It’s Official

ANGRY ROBOT IS PRESENTED TODAY BY THE LETTER “M”

Hide us! Something seriously spooky just happened. Today, the planets all being in the correct alignment, we are announcing the signing of not one, not two, but three authors whose names begin with M. Only our devious Robot overlord master (you know, him, whose name begins with… M! Aye caramba!) knows how the hell that happened, but check this trio out:

Maurice Broaddus* is one of the real good guys, so why the hell his fiction is so terrifying is beyond our understanding. The three books of the KNIGHTS OF BRETON COURT series is a modern retelling of the King Arthur cycle, set among the drug gangs of inner city America. Told through the eyes of King, as he tries to unite the crack dealers and do the right thing, it’s a stunning, edgy work, genuinely unlike anything we’ve ever read. Cheap movie analogy for you: Gilliam’s Fisher King meets The Wire. The first volume will be published by Angry Robot in summer 2010, with the remaining parts at six month intervals. Extraordinary.

continue reading to see whose company I’m privileged to be joining!

*All author pics taken by Surreal Image Photography

Harlan County Horrors (Now with Reviews!)

The Harlan County Horrors anthology is out. Its line up includes:

“The Witch of Black Mountain” – Alethea Kontis

“The Power of Moonlight” – Debbie Kuhn
“Hiding Mountain: Our Future in Apples” – Earl Dean
“Psychomachia” – Geoffrey Girard
“Yellow Warbler” – Jason Sizemore
“Kingdom Come” – Jeremy C. Shipp
“Trouble Among the Yearlings” – Maurice Broaddus “Spirit Fire” – Robby Sparks
“The Thing at the Side of the Road” – Ronald Kelly
“Inheritance” – Stephanie Lenz
“Greater of Two Evils” – Steven Shrewsbury
“Harlan Moon” – TL Trevaskis

Afterword: Harlan County: A Short History by Preston Halcomb

Cover art by Billy Tackett

REVIEWS:

Bookgasms

Jeff Cutler

University Chronicle

Monster Librarian

Paladin Freelance

Amazon Reviews

Shroud Magazine

Black Literary Sites and Marketing

Because I, as you all should, follow RAWSistaz on Twitter, I was able to collate their recent tweets on black literary sites. Consider this my (ever-growing) checklist of places for me to market (READ: memo to horror publishers who decry the shrinking market yet neglect an entire readership):

RAWSISTAZ Literary Group – focuses on reading, writing, and discussing books primarily by African-American Authors. Our groups (both online and off) are not only book clubs, but resources to readers, writers, and literary enthusiasts.

R.A.W. Sistaz Black Book Reviews – one of (if not the first) online and national organization specializing in reviewing and promoting African-American literature.

APOOO – an online author and reader community dedicated to advancing African American literature. Our mission is to expose readers of all ages to a good book in any genre; to support African American authors, books, literary events and book clubs; to provide marketing resources, tools and tips to authors; and, to promote literacy within the African American community.

AAMBC – African American Book Club

Urban Reviews – Your source for African American fiction, Hip Hop, and R&B;

TheGRITS.com – a leading online reading and book promotion community for readers and writers of all ages.

Nia Promotions
– a marketing company that provides a variety of marketing services. We assist authors and publishers with internet book marketing using strategy, branding, and education.

ReadersRoom/Blogging in Black – a blog of African American Commercial Reading, Writing, & Publishing

Motown Writer’s Network – Drawing readers, writers, authors, poets and more together, the networks’ mission is to connect readers to Michigan literary works, educate and connect writers and poets to resources, provide events for authors to showcase their work and a lot more.

White Readers Meet Black Authors – Your official invitation into the African American section of the bookstore! A sometimes serious, sometimes light-hearted plea for EVERYBODY to give a black writer a try.

Written Voices – spotlights fiction and nonfiction authors who incorporate their Christian faith and/or personal experiences into their books (the literary section of AAKultureZone.com which strives to highlight the importance of faith, values and culture).

Write Black – about the vagaries of the publishing industry and occasionally praise, occasionally criticize and always pick the nits of books written by black authors — with special attention paid to genre writers.

