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Tricks and Treats: A Collection of Spooky Stories by Connecticut Authors Paperback – August 31, 2016
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Here's a brief rundown of the 14 stories and 1 poem that comprise this collection:
**John Valeri: "Just Cause" is the lead story and it reads like a Marcia Clark novel. It's a tight crime piece about a convict accused of killing his wife who escapes on Halloween. Ruh-Roh. Valeri's second story in the collection, "Blood Relations," has a cinematic vibe that, at times, gave me the feel of watching a horror movie. Both stories have strong dialog that effortlessly moves the action along. I'm already a fan of Valeri's reviews and author interviews and will now follow his fiction, as well.
**Melissa Crandall: Is apparently an aficionado of the revenge story. Her "Dreams on Racks" is a heck of an imaginative story and of special enjoyment for movie buffs. "The Cellar" is a moving story of a young girl, her harried mother, and the pain they suffer at the hands of the men in their lives. There's an old mirror in the basement and, like the Mirror of Erised in Harry Potter, one must to take care around old mirrors.
**Mark Twain: "The Californian's Tale" (1893) is a surprising tale, one I'd read in the past and also enjoyed this time around. The narrator is a house guest of an old prospector who, along with his friends, is preparing for the return of his young wife who has been away vising her family.
**Ryanne Strong: "Halloween Hubris" is a story that made me LOL, or at least snort with pleasure, at the climax. "Sophie" is a ghost story involving children, which automatically tends to increase the creepiness factor for me.
**Stacey Longo: "Zombie Witch" is an imaginative story that caused me to walk down the Halloween decoration aisle at Stop & Shop the other day with more curiosity than years past. "Time to Let Go" is a story about a young man dealing with heartache that made me think of Paul Tremblay's Disappearance at Devil's Rock, which I read earlier this year.
**Dan Foley: "A Trick of a Treat" and "The Bag" are two stories that pack a nice wallop. I got a kick out of both stories, but the former is stuck in my mind and makes me glad I'm not trick-or-treating this year.
**Harriet Beecher Stowe: "The Ghost in the Mill" (1872) is a classic fireside tale, a wonderful story within a story. It hearkens back in time to tell the tale of a man who disappeared and how, during a raging snow storm, an old Native American woman helped reveal the truth.
**G. Elmer Munson: "What About that Daughter of Yours?" Is an intense sketch that made me think of scenes written by Stephen King or Joe Hill. Painful, quick, surprising.
**Charlotte Perkins Gilman: "The Giant Wistaria" first appeared in print in 1891 and is a delightful ghost story with roots (pun intended) that stretch back to colonial days with characters that remain fresh and alive. [Word buffs: when Gilman published the story Wistaria was a common spelling of Wisteria.]
**Kristi Petersen Schoonover: "Crawl" has some nice atmosphere and tension. I'll never look at baby blankets in quite the same way.
**John G. C. Brainard: "Maniac's Song" is a poem and the oldest piece in the collection (the author died in 1828). It seems more sad and tragic than spooky, but it has stuck with me and made me return to it for several readings.
Overall, the collection is heavy on the spooky and, thankfully, light on grossness and gore. I'll be keeping an eye out for more from these writers. (Read the Kindle version.)
The classics are the classics for a reason – Twain and Gilman stand the test of time and still speak to us today.
At worst, the more contemporary stories are momentarily entertaining. At their best, they too leave you disturbed, perhaps shuddering.
One story I have to recuse myself from judging, save for saying “of course I like it!” A second tale by Melissa Crandall, “The Cellar,” is for me a highlight of the collection.
Catch this book now; we’re in the perfect season for reading these tales as this review goes up.
-John Valeri's "Just Cause" is a courtroom drama about a man accused of murdering his wife, but of course, not all is as it seems. I liked the twist at the end.
-"The Cellar" by Melissa Crandall was disturbing on a variety of levels, and left me wanting more. Trust me, this one will bother you.
Stacey Longo's "Zombie Witch" was both creepy and amusing, and reminded me of the horror flicks from the 70's and 80's that were a staple of my childhood. Loved it.