Urban Occult edited by Colin F Barnes
Behind urban life, weird and horrific things fester.
The whispers and chills of things long gone… the promise of power from the darkness… the seduction of those that lie in the shadows… the occult is all around us: in town houses, in mansions, and in your very own street.
Editor Colin F. Barnes collected together fifteen stories by a cast of critically acclaimed authors from around the globe who look into the stygian gloom, explore the dark corners of our houses, and peer into the abyss of human temptation.
When I get the time I like to try and include the occasional short story collection in my reading schedule. It’s nice to take a break from the confines of the novel and enjoy some fiction in the short form. I’ve always felt the horror lends itself particularly well to this format. Nothing better than a series of short, sharp shocks is there?
Some of this particular collection highlights include:
Just Another Job by Gary McMahon – Two men break into a house with a very specific task in mind. But wait, this is a story by Gary McMahon so you shouldn’t be surprised when I tell you that not everything is exactly as it first appears. I’ve said in the past that the first story in any anthology has the unenviable task of acting as the hook for the entire collection. The reassuring news is that Gary McMahon is a master when it comes to short fiction, and he gets things off to a suitably dark start.
Spider Daughter Spider by Jennifer Williams – A family split apart, a father whose sanity is starting to slip away and the special youngster who offers a potential for redemption… or does she? Oooh, this one properly creeped me out. Verging on the surreal one moment, and then devastatingly sad the next. The final moments of this will stay with me for quite some time.
Elevator by Adam Millard – Living in a tower block can literally be hell. This story managed to tap very effectively into my distrust of high rise buildings. (What can I say? I just don’t like them). Based on the evidence on display here, my gut reaction was entirely right.
The Remover of Obstacles by James Brogden – A man runs into a little difficulty when trying to pick up his car after its MOT. With its darkly comic tone, this little gem caught me by surprise. No spoilers, but the ending of this is brilliant fun.
Wonderland by K T Davies – Two down-and-outs live rough on the city streets, but appearances can be deceptive. It turns out that magic is everywhere if you just know where to look. Once again, K T Davies’ writing manages to not only entertain, but also offer insight in equal measure.
Probatio Diablocia by Nerine Droman – A reporter sits down to talk with a Satanist. She doesn’t end up getting quite the interview she was expecting. This story brings a bit of international flavour to proceedings with events taking place in South Africa.
The Other Woman by Chris Barnham – Hell hath no fury like a women scorned. It turns out that this phrase is even truer when the woman in question is a vengeful spirit. The author successfully takes the traditional ghost story and flips it squarely on its head.
The Strange Case of Mrs West and the Dead by Sarah Anne Langton – Enter the strange world of ‘Occult Practitioner’ Mrs West. In any collection I always find that there are always some stories that leave me wanting more. This falls firmly into that category. Mrs West is a delight and I’d love to read more of her adventures.
And that’s just over half of the collection, there are loads more left for a reader to discover. From a school trip gone wrong, or tattoos with a mind of their own; to children trying to out dare one another and demons who are keen on kidnapping. I’ve not even mentioned the cursed amulet that stops time, the inner city gang members who decided to take on a possessed tower block, or the detective that helps restless spirits find peace. The best news is that I don’t think there is a duff entry amongst the lot.
The editors at Anachron Press have real skill when it comes to selecting just the right mix of material to appear in their short story anthologies. Like a modern, slightly darker, homage to Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected there is some fine fiction on display here. Authors new to me sit right alongside others whose work I already rate very highly. If you enjoy short fiction with a definite bite then this could well be the collection for you.
Urban Occult is published by Anachron Press and due for release on 25th March. Check out www.anachronpress.com for more details.