The Brown Bookshelf – dedicated to uplifting African American creators of children’s literature.

QBR, the Black Book Review – the leading black literature and black writers’ publication in America.

Disilgold.com – African American literary network

Shades of Romance Magazine – a bi-monthly online magazine that believes in promoting authors and their books.

Joey Pinkney – features book reviews and author interviews.

Delta Reviewer – African American book reviews

Urban Christian Fiction Today – highlights African American Christian Fiction and some occassional non-fiction. Look for author interviews, book reviews, and takes on publishing and marketing.

Black Books Direct is a full service online Black bookstore with a great selection of books which are of interest to African American readers or by African American authors.

3 Chicks On Lit – a Hip, Fun, & Sassy Literary Hour.

Urban Book Source – the premiere Internet source for readers, writers, authors, publishers, and vendors of urban literature.

Urban Literary Review – We invite you to join us each Tuesday and Thursday for Urban Literary Review! One of the hottest urban literary online radio shows featuring authors, editors, agents, book clubs and industry leaders

Now I’m waiting on RAWSistaz tweets on black book expos and festivals …

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Double Act – A Review

“Ghosts of a False Self”

Double Act is a well-written novella from British writing team, LH Maynard & MPN Sims (Shelter, Demon Eyes). As Cocker and Hass, Walter Coker and Charlie Hass were a successful comedy double act in the 1950s London theatre scene in the twilight of their career. Unfortunately, the straight man and primary writer, Charlie, dies of a heart attack, leaving behind his funnier partner to pick up the pieces of his career as well as investigate the strange happenings and mystery in the wake of the death.

A writing duo writing about a comedy duo works almost at a meta level as they explore the secrets of a fairly successful professional and personal relationship.

“But life can’t be lived on what ifs and if onlys. You make choices and stand or fall by the choices you make. Sometimes the choices are the right ones, sometimes not.” –Carol Butler

The sins of their past comes back on them, from love affairs to pride and jealousy, in the form of a mysterious figure/force. A long time and well known philanderer, Charlie Hass comes to be seen in a new light, a more honest light though it only demonstrates how often we know so little about the people in our lives.

The least mysterious part of the journey of these characters is how easy it is to fall into a spiral of sin. They both begin with a lie that they tell themselves, about each other as well as themselves (because we are all the put upon heroes in our own story). From there, they harden their hearts by degrees to what they know is right. Then they find themselves having to hide the secrets that won’t stay hidden very long because truth has a way of being found out.

“If that’s what you’ve been telling yourself over the years to absolve yourself from blame, then you’ve been living a lie.” –Carol Butler

We know that the best relationships are built on openness and honesty, but we find ourselves creating a “false self”, a mask we wear that becomes part of us, in order to interact with others and the world. This constructed self, is defined by what we do, by what we have, and by what people think about us – and most times is a lie. We believe this lie and try to fix it ourselves, essentially creating a self-salvation scheme as we continue going about trying to re-create ourselves to the world around us. As Carol, one of Charlie’s mistresses puts it, “Once you start holding things back, they build up into an unbreakable wall that’s impossible to break down.”

Charlie’s false self takes form, haunting those he left behind from beyond the grave. This “monster you created”, left unchecked, destroys any good left in him and in his life, and leads to acts of ultimate selfishness.

At its heart, Double Act is an old-fashioned ghost tale, so low-key and without gore, the horrific aspect of the layered story goes almost unnoticed. The authors weave an emotionally intricate tale through the use of a strong, melancholy narrative voice. All about tone and mood, Double Act relies more on its disquieting atmosphere and disturbing, deeply human characters, moreso than any supernatural aspects. Its flaw lies more in its abrupt, bitter, and ultimately less than satisfying ending. Until then, it delivers the around the campfire creepiness and a study of compelling intensity, cloaked in the familiar garb of a good ghost story.

