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This enticing collection from Shamus Award–finalist Gorman (Noir 13) features 14 short stories mainly drawn from his work in the 1990s. The author ranges across a variety of genres, shifting effortlessly from “The Brasher Girl,” an homage to Stephen King, and “The Scream Queen,” a violent coming-of-age story, to “Angie,” a noir examination of parenthood, and “Famous Blue Raincoat,” a dark tale of destructive love. Although his stories are often grim, frequently horrific, Gorman is not without sympathy for his flawed characters or those unfortunate to be in close proximity to them; were the central figures not so human these tales would not be nearly as effective as they are. Tom Piccirilli supplies an appreciative introduction. In addition to an afterword, Gorman provides brief editorial comments for each entry that leave the reader wanting more. This volume will appeal both to those familiar with his fiction and those who have yet to discover it. (Apr.)
Scream Queen and Other Tales of Menace.
Gorman, Ed (Author) Apr 2014. 230 p. Perfect Crime, paperback, $12.95. (9781935797548).
Acclaimed novelist and short story writer Gorman offers up 14 stories, originally published (with a few exceptions) in the early to mid-1990s. Ranging in genre from noir to thriller to horror to SF, these are beautifully crafted tales. Gorman’s characters behave completely consistently, but sometimes we don’t realize what kind of people they are until it’s too late. Many of the stories are narrated in the first person, and these feel almost like confessions. Some, like “Angie” (about a woman whose lover killed his wife so he could have Angie), have moments in which it feels like the author is channeling Jim Thompson; still others, “Duty” (a postapocalyptic chiller) and “The Order of Things Unknown” (a serial killer finds he’s unable to stop killing), have a sort of Stephen King flavor to them. Gorman is best known as a mystery writer, but his fans know he can handle pretty much any genre like an expert. This short story collection showcases his versatility and his skill at creating complex, compelling characters.
— David Pitt
A new collection of short stories by Ed Gorman is definitely a reason to celebrate. Gorman knows his audience, and the contents in this Perfect Crime collection, SCREAM QUEEN AND OTHER TALES OF MENACE, truly fit the title. The 14 tales range from straight-up crime to peeks into a bizarre future. What will really shock some readers will delight others. Personally what I loved is how in some stories the leads seem so normal until Gorman takes that one little turn and we see the real truth in these characters.
While some might assume where a story goes, like in the opening “Angie,” Gorman throws a change up early on, only to throw another on later. “Angie” deals with a young boy who overhears his career-criminal father, while in the title tale, a video store clerk and his friends figure out one of his customers was a former scream queen, but can’t figure out why she is now living in a small town and keeping her former life a secret. It’s not the sweetest story, which is like saying that gunshot wound isn’t as bad as that other gunshot wound.
Two of the OTHER TALES OF MENACE are definite must-reads, but for varying reasons. “Cages” is a near-future work of a young boy who sells something, much to his mother’s disgust, while “Beauty” is officially one of the coldest and most brutal pieces I’ve ever read. All I can say without giving it away is that Gorman is truly one sick bastard, folks. And that’s a compliment.
“The Brasher Girl” is an homage to Stephen King; actually Gorman admits in the afterword that it might be considered theft. It deals with two young people and a special well. The well in question holds a secret: an alien living down below who has a control over these two, to the point of killing and other assorted activities. “En Famile” is told from the perspective of a boy who spends his youth with his father at the track and with his first love. “Out There in the Darkness” follows a weekly poker game; a neighborhood watch that goes really, really wrong; and the outcome of the events.
Again, some readers might be thrown by some of the brutality in these stories. While longtime crime readers will just clamor for more. With how prolific Gorman is at the short-story format, hopefully we can expect another collection sooner than later. —Bruce Grossman