Saturday, June 21, 2014

Twisted Tales - Marlin Williams

   2013; 217 pages.  New Author? : No.  Genre : Short Stories; Anthology; Horror-Thriller.  Overall Rating : 8*/10.

    Do you like your stories logical and, straightforward?  Do surprises in the plotline disconcert you and disrupt your reading pleasure?  Then you probably should avoid the eight offerings in Twisted Tales, where nothing turns out quite as expected.

    OTOH, if you like to feel your protagonists’ terror as they tiptoe through the tombstones (I lie; there are no graveyards here, although there is a mausoleum), but sometimes like to savor it in short, quick doses (50 page maximum), then this collection of suspense stories may be just what you’re dying to read.

Table of Contents (spoiler-free)...
01)  The Killing Kind – Need a lift?
02)  Life Form – Lost in space.
03)  Lint – Is it washday again?
04)  The Same Old Nightmare – Is it Monday again?
05)  The Agency – Who’s hitting who?
06)  Them – How do you know she’s an alien?
07)  Cracked – Old sayings ring true.
08)  Boucherie – Haunted?  Ha.

What’s To Like...
    I cringe a little whenever I pick up a book of short stories all written by the same author, because there's the chance that the tales will all turn out sounding the same.  But here, the settings are varied (in both time and place); the lengths of the tales are varied (from 3 to 50 pages); and none of the themes/critters repeat themselves.

    Some of the stories are “light” in tone (Cracked, Them); others are much darker (The Killing Kind, Life Form, Boucherie).  Some involve the “natural” world; others invoke the supernatural.  Some entail the mundane things in life (Lint, Cracked); others deal with the “out-of-the ordinary”.  In each case, I enjoyed trying to guess the twist that Marlin Williams was going to give the tale.  I failed every time.  That’s a real plus.

    My personal favorites were 02, 03, 06, and 08.  These also happen to be the four longest stories, which is probably an indication of my reading preference for full-length novels.   Your favorites will most likely be different from mine. The other four tales are still good, just short.

    “Are you a linguist?”
    His smile broadened.  “More like a writer.”
    Gracie laughed.
    “What’s so funny?”
    “I don’t know.”  She shook her head.  “I guess I’ve always pictured a writer as looking like a mole, squinting through a thick pair of glasses, and smoking a pipe.”
    He laughed and nodded.  “Yeah, that’s the successful ones.  Then there are the ones like me.”  (pg. 4)

    “They could still be here,” Corky replied.  “Just because the mother ship is gone, don’t mean some of them ain’t still here walkin’ around.”
    Ben’s expression soured.  “Don’t be stupid.  Even I know they’re supposed to be little, skinny, grey critters with big eyes.”  He looked around the room.  “I don’t see anyone here that fits that description.”
    The front door opened.
    Fran shrank back in her chair and gasped, “Oh my God!”  (pg. 137)

Kindle Details...
    The Kindle version of Twisted Tales sells for $4.99 at Amazon.  If you want to “try out” this collection, Marlin Williams offers each story individually for the Kindle at $0.99 apiece.

“Why would a monster post signs on the dryers?”  (pg.  73)
    The usual caveats about short stories apply. (*)  To wit, don’t expect a lot of depth-of-character.  Don’t expect a complex plotline.  Do expect to be drawn into the story within a page or so, or even within the first couple paragraphs.  Do expect the events and action to be fast-paced.  And regardless of genre, do expect something unexpected to occur.

    By those criteria, Twisted Tales succeeds admirably.  It’s always hard to rate a collection of short stories, because inevitably some of them will resonate with the reader more than others.  Here, all the tales kept my interest, and that’s all you ask for from an anthology.  So let’s give Twisted Tales 8 Stars.  There’s nothing epic, but there’s plenty entertaining.

     (*) :  Apparently, the two ultra-short tales (The Same Old Nightmare and Cracked) are properly called Flash Fiction, not Short Stories.  The Wikipedia article on FF is here.  You learn something new every day.

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