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Hebrewpunk – A Review

“A vampire, a Wandering Jew, and a Rabbi walk into a story …”

It’s no joke, it’s the premise of the linked short story collection, HebrewPunk, by Lavie Tidhar. I am late to the Tidhar party, writer of weird fiction in such places as SciFiction.com, Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest, PostScripts and Aeon. With this second collection, he combs through Hebrew mythology to come up with a sort of League of Extra-ordinary Mythic Figures. These action-driven horror tales mine new, scratch that … mine ancient legends and mythic traditions unfamiliar to the majority of us.

Mixing pulp tropes and rich historical settings, not all the stories work equally well but did get progressively better. “The Heist”, a forgettable caper tale, was the weakest of the lot for me. “Transylvania Mission”, set in World War II Transylvania, pitted a vampire against S.S. werewolves. “Uganda” mixes alt-history with the unknown story of a proposal to settle Jews in East Africa in 1905 (and was a favorite). “The Dope Fiend”, set in the drug underworld of 1920s London, was a tour-de-force.

“The Old World was dying; its dark forces powerless in the face of what later philosophers would call the banality of evil. Humanity could provide more evil, more pain and suffering and humiliation, than any legend up in the Carpathians.” (51)

So often, the rules—both within genre literature and without—are defined by the dominant culture. After awhile, the tropes become stale thus it is great when they are interpreted through a different cultural lens. Crosses and holy water should have no affect on a Jewish vampire. Not all mages are going to speak Latin. Elves and dwarves are fine denizens, but not everyone lives in Middle Urth and other cultures have other tales to tell.

Like all great fantasy, HebrewPunk brings along and explores both a sense of history and identity. Its menagerie of characters—from the shape-shifting Rat to the Golem to the Tzaddik—live outside the realm of conventional norms and lead lives of rarely told stories. Yet, their stories are ultimately universal in what they convey and wrestle with.

“Devil, the dead kings were shouting, and Hell. It was as if they had finally encountered a kind of evil they couldn’t understand, a precise and tidy kind, one that didn’t gloat over its mutilated victims but rather sat down to note the fact in volume after volume of leather-bound ledgers.” (48)

Evil is universal and transcends both race and culture. Evil is failing to live up to what we were created to be, eikons/image bearers of God. To not live up to that or, more on point, to turn your back to that is evil. In short, evil is that which dehumanizes us and in so doing, allows us to dehumanize others. Evil has a variety of faces, both human and not. Everyone has to grapple with the Dracul, the Devil, in their respective worlds, be it a Mengele, spiritual heir to Tepes/the Impaler/Dracula, or other creatures that go bump in the night.

Steeped in Jewish culture and tradition and combined with pulp adventure, HebrewPunk makes for a thrilling ride. Its heroes, like the Rabbi “a man of arcane knowledge and appetites who evokes unsavoury stories from those who know him” like a Jewish John Constantine, are every bit as memorable as the Doc Savages of the pulp era. It certainly stands to breathe new life into the more tired conventions of the fantasy-horror genre and will hopefully inspire others to explore their own cultural history, culture, and stories and share them with us.

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Accidents Waiting to Happen – An Interview with Simon Wood Part I

For matters of complete disclosure, it should be pointed out that Simon Wood and I are friends. Reviewing friends presents a tricky quandary because you have to be honest in your reviews but you don’t want to damage the friendship (sadly, I’ve seen poor reviews ruin relationships). I tend to solve that dilemma by begging my friends not to send me anything that sucks. Luckily, they tend to listen and Simon is no exception.

Tell me a little bit about what you write. Do you see yourself as a thriller writer a horror writer or what?

I write what I love. Above all other things, I’m a fan. To be a good writer, you have to be. I’ve grown up loving stories, so now I want to tell them. That means I flit between horror and crime, comedy and sci-fi. I’m a little bit of a chameleon which I know bugs the hell out of people at times, but I like telling stories. Sometimes I want to scare people, astound people and make them laugh from time to time. If I see myself as anything it would be a storyteller.

How would you describe your spiritual journey? Would you describe yourself as a religious/spiritual guy?

