’13 Dark Tales’ Collection 2 by Mike Martin – Review

*Disclaimer – I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, then I couldn’t get the file to work and panicked and bought the kindle so make of that what you will.*

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Connor hadn’t planned his first kill. Self-defence, plain and simple, even though others hadn’t seen it quite that way. He was sixteen and the hapless victim of school bullies: a trio of witless sociopaths. One day, it all got out of hand. 

He was walking home alone, along the edge of the park, when they leapt out of the bushes and rushed him. But Connor was fast on his feet, and only Lenny Barnett stood a chance of keeping up. He’d have outrun him, too, if he hadn’t tripped over that friggin’ tree root. Lenny had a temper, but his face was a mask of pure hate when he fell on Connor, punching and yelling obscenities. Connor bucked and squirmed, tried to fend the blows, but Lenny was bigger and stronger. He’d just about managed to wriggle onto his side when he was the sharp stone. He dragged it from the wet leaves and hurled it wildly at Lenny. By sheer luck, it hit him square on the temple. In an instant, the punching stopped, and he flopped to the ground like a rag doll. Connor grabbed the stone again and slammed it down on Lenny’s head. Dark blood rushed through his wavy hair. Connor rolled him away and got to his feet. But he wasn’t finished. The “fight or flight” instinct had switched to something he’d never felt before: a bloodlust wholly reptilian in its cold intent. But one of Lenny’s mates got there just before he could bring the stone down again. Connor dropped it and fled home, where he blubbed it all to his frantic mum. 

The next few days were a bit of a blur, and he could recall very little of his dealings with the police. Lenny died a week later in hospital. Connor’s father hired a good barrister who argue successfully for manslaughter, but it still meant eighteen months in a youth custody centre. And a life changed forever. 

 

Synopsis –

This is the second collection of dark tales numbering 13 by Michael R. Martin. Ranging from ancient Viking legends, satanic cults, ghosts and serial killers with a few sci-fi stories fit for a Creepy Pasta SCP, this collection has some fresh ideas and an able writer.

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13 Dark Tales Collection Two leaves the gore and violence behind for the most part and asks the reader to do more thinking and look at these tales with a different perspective. Martin tackles the past with skill and shows that there are always more ways to look at a story. From aliens to ghosts, ancient Viking folk tales to modern government conspiracies and murders, there’s plenty for everyone in this collection. Martin is adept at setting up a story and creating compelling characters with interesting back stories.

One issue I had with this collection is the repetition of the structure. Over half the stories in the collection involve one character telling another character a story from their past, often times one that they both already know somehow but this person knows the real story, the truth. The first few times this was fine, but after the fifth or sixth it was too much. Each collection is well written in and of itself, but it could have used a mix up, a few different frameworks for each tale and I think the stories themselves would have evolved within new structures as well. This also meant that there was little actual action happening, and more often than not the endings fell flat as the main story had already happened and it was more a flash of and ending rather than a satisfying conclusion.

13 Dark Tales is worth a read though even if it’s just for the new insights. I would still recommend the book – the fact that I sweep through collections in one go may be a contributing factor to my issue with the repetitive framework. I’ll also be giving Collection 1 a look in the future.

 

About the Author –

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Michael R. Martin is a dark fiction writer from the UK. He has a degree in mechanical engineering and takes inspiration from the likes of Stephen King, Philip K. Dick, and Nigel Kneale. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Links to Buy and Review –

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads.com

 

What’s your favourite short story collection? Do you prefer action and gore or less tangible horror? Let me know down below!

‘Slasher Crashers’ by David Nora – Review

*Disclaimer* I was given a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. 

 

“Nick Roesch, 5:00 a.m.

It started like an ‘80s slasher film. Not John Carpenter’s Halloween, the
classic of suburban horror, but the countless, mostly Canadian copycats that
emulated its simple-but-effective formula of the escaped mental patient
who [choose one: had been burnt in a high school prank, buried in your run-of-the-mill mining accident, and/or mentally abused by Santa Claus] and
picks off a sexy group of no-good teenagers on [a beloved American holiday].

In this crude rip-off, it was Halloween, and Nick Roesch, a massive,
pineapple-shaped teen wearing an oversized gray sweater and blue scrubs,
was running through the vast wooded area surrounding Summer Hill
House, the psychiatric hospital in Hannibal, New York, where he’d spent the
last five years. After a window dive from the hospital’s second floor, he was
following the early-morning light that trickled through the pines, hoping it
would lead him to a house or road.

Eventually, Nick got lucky. After barreling through the maze of trees for
nearly thirty minutes, the eighteen-year-old, pale-faced beast came upon a
long stretch of road and stopped in the middle of it. Gotta get home, he
thought, bending over and heaving a deep breath. Need car.

He stood up and scanned the road, waiting for the next vehicle. Again
he was lucky; a moment later, as a red Volvo wagon popped out of the
horizon, his strained breath eased into its normal inhale-wheeze-exhale
rhythm. Spotting the dingy car racing toward him, he puffed out his chest
like a superhero and walked directly toward it, initiating a horrific version
of chicken. Unfortunately, the driver, a seventy-five-year-old man with the
distant vision of a headless mole, couldn’t see past his headlights and
unwillingly entered the game.

