storm approaches. They tell stories of vampires at sea. Some will live to regret that hubris.
Reviewed by Bill West
I have always been a sucker for good horror stories. I cut my teeth on the work of Algernon Blackwood and for me, a setting somewhere old with something dead but still moving and lurking nearby are the ingredients guaranteed to set my pulse racing. This modern anthology is a new experience for me and one I would happily repeat.
Twisted Tails III Pure Fear is a varied collection of eighteen twist-in-the-tail stories written by twelve authors, including the editor, linked by the theme of fear. It does what it says on the cover. All are well written by able authors who present the reader with believable and engaging characters in compelling situations. The cover illustration by Deron Douglas might suggest a sword-and-sorcery theme with its armored and winged beast and chained maiden, but these 266 pages span several genres, stories like Coming Alive by John Klawitter, a compelling tale of man versus machine intelligence, alongside but contrasting with Divine Messenger by K.L. Nappier. Set during the depression of 1933 Southern Missouri in which newly wed Emily dupes Death to save her husband's life, Divine Messenger is beautifully rendered and memorable tale with mythic resonance and a clever denouement.
Even where themes are similar the outcomes are strikingly different. In Lunch Was Not Enough by Kim McDougall, Flora has recently lost her husband but what is the presence that joins her between the sheets, texts her mobile phone and finally leaves her naked in the snow? In J. Richard Jacobs' The Beast in the Basement Angela attends the funeral of Eleanore, an old friend. The locals seem nervous. Why did Eleanore insist on sleeping with the light on and was it really fear that killed her, or something else?
If you like the feel of fear this collection is a feast with a variety of flavors and many courses. There is a wide catchment of talent represented here. John Klawitter is a writer, producer and director based in Hollywood. Geoff Nelder, who contributes the nail-biter Abandoned to this collection, is an award winning thriller writer. He is British and a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society which may be why bad weather features so prominently in his vertiginous thriller set five hundred feet in the air above a flooded London. Nelder's industrial setting is a strong contrast to a story by another award winning author, Marilyn Peake, whose tale Day of the Dead features children, a magical shop and the paraphernalia of the Hispanic festival of the same name.
The Twisted Tails series is a winning formula, and IV and V are already in the pipeline. For me there are plusses and minuses. I particularly liked the inclusion of a prologue to each story which whetted my appetite and kept me turning the pages to the next story. However there was one minus. I think the page formatting could be improved by putting the author and story title at the top of each page rather rather than the editor and the anthology title, and how about some author bios? I don't know if this anthology has the power to convert those not already attracted to this kind of entertainment but I am confident that those already converted will savor this welcome addition.
Read an Excerpt
Lunch was not Enough
If she was in denial of anything, it was the authenticity of the message that had appeared the day he died—before she had even known of his death. The phone had been in his coat pocket. Despite the piercing noise, she had taken her time rummaging through his coat to find it. His musky smell was embedded in the fibers. The rough tweed under her fingers was like his beard on her skin. She tucked her hands into his sleeves and pressed them against her.
The text message read: LUNCH WAS NOT ENOUGH. Each line was only fifteen characters so the last word was split in two, emphasizing the first syllable, as if the sender had been exasperated, like the way Flora's mother had said the word: I have had E-nough of this!
What the hell kind of message is that, she had thought. Why should it matter if lunch was unfulfilling?
It shouldn't have mattered, but it did. It mattered on that day, when she still believed him to be alive and she stood drinking in the smell of his cologne, mixed with something else, she had suddenly realized—a sickly sweet smell, like burnt matches
and spilled champagne. Weeks after his funeral it still mattered. She sat on the edge of the couch and stared at the silent phone.
I awoke to such complete darkness that, for a moment, I thought I was blind.
The raft sloshed side to side, and I fought down nausea.
“What are you doing?” I asked, and pushed myself up. Theo ignored me and continued to struggle with a large object, trying to push it overboard. My eyes adjusted to the gloom and I saw.
“My God. Leave her alone.” I yanked him back and Melanie fell into the raft with a thud.
“Melanie. Oh, Melanie.” I shook her harshly and Theo tried to pull me away. I smacked him with the back of my hand. He caught my arm and twisted it painfully behind my back so that I rose to my feet and then crumpled to my knees.
“She’s dead,” he said tersely, and let me go.
I didn’t care. I couldn’t push Melanie into the cold ocean, but I saw the sense of it—rotting body, small raft—and let Theo do the dirty deed. I couldn’t watch, but I heard the faint splash that was the end of my life-long obsession.
Short Fiction, Fantasy, Horror • Length: 268 Pages
Release Date: April 11, 2008 • ISBN: 978-1554045686
Trailer produced by Castelane Inc.
About the Author
Kim McDougall is a writer and video producer with a BA in English literature from Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec. She was born in Montreal and has lived in Nice, France, Toronto, Long Island, New York and now beautiful Pennsylvania. She is also a fiber artist and photographer and writes fiction for children under her pen name, Kim Chatel. Though fantasy is her first literary love, Kim writes everything from children's picture books to horror fiction. Her stories often fall between the genre cracks--a little bit fantasy, a little bit literary. So she created her own genre: Between the Cracks Fiction.
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