Thursday, October 30, 2008

Reader's Diary #409- Dark Masques: Editted by J. N. Williamson

With only one day left, I've finished the R.I.P. III Challenge just under the wire. And to think, I only took on the third peril (ie., one book). Still, I had to cram a LOT of reading into the past few nights to fit this one in.

With 508 pages, 40 or more short stories and a few poems, Dark Masques is a hard book to review. Published by Pinnacle Fiction in 2001, it is really a reprint of Masques I (1984) and Masques II (1987) but surprisingly doesn't feel all that dated. In fact, a few stories comment on trouble in the Middle East and well, that ain't exactly changed any.

For the most part I enjoyed the book, but as with any anthology there are bound to be those that I liked and those that I didn't like. When the good outweighs the bad, that must be the mark of a decent collection.

Dark Masques is a wild assortment. Featuring supernatural and realistic evils of all kinds, genuine thrillers and comedy horrors, serious themes and fluff, I think just about any horror fan would find at least one or two stories to win them over. I particularly enjoyed Mort Castle's "Party Time" (which I featured here Monday), that was told from the perspective of a child who'd be kept in the basement; Joe R. Lansdale's "Down By The Sea Near The Great Big Rock," about a camping trip that inspires a lot of hateful thoughts; James Kisner's "The Litter," about a litter of mutant kittens, and also by Joe R. Landsdale's "Dog, Cat and Baby," about a dog dealing with some nasty jealousy issues.

I think discovering new authors was the thing I enjoyed most. I'll definitely be looking for more Landsdale. Fortunately, because it was two collections, some of the authors contributed twice and it was easier to get a feel for whether or not I was a fan. (The most recognizable author in the book is Stephen King, but his "Popsy" is pretty unremarkable.)

What I enjoyed the least were occasional Saturday Night Live type endings in which the author didn't seem to have any idea how to wrap it up. And the 2nd most annoying thing was when authors had the opposite problem: a clever ending and no clever way to get there. As well, I got tired of the cheesy dialogue. At first I appreciated the campiness, but towards the end those sort of stories lost their charm.

But, for a great Halloween warm-up, I'd recommend Dark Masques. Now gimme some candy.

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