Bedbugs (Leisure Horror)

Bedbugs (Leisure Horror) - Rick Hautala If this review pops up repeatedly in my status feed, it's because I've updated it with another story review.

I'll be reviewing each story individually as I work my way through the book - possibly, but not necessarily, in order.

I'm not sure if I've read anything by Hautala before, perhaps a short story in an anthology somewhere. Looking forward to seeing if his writing lives up to all the praise.


**** The Back of My Hands

Really nice, classic-style first person horror tale, along the lines of Poe's Tell-Tale Heart. An identical twin is jealous that his brother is more talented than him in everything they do, especially art. Why did his brother have to be the one born with talented hands? Well-told and recommended.

*** Schoolhouse

A man returns to his hometown, wife and child in tow, and decides to face his fears and visit the empty schoolhouse he attended as a child, the same place that has been haunting him in his dreams for years.

This writing in this story was somewhat amateurish with a rather limited vocabulary, repeating many of the same words and phases over and over with diminishing results. The story itself seemed to be highly influenced by eighties supernatural horror movies and televsion.

Although intermittently interesting (for several pages it got pretty damn good), I found it to be an ultimately forgettable tale. Not bad, not good, just okay.

***** The Voodoo Queen

A recently laid-off man, sick of his pregnant wife and three year old son, falls in lust with a dancing Voodoo Queen at a traveling carnival show. But would a man like him even have a chance?

The writing in this story was a big upgrade from the previous - what a wonderful and skillfully told tale. While it didn't break any new ground necessarily, it hit all the right notes and tickled that "Tales from the Crypt" sweet spot in all the right ways. Loved it!

Highly recommended.

*** Tunnels

A young grafitti artist runs down into the subway tunnels of Boston to escape the cop who is pursuing him, but does the darkness hold other, more sinister, dangers?

This story started off strong and was well-written, but the build up was wasted on a too-short and ultimately forgettable climax. Very much like a so-so episode of Tales from the Darkside.

***** From a Stone

This story was dedicated to Joe R. Lansdale, and I imagine it would please him very much. Quite experimental, in that it is written in a merry-go-round of first-person perspectives of the individuals involved: a man who has awoken to find himself bound to a table in a basement, his abductor, and...well, to say anything more wouldn't be fair for a story as short as this one.
Frightfully effective, and highly recommended. A style that might be fun to emulate someday!

***** Crying Wolf

This story was dedicated to Richard Laymon, and you'd easily be forgiven for thinking you'd stumbled onto a lost Laymon tale while reading it.

A boy tells his best friend's older sister that he thinks an escaped criminal is living in the cellar of the old deserted Laymon house out in the woods, and wants her to help him investigate. What follows is pure horror poetry.

*** The Sources of the Nile

If you've ever gotten turned on while kissing away a tear, then this story might provide a glimpse of where that particular road leads, should you choose to follow it to the point of obsession.
Short, pulpy goodness. I guess we're doing shout-outs to writer friends, because this one is dedicated to J.N. Williamson.

***** Silver Rings

Not horror, but this story is a thing of exquisite beauty. I plan on re-reading it again soon.
A young man on spring break in Quebec meets a French woman in a cafe, she's wearing silver rings on every finger, and she takes him home...but this story's not about the plot, it's about the feeling - and boy does it have feeling in spades.
Elegiac and highly recommended.

(Since Hautala's been dedicating the last few stories to specific famus writers, I thought I'd try and guess who he dedicated this one to. I guessed Ed Gorman, but I was wrong. Cryptically dedicated to "C.R." I wonder if she wore silver rings.)

**** Colt .24

A clever little Faustian tale, told in a series of jailhouse letters. Why do these deals with the devil never work out? Why?

*** Bird in the House

Another first person-type tale, with the narrator speaking almost directly to the reader. Can belief in superstition and folklore be taken too far, crossing over into the obsessive and delusional?

Apparently so, and this brief story might be about that.

Decent, but not all that groundbreaking.

***** Cousins' Curse

This story could also be titled "Horny Little Suckers" - at least that's what I would have called it.

Some really fine writing chops on display, and Hautala dips into erotica with much more finesse than most author genre writers.

This story could have made the foundation for a fine novel. I was disappointed when it was over, such a peek into an interesting set of circumstances that I would have loved to see unfold further.

A must read.

*** Speedbump

I'm not a big fan of yokel accents in written form, especially in a first-person tale.

The format of this one has a lot in common with the preceding "Bird in the House" story, even though the subject matter is different, the effect is the same.

Not bad, not great, not essential reading.

***** Rubies and Pearls

Wow. What a great short story.

A serial killer, now in prison, has a stroke and catches a glimpse of what awaits him in the afterlife.

This tale was absolutely amazing - the language, the feel, the imagery the words evoked actually made me giddy. This story has a live volt of electricity running through it. Stunning. I'll be studying this one, for sure.

**** A Little Bit of Divine Justice

A very clever concept, well executed.

A drunk driver accidentally hits a pedestrian during a snow storm in the middle of nowhere, knocking him off a bridge and into the icy river below.

Nobody saw it happen, the pedestrian is surely dead, and there's nothing he can do to help. Should he just drive on and pretend it never happened? Or should he find a phone, call the police and ruin the rest of his life?

No matter what road he chooses to follow, one thing is certain: you've just entered The Twilight Zone.

*** Karen's Eyes

A college girl calls her boyfriend in a panic. There are eyes embedded in the wood of her closet door, staring at her. no, there no just knots in the wood, she insists. They're real eyes...please, come help me!

And thus begins a story that starts off strong, with quite an intriguing premise, but struggles to the end and expires with a whimper. The obvious course of events is usually the least interesting, and this story only serves to bolster that notion.

** Master Tape

A singer had a crappy record contract, and the record exec is an ass. A satanic spell should fix that, right?
This story has all the earmarks of an inside joke written for friends. Not wonderful.

*** Breakfast at Earl's

It's hunting season. The chef doesn't like to hunt. The hunters love his stew. People keep going missing.
Remember what I said in a previous review about the obvious course of events? If you haven't figured out where this story is going by the end of the second paragraph, you need to get out more.

It's nicely written, but I'm not sure WHY it was written. Surely there had to be a more creative place to go with it.

**** Closing the Doors

What if Jim Morrison's death was a hoax? What if he wrote this story?
I really enjoyed this non-horror speculative tale, but imagine younger generations would be lost if they read it.

** Worst Fears

This story seems to be shooting for the same lofty literary heights that the story SILVER RINGS hit with ease. This story to me was turgid, stagnant and stilted. No sir, I didn't like it.

**** Winter Queen

At around thirty pages, Winter Queen is one of the longer stories in the book so far. A rock star finds himself fighting for survival amidst the dead bodies of his band in the wreckage of his plane, deep in the frigid, snowy woods of Maine. Is something watching him from the darkness each night?

This story reminded me of the movie The Grey for a good duration, but then it changes into someting else. It is written in a fairly unique way, and is only really marred by a sudden splooge of exposition near the end. As with quite a few stories in this collection, I found the journey to be more enjoyable than the destination.