Spooky Showcase by Alan Draven
This collection included the following:
The Paradigm – This story has a nice noir flavour, its narrative is smooth and most of the dialogue, while a little cliché at times (I suspect intentionally) is good. The one quirk that irked me a little was that the boy, Terrence Graves, does not always speak like the 12-13 year old he is supposed to be (adult vocabulary and phrasing). I do like the play on words with character names and the characterization in the story really builds on that noir ambiance. A few sections dragged a little for me because noir is not one of my preferred genres and the goons and guns and snarky banter lose my interest after a while – I was hoping for more “spooky”. I think a diehard noir fan would really enjoy this, however. I was a little disappointed that there were still many unanswered questions at the end, but overall it was a decent story.
Beyond the Doomed Cave – The title of this sounded more my style – proper horror. It does, however start out with a fairy-tale air, the cautionary kind, with misbehaving children choosing to ignore warnings and talk of a Baroness involved in witchcraft. Once again, while the story was fun, spookier this time than the first story, and the characters were interesting, the dialogue for the children wasn’t always very realistic. For example, the average child won’t use a sentence like “Do you think it’ll sustain our weight?” I’d expect them to say something more like “Do you think it’ll hold us?” – simpler language when communicating with their peers. In all, it is an entertaining story with a ghostly tale at its core.
The Rattling Man – A bogeyman tale set during Halloween and probably the spookiest of the stories in this collection with a focus on kids, although still not hardcore horror (more like the kind of scary story you might tell around a campfire.) The dialogue was good in this one and the plot suspenseful. I particularly liked the ending.
A Madman’s Atonement – My favourite in the collection, it was a good mix of crime and horror with serial killer elements and a hint of noir flavour. Characterization was well done and the story held my interest, even though it was fairly long.
Vengeance is Mine – This was a story rife with historical references regarding Jack the Ripper. I normally wouldn’t expect to like this story that much because I think Jack the Ripper has been done to death in genre fiction, but I was surprised at the combination of both analytical detail and gory suspense, as well as some added twists and turns, so it actually worked for me. I did really like the vengeance element implied in the title. It gave the story an interesting spin.
While it had its quirks and a few editing issues, overall, this was a collection worth reading and could easily appeal to readers of varied taste. If you enjoy noir, crime thrillers, horror and historical fiction, there’s something in here that may be right for you.