Shadow Writer Vol.2, edited by Paul Kane


Paul Kane, the editor, and John B. Ford, the publisher, generously keep providing their circle of writing friends ( the so-called Terror Scribes) with opportunities to get published.

Indeed Rainfall Books is becoming the breeding ground for new talents in the field of horror fiction, and Kane's own website (www.shadow-writer.co.uk), has a flourishing Guest Writer section, which is the source of the stories included in the Shadow Writers volumes. This second volume collects twelve tales which appeared from October 2002 to September 2003 at Kane's site, embracing a wide range of styles, length and literary quality.

Amy Grech's 'Dead Eye' is a gruesome vignette, very enjoyable, although rather predictable in its development. Grech's writing style is quite smooth and effective and reminds me a lot of the late Robert Bloch. Paul Finch, a name by now well known and respected among horror fans, contributes with a nice short tale, 'Whizz', where a nasty snake-like creature is the cause of freak accidents due to excessive speed.

'Chalice' by Sue Phillips, constitutes the first part of a delightful vampire tale, also published by the author as a booklet including the second chapter of the saga. Much to the readers' pleasure, more chapters are to follow; Neal Asher's 'Scar Tissue' is actually a SF piece, so I don't feel qualified to comment upon that.

Suellen Luwish's 'Pretty Enough' is...well, a pretty enough story, to be forgotten entirely as soon as you turn the last page. 'Exploration', an enigmatic piece of fiction by Steven Deighan, leaves you wondering about its actual meaning (it's up to you to decide if the author must be praised or blamed for that). Sarah Crabtree's 'The Afterthought' is a short, but very effective story describing the farewell visit of a woman to a friend dying of cancer. Apparently, very little happens, but you won't easily forget this little gem.

In 'They Wait' by Simon Bestwick, the most accomplished story in this anthology, an ever-changing gang of teenagers transforms its components in older copies of themselves. I know, it's hard to explain without giving away too much, so please read the story yourself, you won't be disappointed. It's an outstanding, disquieting tale which would have made an excellent Twilight Zone story.

Another splendid contribution is Joe Rattigan's 'The Hungry Ones', a truly horrific story about uncanny creatures lurking in the dark in a derelict area of town. I'm not easily scared but this tale is so well written to frighten any reader. Rattigan is definitely an author to watch.

Unfortunately, but predictably, not everything is first-rate. Susanne S. Brydenbaugh's 'Cain's Moon' and Eddie M. Angerhuber's 'The Heart of Darkness' are two perfect examples of disproportionate literary ambition leading to next to nothing while celebrating Cain's eternal doom over the centuries or looking for the "heart of darkness" and feeling "the endless monotony of days". The authors contrive to display elegant writing styles but seem to have precious little to tell.

The last contribution 'Schism' by Steve Gerlach is a crazy journey into mental derangement, as aptly suggested by the alternative title 'Mind Fuck'...

The inclusion of a story by Kane himself would have certainly enhanced the general level of the anthology, which, however, remains fairly enjoyable, representing an interesting showcase of the new exponents of today's horror fiction.


- Mario Guslandi

(This review first appeared on Horror World)


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