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Review by
Harry Shannon
The Dark Fantastic
By Ed Gorman
Leisure Horror
ISBN 0-8439-4819-1

In a brutal, unglamorous version of our Western past: A mean dullard and his mother decide to cover up the death of his violent father, with unexpectedly deadly results. Think Ambrose Bierce filtered through Louis L'amour.

In some horrifying, android-dominated future: A helpless little boy, trying to help his mother escape abuse, goes to the market to sell his mutant baby sister for $500.00. Clean, crisp and dark as mud.

In a hospital owned and run by the wealthy: A sexually psychopathic serial killer watches cartoons with his doting Mom, whose incestuous actions have helped to drive him insane. King; eat your heart out.

On a lonely, foggy highway: A female hitchhiker turns out to be far more, and less, than her benefactor realizes. She then instructs him in the many ways that someone can be dead. A shot of Bradbury, a sprinkle of Matheson, a few drops of Rod Serling and yet wholly original.

Out on yet another foggy highway: A man on a business trip stumbles into a small-town nightmare when a girl identifies him as a rapist . . . just for kicks. Think you've got it? No you don't; then yes you do, but no you don't again.

Ed Gorman, Editorial Director of "Mystery Scene" magazine, has been around forever. In fact, I think of him as legendary. So I was blown away to discover that he has only been writing novels for perhaps the last sixteen years, partly because I discovered him through the fine "Harlot's Moon."

Once I dug into this fine collection of short fiction, which felt a bit like contacting some old friends, I realized that I had been reading his stories for a long time. I just hadn't connected all of them with his name.

In fact, although other writers are quite familiar with him, Ed is probably the best-kept secret in dark fiction.

Consider this: Mr. Gorman has published more than thirty books, averaging roughly one every six months, yet has achieved relatively little notoriety for his efforts. I sincerely hope the Stoker nomination (just announced at the time of this writing) that the THE DARK FANTASTIC received will succeed in changing that fact.

Sure, there are a few weaker stories among the seventeen published here. But mostly, they're tough and nasty. This is really solid writing. It is tight and carefully plotted, quite profound and yet deceptively simple in style. Buy it. You may not got nuts for all of it, but some of it will grab you by the short hairs.

Trust me. You have GOT to love a guy who appreciates pulp well enough to write: "The last thing I felt was my neck tearing from my shoulders." Or: "They hung Ma first, and then me."

THE DARK FANTASTIC gets four bookwyrms.


This review copyright 2002 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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