About twenty yards away, the man finally noticed the towering figure in
the road—“Bigfoot!” he screamed—and swerved out of the way. It was too
late, though; he was going too fast to brake and slammed into the guardrail
with a thunderous crack. The car lifted off the ground, spun around, and rolled forward, creating an explosion of smoke and dust. After a couple
seconds, it stopped, the front end twisted into a modern art sculpture. Still,
the left headlight remained intact, shining a yellow beam through the brisk
autumn air, while the engine buzzed with a hint of life.

With a wicked grin, Nick turned around and marched toward the car.
When he reached it, he opened the door and pulled out the white-haired
driver with his large taloned paws. The elderly fellow, his face smeared with
blood, was writhing in pain, mumbling, “No, please,” but the giant didn’t
care. He dropped the old guy onto the road like a wad of bellybutton flint
and climbed into the Volvo.

And then, finally, Nick’s luck ran out. As he reached for the gear selector,
his malicious smile disappeared. The car had a manual transmission!

He let out a growl then punched the busted dashboard with a hairy fist.
How the fuck was he supposed to get home? He couldn’t drive a car with a
stick shift! Dr. Bonesteel had never taught him!”

Synopsis – 

It’s Halloween and there’s tricks and treats a plenty. Betsy wants to go to a party with the popular boy who inexplicably likes her, but she also wants to avoid her ex-best friend Kathleen and hanger on David after the fiasco at her own birthday weeks before. Unbeknownst to any of them, Nick, a psychotic and dangerous killer who’s been locked up since he killed his babysitter’s boyfriend as a child, has escaped and is on his way to their town, ready to kill anyone who gets in his way. Caught in the dramas of teenage ‘frenemies’, Nick gets more than he’s bargained for. Will the teens be able to put aside their differences and fight the unstoppable evil, or will they die mad?

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The love child of ‘Mean Girls’ and ‘Halloween’, Slasher Crasher is a modern day, self-aware, bloody romp. Taking the tropes of classic 80’s teenage murder sprees and throwing in the the nihilism and internet fueled intelligence of 21st Century Gen Xer’s, Nora creates an ever so nostalgic and familiar story with queer characters, real conflicts, and more farting than I think I’ve ever read in a novel before. The characters are real, gross, and as unpredictable as teenagers can be, taking the tropes of jocks, nerds, and sluts, and turning them on their heads. Nora leaves the comedy on the surface and dives deep into the lives of these characters, saving them from being flat formulaic caricatures and leading to decisions that make sense, but that you certainly won’t expect.

Slasher Crasher is a world of dick jokes and flatulence that isn’t there to shock or disgust – it’s just the truth of the characters. There’s no sugar coating the reality of a Catholic High School here, you see all the wet dreams, hear all the violent thoughts, and misinformed conclusions. You go beyond liking and disliking Betsy, Kathleen, and David, melding them with your own memories of teenage life and watching it like a fucked up nature documentary.

David Nora is himself gay an this book includes a gay teen (shockingly also called David). Reading a gay character written by a gay writer with lived experiences of navigating a hormonal terrain as an adolescent, was refreshing. David felt like a real person, he wasn’t a stereotype, but he also wasn’t checking boxes to cast off every stereotype there is. David is feminine, close to his mother, and happily the gay best friend, but he experiences and endures homophobia not just from the jocks but from his own friends. He isn’t humiliated to the point of martyrdom but he does see serious bullying. I’ve spoken previously of lesbians in horror, (in particular ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ by Shirley Jackson that you can read here) as well as humour and I definitely don’t see enough of either. So – more please!

The only real nit I can pick in this book are the time stamps at the start of each chapter. I mostly ignored them as they didn’t give me any needed information, but when I did try and keep up with them and the change of P.O.V. I found myself confused by the jumping back and forth. Remove the time stamps, and I’d have pretty much nothing to complain about here – that’s something I’m not used to.

 

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Slasher Crasher is, on the surface, a teen slasher story. But just one dip of the toe into this book and you’ll peel back layers of depth to characters and the relationships between them. The hurt and betrayal of teenage friendships, the struggles of , the brash anti-PC humour of modern teenagers. These kids aren’t cut from cookie cutter molds though sometimes they want to be, they’re equal parts scared, traumatized, and sick of the world’s shit. If you wince at curse words or mentions of puss, I’d give this one a pass, but for everyone else, you’ll have a lot of fun at this party.

 

About the author:

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David Nora is a teach to the blind by day and a writer by night. Harbouring a love of horror since an early age, Nora currently reside in New York with his partner in crime, the stuffed polar bear Po Po. You can find Nora on Twitter and Instagram

 

Links to Buy & Review

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads

 

Do you think we need more comedy in horror? Can old tropes like teenager slasher’s be re-vamped for a modern audience? Do you have any horror recommendations written by LGBT authors? Let me know down below!