Peaceable Kingdom

Peaceable Kingdom - Jack Ketchum Will leave reviews as I work my way through, not necessarily in order.

(Format is: star rating out of five, denoted by the number of *, followed by the title of the story being reviewed)

***** The Rifle

Ketchum pulls no punches, kicking this collection off with a 12 page roundhouse to the brain. Kids problems, always a good premise for horror and the master delivers the goods with understated elegance on this one.

*** The Box

Nicely written eerie tale, once again about kids with problems. This story reads like something Matheson would have written for The Twilight Zone. Enjoyable, but not essential. (Recently discovered that this story also won a Bram Stoker Award. I'm not sure I understand the criteria used for those, obviously I would have had disagreements with the panel - either that or there was a dearth of innovative short fiction the year this came out. Like I said, it's good, it's very well done - but innovative or breath-taking?)

***** Mail Order

Here we go! The Ketchum you expect. Dark, twisted, predictable but in that good TALES FROM THE CRYPT sort of way. Good stuff.

*** Luck

If O'Henry wrote a western short story (which he may have, I don't know) it would probably be something like this. Light and amusing, but not essential. Primary appeal is to see Ketchum write a western.

*** The Haunting

A strip club has a visitor who seems to have taken an strong interest in one of the new dancers. A lot tamer than the subject matter would imply. A fun, light-hearted tale - by Ketchum standards, anyway.

*** Megan's Law

A violent sex offender has moved into your neighborhood, a couple of doors down. You have a small daughter. What would you do? What COULD you do? This one will make you think.

*** If Memory Serves

A psychiatrist is in session with a patient that is about to make him famous. Patricia was abused as a child and her personality has fractured into many facets and identities as a result - one of them is even a dog. Bits and pieces of a dark past have emerged, but during this session the full truth may be revealed...

This story is well written but ultimately a bit unsatisfying, very remiscent in style and subject matter to Richard Laymon, though I get that feel that much of the gratuitousness might be for gratutity's sake, and given the subject at hand steps a little further into tastelessness than perhaps needed.

*** Father and Son

Short but sweet tale. Thought for a minute it was going to be a [b:CRAWLSPACE|13391812|CRAWLSPACE|Evans Light||18622923] type of had the potential, but Ketchum kept it very short. An old man finds himself trapped in his bathroom in this one.

*** The Business

A Rod Sterling/Twilight Zone sort of story. Wonder if this has ever been adapted for a TV series? A man feels his brother has gotten all the luck, and makes plans to change things in his own favor. But the best laid plans...well, you know the rest.

** Mother and Daughter

Dad left behind Mom and son and daughter, and now the women are wasting away...nicely written, but that's pretty much the story.

*** When the Penny Drops

A very literary offering by Ketchum, really love the flow and language of this one. This was a story that in the hands of a less gifted writer could have ended up going everywhere and nowhere at once, but Ketchum put a wonderful bow on this one.

"Do the same for someone else someday", a message the narrator receives several times during his life when others do an unexpected kind deed for him. But when a liquor store robbery alters his life forever, he plans to live the message in a way it was probably never intended.


** Gone

This won a Bram Stoker Award. I'm not sure why. Then again, I'm not smart enough to understand the ending and I'm left scratching my head. Even read the ending again to see if I missed something. If you know what it is that makes this story so great, please share. It's nicely written, true, very much in the Bradbury "October" vein, but it strikes me as more of a sketch than a complete story, more of a feeling painted in words. And maybe that's all it's meant to be. Still have that feeling that I'm just not getting something though.


** The Exit at Toledo Blade Blvd

Another nicely written piece that just seems to hang in mid-air at the end. Quite a departure in style from the usual Ketchum, and seems more as if he was experimenting with a "CRASH"-style intersecting narrative device than constructing a complete and satisfying tale.

Several sets of characters are cruising late at night and we learn about them and how their lives brush against each other during a brief period of time. Again, I get the feeling that I'm missing something at the end. Am I simply dense or do these stories simply lack resolution? I'd like to know. PLease tell me if you do.


I enjoyed this well-written story anout a man with a nosebleed that just won't quite but have no earthly what it meant or what it was about. Ketchum writing on drugs, perhaps? This story had a gag factor on par with Adam Light's [b:Vengeance By The Foot|13614710|Vengeance By The Foot|Adam Light||19215358].


A really fun black comedy about two girls conspiring to kill one of their husbands, in between blowing the bartender and getting drunk. One of their plans to kill the husband was to "grind up" some LSD and put it in his pancakes. Umm, okay.
Best line from the story: "The worker ant climbed over labia arid and joyless as the desert."