I don’t consider myself a religious person. I don’t seek guidance from a higher being or seek support from a faith. I guess that makes me sound directionless and I suppose I am in a lot of ways. I’m still trying to find my place in the world. Still discovering. I’m weird like that. -J-

While I don’t seek guidance from others, I always make myself available to others. If people seek help, I’m here. I’m never one to turn my back or to end a friendship.

What role does faith play in your life?

That’s a difficult question to answer. I don’t think faith plays a part in my life. I’m always the first to doubt. Will this happen? Will that work out? I always err on the negative. I think it’s a self defense mechanism—expect the worst and prepare for it.

There seems to be this thread of “sin” throughout your story. This idea that buried sins can come back to get you. Am I reading too much into things?

When I look through my books and stories, sin does present itself as a consistent theme. I wouldn’t say it’s a subject I champion on purpose. I didn’t even notice the theme for several years of my writing. It’s just something I believe in—sin will be your undoing. You don’t have to be particularly religious to see or understand that. Everyone makes mistakes, but if you take measures to cover them up, they will come out and it will hurt.

I suppose the other predominant theme is temptation. In life, every one of us walks a fine line. The moment we let our temptations get the better of us, we lose our way. Several of the kids I grew up with became killers or were killed. I found it hard to deal with the fact that someone I played soccer with could take a life, but they were a product of their decisions. You could see the downward spiral and if it weren’t for a handful of choices they would have never ended up where they ended up.

What would be the one thing you would want readers of Accidents Waiting to Happen to come away with?

Indiscretions (or mistakes), no matter how deep you bury them, will come back to bite you. There are always options. When I pick my novels and stories apart, all of them could have ended on page one if the protagonist had done the right thing.

(to be continued …)

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(Click here for part I)

Tell me a bit about the journey of your writing career. You started off and have published hundreds of short stories, right?

I blame my writing career in the Immigration and Naturalization Service. I’d come to the US in ’98 and I had to wait for my work visa to be processed. Before I left England, I’d been toying with the idea of writing. With nothing to do in the states, I followed up on the idea. I’d never taken any writing classes and I was a little embarrassed to do so because I’m dyslexic and I didn’t need the additional stress. I wrote three short stories in a week, then spent the next three months rewriting them until they were presentable. After that, I began my first novel. I worked fifteen months straight writing short stories and novels every day without making a sale. I finally sold my first short story and that seemed to be my break. After that, I sold stories one after another, but it wasn’t until 2002 until my first novel was published. One thing I didn’t do was pin my hopes to one piece of work. I wrote and wrote and submitted and submitted. It’s the reason I’ve generated so many sales. I’m tenacious when it comes to my work. I can’t sell it if I don’t submit it.

How did you transition from small press publishing to a mainstream publisher?

Really, I made the break into mainstream publishing through not giving up and good luck. I’ve just been diligent, biding my time and when opportunities come my way, I’ve pounced on them. Dorchester is my current publisher for my novels. I took my chances with Dorchester to get a face to face with the editor, because I knew he’d like my novel if he saw it—I just didn’t know how much. Recently, I’ve landed a non-fiction book deal. That remains the easiest book deal I ever got. A writing friend showed some of my essays to a publisher and told them they should consider me for a future project. They contacted me and the next thing I knew we were talking about a book. I think it’s a good example of being good to people and they’ll be good to you. J

Was it difficult getting your first novel republished?

Oddly, it wasn’t a difficult one. The biggest stumbling block was me. It never occurred to me for the longest time that I could get it republished. The rights had reverted back to me a least a year before I decided I wanted to give the book a second chance. But before I sent it out, I gave the manuscript a complete makeover. I cut the clichés and stereotypes, sharpened the prose and made the book a much tighter piece of work.

Finding my publisher was pretty simple all things considered. Trying to resell a book is tough, but I knew Dorchester was open to reprints. The editor for Dorchester was attending a convention in San Francisco and I put my name on a list to pitch the book to him. I pitched the book and he liked it and the rest is history. I’m now working on my third book with Dorchester.

What’s a typical writing day like? How do you juggle work, family, and writing?

