Off The Record - Ed. Luca Veste
A charity anthology with a twist, this one - all the stories are named after classic song titles. Most of the authors contribute crime themed stories, which isn't always my favourite genre, but many of the stories here are very good. There are thirty-eight stories, so I haven't space to talk about them all individually unfortunately. However, if I were making a C60 cassette anthology of my favourite tracks from this book, it would feature:
Iain Rowan - Purple Haze
Paul D. Brazill - Life On Mars?
Nigel Bird - Super Trouper
Eric Beetner - California Dreamin'
Helen FitzGerald - Two Little Boys
And I'd end the tape with Steve Mosby's marvellous 'God Moving Over The Face Of Waters' a truly creepy and individual tale, which is one of the best short stories I've read for awhile.
This is the third book by this author I've read, and probably the best - but then I do have liking for a good, literate horror short story collection. Such stories are delivered in spades here. The author has a remarkable capacity to combine a variety of story styles & genres that still cohere into a consistent world view. Partly this is down to his taut & lyrical turns of phrase; Dunbar can use language to make you feel and see what he wants; in a book of chillers he even managed to make me laugh out loud in 'Explanations'.
Many of the stories take a basic horror story trope and run with it, twisting it into new directions - 'Getting Wet', 'Folly'. Others, such as the superlative 'Mal De Mer' are true one offs (the image of the wheelchair in the bottom of the swimming pool will haunt me for days).
As with all collections, there was the odd one that didn't hit quite as hard, but none weak enough to drag my rating down to anything less than a full-fat five-stars. Consistently impressive, and I hope the author does some more work in the short story form soon.
This is a single short story, so it is hard to say too much without going spoiler-crazy. But suffice to say it is a taut, well-written story, which manages to do something new and different with the traditional ghost story. No mean feat. It's tone is almost lyrical and sad rather than scary. I look forward to reading a full collection of short fiction from this author - I think it could be something well worth reading.