Saturday, November 26, 2016

Horrors from San Diego.

San Diego Horror Professionals: Vol. 1 

By  David Agranoff, Robert Essig, Bryan Killian, Chad Stroup, Ryan C. Thomas, and Anthony Trevino

Publisher: Grand Mal Press 

Pub Date: October 11, 2016

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Writing is a local affair. Put aside the dubious achievement of the internet for a minute. Take a look at the development of many great writers and you will see the influences of regions and groups. Locales are is in the names of many legendary groups or the organizations are associated with a locale; The Bloomsbury Group, The Algonquin Round Table, The Inklings(Oxford) etc. Writers benefit by contact and the intimate exchange of ideas that can't be found over an email.

Now I am not saying that the San Diego Horror Professionals are ready to ascend into any of the heights of the previously mentioned groups. But that essential camaraderie is provided by their contact and meetings. Plus, they have taken one tiny step to hopeful immortality. They have published what is hoped to be the first of a series of short collections showcasing their talents. In Volume I , there is short fiction by six writers, all from the San Diego area and all having decidedly awesome writers chops. All six stories work and all six stories are a hoot to read. Lets go through them...

1. "The River Kings" by Ryan C. Thomas. This has a supernatural bent at some point but what made me squirm was the gut-wrenching action as the main protagonist is caught in a deadly struggle with a wild beast. The author has a way with action and the ending was a interesting twist but it was the more natural horror of survival that caught my attention. Either way, it is a great tale.

2. "The New Music" by Chad Stroup. From its first paragraph it is obvious the author has a way with words. This is a post apocalyptic zombie tale told through the perspectives of 5 record store employees. Each character is introduced with their "playlist" which sets the stage and the attitude. This piece of fiction perhaps impressed me the most. It is a well worn theme but from a different perspective than we usually see. One line from the first paragraph, "Not everyone is prepared for their final fandango" give you a hint of what's to come in Stroup's rather substantial phrase building department.

3. "Watch Your Step" by Bryan Killian. This work feels traditional in a good way. It is very Bloch. The protagonist is a security guard in a nursing home and the horror of the short fiction comes, as does many good horror tales, from a common but unexpected source. It is simple but scary just like a good Bloch or Matheson yarn.

4. "Mister Crow Reporting" by David Agranoff. Agranoff is the only one of the six I have read before . I have always liked his work and this one does not disappoint. It is a softer piece that doesn't really hit you with the punchline until the end . Then you might say, "Wait a minute. I better read this again". I like stories like that.

5." Starving Artist" by Robert Essig. I am wary of picking a favorite out of these six works but this is a doozy. It has a delicious Twilight Zone feel . The basic plot is of a woman who falls in love with a painting by a somewhat sleazy looking sidewalk artist and buys more than she realizes. It is a little clever and a lot wicked.

6. "Good Samaritans" by Anthony Trevino. While this is a horror story, it is also the most "bizarro" of the bunch. At first, it seems like it is going to be a take off on wannabee vigilantes but it turns into something else. It is another story meriting a second read and is a meaty tale on which to end the collection.

This is the kind of collection I would like to see writers from other localities put together. it is a nice way to explore the terrain, so to speak. What I can say after reading this is that San Diego spooky thrills are not just at the Whaley House. As for those who do live in San Diego, support your local horror author.

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