SWALLOWED BY THE CRACKS edited by Bill Breedlove and John Everson (2011 Dark Arts Books / 260 pp / tp and e-Book)
The 7th multi-author collection from Dark Arts Books is a mixed bag of ideas, but almost every one of these 16 tales is a hit.
Lee Thomas gets things off to a wild start with 'Appetite of the Cyber Tribes,' about a man who comes across a gruesome net-based group, then delivers three more winners, one a tense police prodecural and one a deeply psychological chiller about a woman who deals her own way with with an unfaitfhul spouse. GREAT stuff all around.
Next up, Gary McMahon delivers four supernatural-tinged tinglers, including 'A Night Unburdened,' about a pizza delivery man who delivers a pie to the home of his old English teacher: it's funny, sexy, and in the end downright chilling. 'The Ghost in You,' is a wonderfully different type of ghost story, as heartbreaking as it is spooky. Each McMahon tale is thoroughly satisfying.
This is the first time I've read anything by S.G. Browne, and his contributions reeled me right in. 'Dream Girls,' is a humorous look at a future time when alien DNA helps mankind to produce living sex slaves, and the one man who takes his new obsession with them way too far; 'Lower Slaughter' follows two tourists who go missing after visiting an isolated town populated with strange creatures; 'The Lord of Words' is a dark fantasy that will appeal to anyone who loves to write, and 'Dr. Lullaby' features a group of men who become unique super heros after becoming human guinea pigs for pharmaceutical companies. I LOVED Browne's comic take on things and look forward to reading more from him.
Michael Marshall Smith (another author I read here for the first time) closes the book with 'Death Light,' about a UK screenwriter who has a most unusual ordeal with the police while trying to sell a screenplay in Hollywood; I didn't know what to make of 'The Stuff that Goes on in Their Heads,' about a father trying to get to the bottom of a bully bothering his son in school. It hints at child abuse one second then abruptly ends in a way that could be taken from a few different angles. Not a bad story, but one that seems pointless. 'REMTemps' is one of the best stories of the collection, about a down and out man who learns he has the ability to "take" other people's dreams and thoughts, and is paid well for it by a mysterious company. It's dark scifi done right. 'Dave 2.0b2' is told in a chat room-style log, and deals with people attempting to get an unusual software upgrade. It's short, strange, but should have come BEFORE 'REMTemps' as it wasn't the best piece to end things on.
SWALLOWED BY THE CRACKS is another solid DARK ARTS collection, and a fine introduction to four authors who might not be familiar to everyone.