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Voices: Tales of Horror Paperback – December 27, 2011
"Lawrence C. Connolly is a master of the short story. He writes with an economy that hums with the quiet power of a finely-tuned engine. His stories are artfully constructed and memorable for their smart originality."
--Tom Monteleone, Bram-Stoker-Award Winning editor of the Borderlands series
"Lawrence C. Connolly doesn't just get under your skin, he burrows. His style is deceptively unshowy . . . all the better to jolt you."
--Stephen Volk, award-winning screenwriter of The Awakening and Ghostwatch
"With his latest collection, Lawrence C Connolly proves yet again what a fine, intelligent and above all humane writer he is. These are stories about voices, and the clearest voice of all is Connolly's own, and it is a delight to hear it."
--Simon Kurt Unsworth, World-Fantasy-Award-Nominated author of Lost Places and Quiet Houses
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If you haven't picked up the by-now collectible THIS WAY TO EGRESS already, you might find yourself priced out of the market--and out of two dark fiction knockouts. "Moon and the Devil," which deals with a charlatan and the harrowing world of illegal dog-fighting. This tale should have been required reading in Michael Vick's high school English class. I could imagine this one being made into a Tales from the Darkside or Amazing Stories episode, one that would have strengthened either series.
In the interchapter/commentary REVISION, the author reveals that it was his friend, Charly Cantor, who fell in love with Pittsburgh, and inspired DECANTING OBLIVION. This is the other knockout, and what I consider Connolly's short story masterpiece.
(Aside: I felt rather vindicated when underrated short story writer, and Connolly's sometime mentor, Bob Leman seemed to echo that sentiment...) This disturbing story speaks to current labor issues, in a powerful unforgettable way. What's more, I love it when authors forego exotic places in favor of the local. Connolly writes about his own hometown with special authority (to the late Charly Cantor: "Thank You!"). Also check out audible.com for the March/April 2003 issue of The Best of Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine: it features an amazing reading performance of this work (my first exposure to it, in fact).
Those stories I'd read, and picking up this book was a great excuse to read them again. But the new stories more than held their own. Two were special standouts.
As a Sherlock Holmes fan, I loved THE DEATH LANTERN, which ranks among my favorites. The timing seemed to me a bit uncanny, too, as I'd recently been to see "Sherlock Holmes: a Game of Shadows" and "Hugo." Like "Hugo," DEATH LANTERN concerns the advent of film as an art form, but a decidedly dark art form--and combines this with a convincing portrayal of the famous detective.
BENEATH BETWEEN is another gem, and a good one to read if you're a writer around New Year's making your annual Resolutions (or heck, the beginning of a new month, or week, or...). If that story doesn't drive foot traffic to the Between Books, an actual bookstore in Delaware, then I don't know what will. This is another "local color" piece that really shines. Personally, at any rate, I foresee a road trip in my not too distant future. Yes, I'll be looking for the obscure and out-of-print and underrated, but read the story, and you'll know exactly why: then you, too, might really come to believe in fiction...
The interchapters were the other reason I picked up this book, and these reflections did not disappoint. JAMMING WITH SPRINGSTEEN has me revisiting old songs for stories and story ideas. And, as an aspiring writer, I love to get behind the scenes of other writers' processes: not to find my own, per se, but as a kind of personal sanity check--and as a kind of study aid, if that makes sense. For example, it was interesting to me to learn that PAINKEEPER was the initial opening to SHRINES, before Mr. Connolly factored it out into its own story--and then gave SHRINES another go. "Ah," says my writer self, "a homework assignment! I've got to study them side-by-side..."
Many of these commentaries were stories in their own right. ILLEGAL ART related a creepy real-life experience with black marketeers in Russia, which could have taken a decidedly unhappy turn for the author. SPARE THE ROD, RAISE THE CAIN actually provided me with a bit of much-needed perspective on revision, and the value of giving your stories multiple chances.
This is a collection to own and keep, made even more compelling by the memoirs/stories behind the fiction.
Fortunately for us we have Lawrence C. Connolly.
Not only are the stories in this collection horrifying and strange and beautiful, but they're stories that dig deep and burrow into our brains, our subconscious. The lovely outcome to this is that we'll remember these tales after we've read the last page.
Mr. Connolly not only weaves stories that entertain, frighten, and cause thought, but he has strung together numerous stories that begin and end with wraparound tales (beginning tale with The Haunted Attic: 1961 and the ending tale of The Haunted Attic: 2011) that have enhanced the ones in between.
And created a unique collection in doing so.
By starting off in the 1st person in the very short The Haunted Attic: 1961, Mr. Connolly has pulled us in without giving us a moment's notice. At its end, this story pushes us right into the second tale like an older brother who hasn't let up on his pursuit in getting us on the haunted ride at the local carnival. We have to take the ride, and you know what?
We come out loving it!
As I read through this great collection I came to learn that this very collection has been nominated for a Bram Stoker award by the Horror Writers Association. I can see why, and I have no doubt it'll win.
I recommend Voices: Tales of Horror highly. Every story carries its own weight--and worth in bloody gold (which are "all" spectacular in their own right). And once you've read it you too will never forget the stories within. So pick it up and peel back the layers that Mr. Connolly has created so effortlessly.
Because great horror does that. And so does a great writer!