I currently work part time—Monday through Wednesday. On those days, I write short stories and articles in my lunch hour and I work on my novels between 8pm and 10pm. Thursday and Fridays, I hit the keyboard from 9am and work through to about 4pm. I may work on something in the evening, but I try to spend that time with my wife. Saturday and Sundays are a bit more fluid. I will work on my books, but I tend to work around whatever I have planned with my wife and friends. I used to be very focused and selfish, but it wasn’t until my dog brought me one of his toys and put it in my hand that I realized that I was neglecting everyone. So I’ve become very disciplined. I made agreements with my wife that I would work between certain hours and use typical down time, like lunch hours, to work on writing. I’d like to get it to the point where I can get all my writing work done between Monday and Friday so that I can have my weekends for my family and friends. I have a tendency to be dedicated which can hurt the people around me.

What path would you like for your career to take from here? Do you see yourself writing full-time?

I would like to cement myself as a popular fiction writer with books and stories coming out regularly. I couldn’t ask for more. Actually, I’m planning to go full time as a writer in the next couple of weeks. Hopefully my faith will be rewarded.

Do you have any upcoming projects on the horizon that we should be on the lookout for?

My next thriller, Paying the Piper, comes out in November. Again it deals with the protagonist’s downfall and their redemption. It’s the story of Scott Fleetwood. He’s a news reporter who interfered with a kidnapping case that leads to the death of a kidnapped child. Eight years later the kidnapper comes out of retirement to kidnap Scott’s children. He can get them back if he’s willing to do some ‘jobs’ for the kidnapper.

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Accidents Waiting to Happen – A Review

“Josh Michaels is worth more dead than alive. He just doesn’t know it yet. He has no idea why someone would try to kill him, clearly that’s exactly what happened. When an SUV forced Josh’s car off the road and into a river, it might have been an accident. But when Josh looked up at the road, expecting to see the SUV’s driver rushing to help him, all he saw was the driver watching him calmly…then giving him a “thumbs down” sign. That was merely the first attempt on Josh’s life, all of them designed to look like accidents, and all of them very nearly fatal. With his time—and maybe his luck—running out and no one willing to believe him, Josh had better figure out who wants him dead and why…before it’s too late.”

I love a good thriller. Thrillers, to me, are like perfect popcorn movies: you curl up with them and let them take you on a ride for a few hours. You may not remember the details of the story the next day, but you remember the experience. That’s part of the rush of Accidents Waiting to Happen. Josh Michaels was living the American Dream. Beautiful wife, wonderful kid, a great best friend, a job he excelled at, and a home to call his own. Then it all starts to slowly unravel the night of a mysterious accident.

The characters for the most part are little more than sketches, however, the two stand outs are, well, a couple of the villains: Bell, Josh’s scorned ex-lover who bursts back into his life to wreak all manner of havoc; and “the professional,” the man hired to kill him. Bell is every psycho ex-girlfriend rolled into one, beautiful, engaging, and crazy (you know what I mean, the kind that all but walk around with a sign saying “Do Not Feed the Crazy” that men inevitably are drawn to). What I enjoyed so much about “the professional” who is out to get poor Josh is how he goes about killing his victims. It is like he embodies the spirit of the Final Destination movie franchise with his carefully crafted machinations that make his killings look like accidents.

“What a sad and pointless life she led. Life to her was a malignant disease prolonging her suffering.” (page 148)

Accidents Waiting to Happen plunges us right into the mess of people’s lives. One of the ideas woven throughout the story is the idea that things (accidents) aren’t as random as we may often believe. That people are connected in ways we don’t think about or realize (if only names on a list). This points to the realization that people are relational beings. We are hard-wired for intimacy. Augustine spoke of a God-sized hole within each of us – essentially a built in need for intimacy. The pursuit of intimacy is similar to our pursuit of God. We seek that communion, that connection with Him as well as with others.

The ache of frustrated relations is what we experience as loneliness. Loneliness is that emotional pain we experience when we are not connecting to others in the way we want to be. Loneliness is painful because intimacy is a need and with a lack of intimacy, we are left with feelings of disconnectedness, being left out, and alienated. Loneliness, that inability to be connected in a way that satisfies is what drives Bell, Josh’s ex-mistress.

