Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Seldom Seen in August

Although novels get most of the attention, the heart and soul of the horror genre has always been the short story, and one of the modern masters of the short story is the Irish-born Kealan Patrick Burke, whose short story collection the 121 to Pennsylvania and Other Stories ranks among the best collections ever published.

In "Seldom Seen in August", Wade Crawford is a man on the run. A bank robbery has gone wrong with three people killed, and he is fleeing in one direction while his partner goes in the other (with the money). Wade is an unrepentant killer, so the death of innocents doesn’t concern him, but eluding the police does. His flight takes him to a residential subdivision, and a road strangely named Seldom Seen. There he seeks refuge in a seemingly deserted house.

Wade made a bad choice, as he is confronted by a boy with a straight razor, a horribly burned woman and others, all of whom appear and disappear at will. The police are also closing in on him, but given what he has gotten himself into, Wade would have been better off going down in a hail of bullets than facing what waits in the house on Seldom Seen road.

Burke does a good job of creating a sense of dread despite the intentionally unappealing protagonist, and he takes the story in directions that are unanticipated. (From reading the description, you probably think you know where the story is headed. You’re wrong.) It’s always difficult to flesh out a character in the brief pages of a short story, but Burke does it well, which is why he is a master of the form.

The chapbook was published by White Noise Press, with artwork by White Noise Press founder Keith Minnion. It is an attractive package to complement a good story, so I would recommend you order it. Except it is out of print, so good luck. I got mine from a certain gurkling.

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