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Crucified Dreams Paperback – February 17, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
Apart from a misleading subtitle, Lansdale's anthology of 19 reprinted stories is solid, comprising a variety of stories from both new and well-known authors. While Harlan Ellison's superb "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs" and Octavia Butler's impressive "The Evening and the Morning and the Night" certainly qualify as urban horror, many others clearly do not. David Morrell's "Front Man" is an economically written and suspenseful crime tale but not particularly scary. The desert of Norman Partridge's "The Mojave Two-Step" and the Vietnamese jungle of Joe Haldeman's "The Monster" are not exactly urban. Readers who curtail their genre expectations will be better able to appreciate the diverse themes and approaches of these stories, even the ones that don't represent the authors' best work. (Apr.)
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...prime pieces by respected genre writers. Readers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror will find something within their respective (or overlapping) tastes to enjoy.”
Spanning more than 35 years and pulled from a wide variety of horror, fantasy, mystery, and science-fiction publications, [the stories] reflect a uniform standard of excellence by which any writer would want to measure his own work.”
...this is one of those rare anthologies where you’ll want to read each and every contribution.... [P]ut yourself in the capable hands of Lansdale as he guides you through his wonderfully twisted sensibilities and tastes in reading.”
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But apart from these, this anthology as a whole suffers from lack of a cohesive theme. The subtitle on the cover says “Tales of Urban Horror”, but many of these stories take place in remote non-urban locations (“The Pit”, “Window”, “Mojave Two-Step”), and some are not really horror at all (“Game Night at the Fox and Goose”, “Front Man”).
In his introduction, Lansdale explains the original concept for the book was to pick recent stories that were written in the same vein that Lansdale has been writing for thirty years. The publisher wanted to illustrate perhaps that Lansdale was ahead of his time. This idea fell apart when Lansdale selected more stories that predated his career, and only a few that were written recently.
The 5 stories I recommend are:
“The Whimper of Whipped Dogs” – I am a fan of Harlan Ellison but had never come across this dark, visceral story inspired by a real-life murder. It won an Edgar Award and for good reason. One of Ellison’s best.
“The Evening and the Morning and the Night” – Octavia Butler writes complex stories that weave the boundaries of science and ethics together.
This story reminded me why I need to find more of her books.
“Quitters, Inc” – This is a very young Stephen King effort full of wit and dark humor from his first short story collection.
“The Pit” – One of my favorite Lansdale stories. I have read it a few times, and it always manages to surprise me.
“The Monster” – Few authors could pull off a story of such craft. Joe Haldeman presents an unreliable narrator who changes his story-voice midway. The ending is simple but ambiguous. The writing is clear at all times, the reader knows exactly what is happening, but in the end it is open-ended as to whether this is a story about a monster or a psychopath.
I’ll also give Tom Piccirrilli’s “Loss” an honorable mention. It features a great set-up with a love triangle, a venerable old house peopled with eccentric characters, and not one but two crimes to solve. About half-way through, I started to say to myself, “I hope the author plays it straight and this doesn’t turn out to be a ghost story”. Well, needless to say I was disappointed in the third act.