About Dark Screams, Volume One
Stephen King, Kelley Armstrong, Bill Pronzini, Simon Clark, and Ramsey Campbell are the first contributors to a mind-bending new series of short-story collections that push the boundaries of horror and dark suspense to the bleeding edge. From Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar of the acclaimed Cemetery Dance Publications, Dark Screams: Volume One reaches across genres to take readers beyond the precipice of mortal toil and into the glimmering void of irreality and beyond.
THE WEEDS by Stephen King
When a meteorite lands on his property, Jordy Verrill envisions an easy payday. Unfortunately for Jordy, this is no ordinary rock—and the uncompromising force inside has found its first target.
THE PRICE YOU PAY by Kelley Armstrong
Never pay more than you owe. Sounds like easy advice to follow. But for Kara and her childhood friend Ingrid, some debts can never be repaid . . . especially those tendered in blood.
MAGIC EYES by Bill Pronzini
Edward James Tolliver has found a weary sort of asylum among the insane. He knows he’s not one of them—but how can he tell anyone about the invaders without sounding that way?
MURDER IN CHAINS by Simon Clark
Imagine awaking to find yourself in an underground vault, chained by the neck to a murderous lunatic, a grunting goliath who seems more animal than man. What would you do to save yourself?
THE WATCHED by Ramsey Campbell
Little Jimmy gets a glimpse of the cold truth when he finds out that it’s not always what you see that can get you into trouble; it’s who knows what you see.
About the Editors
Brian James Freeman is the managing editor of Cemetery Dance Publications and the author of several novels and novellas, along with four short-story collections. He is also the founder of Books to Benefit, a new specialty press that works with bestselling authors to publish collectible limited-edition books to raise funds and awareness for good causes.
Richard Chizmar is the founder, publisher, and editor of Cemetery Dance magazine and Cemetery Dance Publications. He has edited more than a dozen anthologies, including The Best of Cemetery Dance, The Earth Strikes Back, Night Visions 10, October Dreams (with Robert Morrish), and the Shivers series.
[I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review via NetGalley.]
Dark Screams, Volume One collects five short stories, making this small anthology a fairly breezy read, but an ultimately disappointing collection.
Up first is Stephen King's 1976 story, Weeds, which was the basis for "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill" in George Romero's horror film anthology Creepshow. Here, we witness a meteor crashing on Jordy Verrill's farm and splitting open to spill a strange, white substance upon the ground. Jordy, a rather dim sort, touches the substance and awakens the next morning to find a moss-like growth on his fingers. Over the course of the story, he is slowly consumed by this alien breed of plant. It's a quick one-and-done kind of story, but not particularly deep and it runs a path that is pure straight-and-narrow. The final segment sets up a chilling final scene, but not one that is particularly shocking or surprising. For me, it's a notable work only because it is a chance to read a very early King story that I wasn't familiar with, but not one that I found overly impressive as a whole. There's a natural narrative drive to the story, though, and it ends the only way possible, albeit in a rather familiar, and now well-trod, horror trope. Still, my first impression of this story is merely that it felt rather quaint. Good, certainly, but quaint.
While I didn't find myself quite enamored with Kelley Armstrong's The Price You Pay, a small revenge thriller revolving around the cycle of bad choices, I rather enjoyed Magic Eyes by Bill Pronzini. I'm a bit of a sucker for madhouse psychological horror, and Pronzini delivers. The story is told via the journal of a patient, who writes with a felt tipped pen. I really liked the way the narration slipped into the occasionally mysterious, mad rant and the ways anger bled through the pages with frantic, run-on sentences. There was a terrific sense of voice here, and Pronzini hooked me early and kept my attention throughout.
Simon Clark's Murder in Chains was another one that I enjoyed, but I wasn't quite satisfied with the resolution of the central mystery. The story involves a Leeds journalist wakening in an underground crypt and chained to an angry killer. It's an adequate slice of the moment piece, but lacks any background or answers regarding the central premise.
The anthology ends with Ramsey Campbell's The Watched, the only story in this collection that I actively disliked. I found this story to be dull, lifeless, and pointless, to the point that I broke down and skimmed through the last few pages to hit the end.
Overall, I found this opening volume in the Dark Screams anthology series to be rather unimpressive. I wasn't scared, I wasn't wrapped up in any of the stories, and I found myself disappointed more often than not. I will admit, however, that I was on the verge of screaming, though largely out of frustration...