Thursday, July 30, 2009
Two From DarkHart
I picked up two books from DarkHart Press recently...The Gentling Box, a novel by Lisa Mannetti and Martyrs & Monsters, a collection of short fiction by Robert Dunbar.
I picked up The Gentling Box after learning Mannetti had won the Stoker for best first novel. The premise intrigued me, and the first couple of pages grabbed me by the throat. Mannetti has a fantastic way with imagery, pummeling the reader's senses as she paints a vivid world of gypsies, betrayal, and dark magic.
You'd be hard pressed to find any negative reviews of the book, and with good reason. It's well-researched, well-written, and builds just enough tension to keep a reader hooked. But, I found myself skimming some of the more tedious passages of description. After a certain point, I drowned under the imagery and needed a breath. No spoilers here, but the central conflict--involving the device for which the novel is named--just didn't work for me, either. Note I write: for me. The book is fantastic...truly deserving of the Stoker...my frustrations reveal more about my taste than Mannetti's prose. (read on for more)
I grabbed Dunbar's collection, Martyrs & Monsters after starting The Gentling Box. DarkHart seems to have something here...a small press that publishes wonderfully literary horror.
I read the introduction and dove into the first story, put the book down, and scratched my head. Again--there's a theme--the imagery was brilliant, but I didn't care for "Getting Wet". The story felt hazy, unclear. Determined to try another, I read the related, "Are We Dead Yet?". Again, I put the book down. Neither story really hit that special nerve.
I'm glad I picked it up a third time. "Red Soil" is worth the price of admission alone. Originally appearing in Cemetery Dance, the story drives a sharp pike right into the heart of what I like about horror: short enough that I can churn through it quickly, digesting all the juiciest bits with enough time to let the chill settle deep in my imagination. A short story can afford to be a little open to interpretation, and my brain is always ready to play. Since reading "Red Soil", I've found other gems in the collection (I never read them cover to cover...I just can't). "Red Soil" is one of those stories I wish I would have written, and as a fledgling author, I have no higher praise to give.
What did I learn about myself? I like my horror fiction short, for one. I prefer longer works of fantasy or science fiction, but horror...give it to me quick and dirty.