Last month I was fortunate enough to win a giveaway over at Book Den (a belated thanks to Jen for the contest!), picking up all eight Seventh Star Singles, courtesy of Seventh Star Press. Never having read anything from the publisher, I quite liked the idea of getting a chance to sample their authors in short-story format, but the first two stories randomly picked from the bunch just didn't grab me.
Fortunately, I didn't give up on the publisher, because the next two stories - For the River is Wide and the Gods are Hungry & Goodnight, both by Michael West - turned out to be great reads.
For the River is Wide and the Gods are Hungry is a very short story (just 16 pages), but it works very well. It has that campfire ghost-story feel to it, and reminds me in some ways of an old Richard Matheson short. It's creepy, suggestive, and frightening in its efficiency of words, but never tips its hand by actually showing you the monster. Skeptics are free to walk away and scoff at coincidence, claiming the power of suggestion, but horror aficionados know damn well to stay the hell out of the water.
Goodnight is an emotionally powerful tale that grabbed me right from the mention of Spider-Man bed sheets. More sad than scary, the horror here comes not from the creepy rows of corn out in the field, but the carelessly placed pitchfork beneath the hay. The depiction of the Grim Reaper is one of the best I've read in a long time, equal parts Stephen King and Tim Burton, and his confrontation with a young boy is chilling. If the final twist isn't quite the surprise some readers might like it to be, that's perfectly okay, because the story is all about fulfilling that eerie promise.
Like I said, short stories are a great way to sample an author's work, and I can honestly say that these two shorts have me eager to read one of West's full-length works.
So, watch out, Cinema of Shadows, 'cause I've got my eye on you . . . although you may have a fight on your hands if I can get my hands on an early copy of Poseidon's Children!