“But people are very keen to tell you the worst they have done, because in some twisted way we’re all turned on by the evil that men or women do.” (page 133)

At its core, Accidents Waiting to Happen is about past sins catching up to us, with unexpected consequences. Unconfessed sin has a way of rotting us from the inside, keeping us from being as we should and trapping us in a spiral of guilt and shame. We spend our time denying our guilt, running from it, or expending our energy covering it up rather than living as we should. A spirit of confession, as Josh has to learn, frees us. Owning your sins, offering them up, in a spirit of contriteness, humility, and brokenness, and the act can even become worship (Psalm 51:17)

Only then can we then go on with our lives as we should. We’re more than just sinners, but that doesn’t negate the fact that there are consequences to our sins; consequences that need to be resolved (hopefully in less thrilling fashion). We may still make mistakes, but we can recognize our moral failings and do something about them.

Accidents Waiting to Happen is a breezy page-turner. Seriously. I was done with the book in a few short hours wondering how I got so caught up in the story that I missed dinner (which truly sucks for everyone else at our house since I do the cooking). Full of twists and turns, the book manages to sustain a taut balance between tension and dark humor. Fast-paced almost to a fault, Wood demonstrates the kind of crisp prose that makes for a great thrill ride. What the book becomes is a screenplay waiting to happen.

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Imaro – A Review

Written by: Charles R. Saunders
Published by: Night Shade Books

I wandered the halls of the World Fantasy Convention 2006, telling Jeremy Lassen of Night Shade Books of my latest collaboration project. It began after I told author Steven L. Shrewsbury about the sword and sorcery tales I had written featuring an African warrior. He immediately bought one of the stories for a project he was working on and asked if I’d be interested in collaborating on a novel with a similar premise. I went on to tell Jeremy about how I enjoyed barbarian/warrior tales, but never read any set in ancient Africa. Nothing I could relate to.

That was when Jeremy handed me Imaro by Charles R. Saunders.

Saunders, a contemporary of Karl Edward Wagner, Charles de Lint, L. Sprague de Camp, is undergoing a bit of a renaissance as new readers are discovering his signature creation. Imaro is divided into two parts, named after the communities he hopes to be a part of. The first is “The Illyassai” which details Imaro’s origins and being raised to adolescence. His mother is forced to abandon him, but not before he begins the mafundishu-ya-muran, the warrior training of the tribe. Imaro, unfortunately, was ever the outcast son of the Ilyassai people, suffering years of abuse at their hands. Never truly one of them, eventually has to go his own way, when, like his mother, he exposes Chitendu a sorcerer whose evil infects the tribe.

The second is “The Haramia” follows Imaro’s journey with a band of thieves called the Haramia. After being adopted into a new tribe, Imaro is kidnapped by and then becomes part of the Haramia. Under Imaro’s leadership, they become such a threat that two kingdoms, Azania and Zanj, unite to destroy them. This doesn’t include the supernatural threats encountered along the way.

“Imaro,” Msuli said softly, “No man should be alone.”

Imaro ultimately remains always the outsider in search of a people, a tribe, a community to call his own; especially ironic considering that he has always been abandoned by tribe and family. Imaro remains distrustful of community, but always seeking it. Unfortunately, Death seems to be the only companion willing to follow him around. The themes of the book struck close to home, as they are so common in my own writing. Imaro is a tale of the search for identity, acceptance, and making your own sense of family. It is also the tale of the seriousness of the steps of discipleship and what it’ll cost.

Much like Imaro’s experience with the Haramia, discipleship is journey from slavery (from this world’s systems, notions of individualism, self-sufficiency, empire) to freedom (to be fully human, living as we were meant to live). The spiritual seeker who has made the decision to become free has to start a new life, a new journey – to find a new way to understand yourself, to treat others, and to see the world. It begins with what some call the rite of conversion, a public profession of faith, as they begin their arduous journey. The spiritual formation that molds us takes time.

