Thursday, September 29, 2005

Book: Different Kinds of Dead and Other Tales, by Ed Gorman (2005)

Campfire stories.

I consider that phrase high praise, even though growing up in New York I never encountered campfire #1. There may have been a few in Florida, where I went to high school, but I was too busy huddling close to the air conditioner to go look for them.

One thing I did discover in Florida was Stephen King’s book NIGHT SHIFT. I remember copies being passed from one kid to another like samizdat. At first, I resisted; my snob impulses kicked in early. But eventually I succumbed, and as is so often the case the one who holds out longest falls the hardest. I still have my copy from those days. I don’t know which is scarier, the cover image of a bandaged hand studded with unblinking eyes or the list price of $3.95.

I read every story in the book, not just the one about the killer washing machine but the heartbreaking “The Woman in the Room.” Each tale featuring lean prose and a feel for character and place that made the scary ones even more terrifying.

Reading Ed Gorman’s latest short fiction collection was like revisiting those days of squeezing in one last shocker before study hall ended.

Ed’s a King fan, too, and dedicates my favorite story in the book to him. “The Brasher Girl” would not have been at all out of place in NIGHT SHIFT. Other influences turn up; “A Girl Like You” carries the melancholy sting of Ray Bradbury, and the elegant title tale reads like Henry James on the prairie.

Above all, the stories are pure Gorman. Ed has few peers when it comes to depicting small town Midwest life and working-class disappointment, and he has a direct way of dealing with matters of the heart. Plenty of writers can combine those elements, but only Ed would ad alien abduction to the mix as he does in “The Long Sunset,” and to powerful effect.

Halloween’s coming up. Do yourself a favor and spend part of your allowance on this book. I gotta go to gym class.

Miscellaneous: Link

Speaking of samizdat, unpublished articles never die. They just get circulated via email. From Arts & Letters Daily.