Monday, June 11, 2012
Short Fiction Month: 8 POUNDS: Eight Tales of Crime, Horror & Suspense by Chris F Holm (Poisonville Press)
Chris Holm first came to my attention as the author of the acclaimed noir fantasy Dead Harvest, from Angry Robot Books. And now having completed his short story collection 8 Pounds: Eight Tales of Crime, Horror & Suspense, I can see what all the hubbub is about!
First off, let me say that 8 Pounds is an outstanding collection of stories. Yes, these are tales of crime, horror and suspense but Holm infuses each piece with such atmosphere that it flows effortlessly from one story into another without jarring the reader from their experience. It is a collection that needs to be read and reread often.
As always, I like to try to talk about each story individually, so let's go:
Both "Seven Days of Rain" and "The World Behind" have the flavor of vintage Stephen King, each blending the past with the present as the protagonists recall childhood memories and things better left undisturbed come to light. Holm expertly layers the atmosphere in these tales, keeping the reader engaged until the climax comes and hits them between the eyes. Well done.
In "A Better Life" what I first thought of as a predictable new-couple-moving-to-the-country story really threw me for a loop at the end. The increasing sense of foreboding builds and builds and the ending is both gruesome and horrific.
"A Simple Life" is a prime example of Holm's mastery of writing a great pulp story. It follows a very unsympathetic character getting himself deeper and deeper into a very sticky situation for the affections of the very pretty femme fatale. Again, a great story.
"The Toll Collectors" takes a hit-man from a classic noir yarn and drops him into a ghost story that turns into a revenge tale where his past sins come back to haunt him he finally gets his just desserts.
My favorite piece in the collection is the title cut, "8 Pounds". And I hesitate to say anything as I don't want to give too much away but this story here is worth the price of admission alone. Holm slowly (agonizingly) ratchets the tension up, up and just when you think you can breath again-BAM!! he lets you have it! LOVED IT!
"The Well" is the little sister to "8 Pounds". I definitely place them both squarely in the horror set of these tales but "The Well" is a much shorter, moody piece but the ending is just as satisfying.
And finally "The Big Score" is a story of double and triple crosses that I read through at light speed, so engrossed was I in lobsterman Mike Mallory and the trouble he finds himself in when he is mistaken for another fisherman who has something that two very unscrupulous treasure hunters want. Again, Holm stages this story nicely and it is the most action packed of the set.
I cannot recommend this collection highly enough. Usually I seek out short story collections as an introduction to an author's work but with 8 Pounds Chris Holm has made me want to try an entire new genre on for size. My crime/noir/pulp reading is very infrequent but if there are writers out there producing stuff like this, stuff like Chris Holm, then I may have to take a longer, keener look at what's out there. Thank you Chris Holm, for not only entertaining me with 8 Pounds but for showing me that dark, well written fiction can come in many, many forms.
(Book 2/10 toward the Horror/Thriller Reading Challenge 2012 hosted by Sweeping Me ).