Discipleship is about deepening your walk in spiritual maturity, best done as a part of the community as the journey to freedom is not one easily made alone. It helps to have a network of believers from mentors to more formal settings. At each leg of the journey, fugitives from slavery, literal and figurative, must decide whether or not to move on to the next stage.

In a lot of ways, Imaro’s tale reminded me of Michael Moorcock’s The Elric Saga. Saunders is pure griot, a storyteller, of the first order. In a genre where black people, with few exceptions, have been left out or depicted in racist or stereotypic ways in genre fiction, Saunders is a breath of fresh air: an African hero written by an African American. This is quite the legacy to try and follow and I can’t wait to read Imaro 2 : The Quest for Cush.

Havoc After Dark – A Review


Written by: Robert Fleming
Published by: Dafina Books

After lamenting the state of the horror market for black readers as well as black writers, I stumble across Havoc After Dark, a horror short story collection by Robert Fleming.

The stories are thoroughly black stories–with black characters, black POV, and black sensibilities–without overwhelming the reader with “blackness.” Let me unpack that a bit. One can read a Stephen King, a Brian Keene, or a Gary A. Braunbeck and know you are reading about blue collar folks in blue collar worlds doing blue collar things. The stories feel natural and the reader is drawn into their world.

At the same time, the stories draw on the mythology and folk wisdom of African Americans, lending Havoc After Dark a historic feel at times. Fleming tells the tales of soldiers from World War II or the terror of being at the hands of a lynch mob. Some of the ideas feel a little tired, like the bluesman who makes a deal with the devil, but are saved by Fleming’s voice and narrative. Though sometimes the racial aspects of a story are forced, even intrusive, such as in “Bordering on the Divine”, told through the eyes of Edgar Allan Poe’s Negro servant.

“Do you believe in God?” the redbone man suddenly asked. “You know, all of that garbage about original sin, shame, guilt, and repenting your sins. Judgment Day, Satan, Heaven, the Bible, and all that foolishness.” –Speak No Evil

We are told to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12) and at the root of what it means to “do” horror is the idea of fear. Part of the cathartic experience of horror is out exorcizing of some of the things that scare us, that shadow of fear that we live our lives under. Ultimately, horror is about the fear of death and horror is excited by the reality of evil. We fear for our lives and the lives of those we love. We live in fear of good being consumed by evil. Frankly, evil should be feared because we live with the consequences of evil all around us.

We have to wrestle with the idea of “the depravity of man”. Sometimes this comes out as wrestling with the theme of man having a darker nature to resist, restrain, or kill. It may have characters wondering, when confronted with personified evil, “Where is the part of God within him?” (Arbeit Macht Frei).

“He thought briefly about praying, but only briefly, since he wasn’t especially religious and not a person to be screaming and shouting in some Baptist church on Sunday. God had forsaken him anyway. He really didn’t want to think about what happened after Death or the final tallying of sins. All bullshit. But the notion of going to the Other side did sometimes intrigue him. Did you face Judgment Day immediately after dying?” –The Inhuman Condition

Horror not only acknowledges a spiritual dimension to life, but that transcendent reality often intrudes into our own. Even as we hunger for this transcendent realm and can’t help but grapple with the idea of its existence, nothing scares like the unknown. This is why speculation about the afterlife intrigues, if not terrifies, us.

“Value your life. Waste not even a minute. Life is a precious and wonderful gift.” –In My Father’s House (115)

We often sense, if not experience, an existential terror; a gnawing emptiness that claws at our souls. A darkness, the deep, that threatens to suck the joy for all aspects of our lives, that can lead to a spiraling sourness to life that makes us want to crawl into bed and never get out. The darkness helps focus us on what is truly important about life. Living life in light of death means to love without regrets and always be answering the question “how are you going to spend today?”

Havoc After Dark is ambitious, but falls short in execution. An inconsistent collection with stories that either come off like black Twilight Zone tales, too dependent on twist endings, or need to much longer. I was frustrated with each of the stories for the first third of the collection when it hit me: some of his stories want to be novels. Short story writing exercises a different set of literary muscles than novel, which leaves my quite hopeful of Fleming’s novel length work, Fever in the Blood.

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