Friday, November 27, 2015

Quality short fiction of the unusual and bizarre variety

Answers of Silence

By Geoff Cooper

Publisher: Deadite Press

Pub. Date: September 1, 2015

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The fifteen pieces of short fiction, including a novelette size effort, in Answers of Silence involves a wide range of plot and emotion. All of them are on the dark side and most have a horror or supernatural element. Yet Geoff Cooper always goes for the unusual and the surprising making the tales constantly entertaining and unique. I have never heard of Geoff Cooper before this but he seems to have a reputation for quality writing among the indie writers and the lovers of the grotesque. His output is slim and this short story collection, a reprint released this year by Deadite Press, appears to have a range of his works from early to recent. That usually means uneven but each of the works has its strengths.

It starts with an especially strong one titled "A Question of Doves" that both scare and mystifies. It is one of those tales that doesn't have to explain everything to pack a punch. In other words, it is intelligent horror as most of the stories here are. "Incentive No. 43" is a powerful serial killer story that is simplistic in plot yet complex in characterization. It is one of the pieces with no fantasy element. I thought "Mo 3:16" was going to be more non-supernatural psychological suspense but it threw me a curve near the end that made it one of the most disturbing of the stories. "Badgetree" is almost old fashioned like a cross between Brothers Grimm and Algernon Blackwood. "The Sheriff of Pense Avenue" is one of the earlier works and the author, as noted in his afterword, seems a little embarrassed by it. He shouldn't be. It may lack the maturity of some of the other fiction but it is still creative and daring. "Strangers, Good Friend and a Bottle of Wine" is the type of tale that would have felt at home in the old Alfred Hitchcock Mystery magazine and shows a little humor in the tension.

And so it goes until we get to the last and longest story in the collection: "One Eyed Jack". It is also the most recent and the best. It starts out like one of those old men's magazine stories with its macho World War Adventure theme, swerves a little into Heart of Darkness territory, then goes head first into Weird Tales times twelve. Exciting, mystifying and thoroughly worth the effort.

Geoff Cooper is certainly a talent. It will be interesting to see what he comes up with next. It also appears that there may be a bit of a wait due to his small output but I hope not. Good intelligent writers of strange fantasy and horror are sorely needed.

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