Friday, September 28, 2012
Kaufmann's Killer Collection
STILL LIFE: NINE STORIES by Nicholas Kaufmann (2012 NECon E-Books / 185 pp / eBook)
Author James A. Moore gives one of those introductions that seems to good to be true. But by the time I finished the third of these nine tales, I was in complete agreement with him: these stories are absolutely masterful.
Collecting tales that go back eleven years, this is an excellent primer for those looking for a taste of a truly underrated writer. Opening story 'Under the Skin' is one of a couple of tales that blends the author's Jewish background with horror, this time to gruesome effect in a disturbing piece about a goth-chick and her twin sister. Kaufmann weaves a tale of kid looking for acceptance as her father attempts to hold the family together around a Seder. 'Mysteries of the Cure' centers around a man who meets a strange woman who helps him deal with his cheating wife. Picture an old EC horror comic with better story-telling.
'Street Cred' gets major kudos here, mainly because I'm beyond sick of zombie stories and this urban street-gang tale gives the subgenre a truly unique spin. The one piece that impressed me the most is 'The Beat of Her Wings,' not only due to it's intracacies, but that a tale featuring a prehistoric creature can actually be scary is nothing short of amazing. This one's worth the price of the book alone.
At first, 'Toad Lily' seems like a standard ghost story, about a mother thinking she sees her dead child everywhere she looks. But Kaufmann turns it into a parent's revenge tale that's second to none. 'The Jew of Prague' is the author's take on the noir thing, yet it still manages to get the goosebumps going as well as bring a classic Jewish folklore creature into the mix.
Former porn starlet Amber Fox is the subject of Kaufmann's erotica entry, 'Comeback,' and while I'm not a big fan of the erotica genre, this one ends on a supernatural note that gives meaning to the sex that proceeds it. Brilliant stuff. 'Go' tells the tale of an intelligent lab baboon who manages to teach the others to escape from their cages. Kaufmann brings the claustrophobic chills on and makes us cheer for the protagonist as he attempts to save his son and the other children stuck in the lab's daycare center. The author notes most of his readers hated the ending, but I thought it worked just fine.
STILL LIFE ends with a tribute to Asian horror titled '(F)earless,' about an author concerned the film version of his best-selling manga will ruin not only his book, but a historic Japanese folk tale. Fans of 'J-Horror' won't be able to get enough of this one.
Having only read Kaurmann's novella CHASING THE DRAGON, this was my first look at his short stories, and I have to say I haven't enjoyed a collection this much since Joe Hill's phenomenal 20th CENTURY GHOSTS (2005), and that, my friends, is truly saying something.
Don't miss this.