Little Black Spots: John FD Taff
Reviewed by Brian Bogart
“There’s a little black spot on the sun today
It’s the same old thing as yesterday…”
John F.D. Taff is just one of those writers. You know the ones- you pick up their books or collections, and you know that no matter the POV, no matter the “voice” of the impending gloom or doom- he will take your hand and lead you to those horrors in a direct and non-forced way, occasionally dipping his typewriter into the poetic waters with his descriptions. He likes to play in those shadows, turning the screws slowly… and many times, you find yourself accepting even the most ridiculous moments or set-ups..
“The King of Pain” has collected some old tales and new, wrapping them up with a bizarre little bow, black spots and all. But, it’s not all black: there are varying shades of glowing and sensuous violets swirling in the approaching fog, tying the stories together in the late-night hours, crowding your line of sight and throwing your vision askew as you greedily turn each page.
There are a multitude of winners here, but some shine brighter than the others, even in the dark.
Take for instance, the simplicity of Just A Phone Call Away– a pre-internet tale that he considered updating. I am personally glad he didn’t. It added to the sense of place and reminded me of a Tales From The Crypt episode- erotic and brutal. Keeping it in that era only solidified that feeling of Crypt Keeper goodness, in my mind. (In fact, I was hard-pressed not to come up with my own bad-taste wisecracks as I read. Keeper would have had a blast introducing this tale to the viewers, puns and all.)
Sometimes, a story needs a good voice. The Depravity of Inanimate Things needed more than one. An apartment full of them, in fact. And us readers glide right along, accepting that insanity bit by bit. If the need to write this story came to him “forcefully” as he says in the book- you really have to wonder if it was his laptop. Or maybe the toaster. Pray that it wasn’t the straight razor. That beautifully fine-edged instrument, demanding one’s attention with every glint as you turn it in your hand….
John wrote Purple Soda Hand for Josh Malerman. It’s an odd duck, to a degree. But that is the charm of it. The oddity of the soda bottle itself, and its contents, aren’t drawn out or hinted at or the origins explained- it just IS. In lesser hands, I may have had trouble suspending disbelief. It is a reminder that if the writing is good, a reader can take almost any bait, even if questions abound otherwise. Shades of my younger self in that story a bit- minus the disembodied hand and violent obsessiveness. It whetted an appetite I didn’t know I had. Malerman would be (and probably is) proud, John.
Collections need variety as much as glue holding the pieces together. We have adventures in spontaneous combustion (The Immolation Scene)- a beautifully written tale of love that burns and yearns to be felt- skin damage be damned. I thought of Joe Hill’s The Fireman a bit, imagining that this story could have been told in that universe- once the epidemic became the norm.
The Bunny Suit. Halloween costume fun for everyone. Simple bedroom naughtiness that starts innocently enough. As the pages speed by, we are given the gradual decline of a man’s viewpoint of his wife and her “costume”. A serial killer tale that approaches the ideas of hunter and prey and the fine line that separates those he keeps close and those he destroys.
Taff gives us something else to be frightened of in the dark confines of parking garages. He takes a stab at the literary with two other offerings, both of which I really enjoyed. He visits the undoing of a vampire (which is eerily similar to a short I wrote a year ago and definitely gave me pause because of that as I was reading. Hey, a good idea is a good idea haha). Lincoln and Booth At The Orpheum is a historical fiction piece that brings to mind some videos I had watched recently of The Mandella Effect conspiracies. That’s what it brought to my mind, anyway.
Taff has a grand collection here. For those unlucky enough to have never read any of his work- this pulls together many fine offerings and plenty of variety. I highly recommend this book. As a fan of both Taff and the song “Little Black Spots”, I’ll leave this review on a musical note…
“Beware Little Black Spots inside the pouring rain
With the worlds Taff builds running ’round my brain
The words in this book won’t end this reign
Because it’s his destiny to be The King of Pain…”
Star Rating (out of 5): 4.5*
HUMANITY IS TARNISHED.
First he gave us Little Deaths: The Definitive Edition. Then he unleashed his unique brand of pain in The End in All Beginnings.
Now Bram Stoker Award-nominated John F.D. Taff – modern horror’s King of Pain – returns with Little Black Spots. Fourteen stories of dark horror fiction gathered together for the first time, exposing the delicate blemishes and sinister blots that tarnish the human condition.
— A man stumbles on a cult that glorifies spontaneous human combustion…
— A disgraced nature photographer applies his skills for a vile outcome…
— A darkened city parking structure becomes dangerously and malevolently alive…
— An innocent Halloween costume has a husband seeing his wife in a disturbing new light…
— A ruined man sees far too much of himself in his broken family…
— A young boy finds a mysterious bottle of liquid containing a deadly secret…
— And so much more.
Little Black Spots is a beacon shining its light into some of life’s most shadowy corners, revealing the dark stains that spatter all mankind.
Brian Bogart is an American author of dark fiction and horror/fantasy. He has written stories most of his life and has been a fan of the genre since the age of seven. His approach to storytelling is a tad macabre at times but tries to capture the nuances of the humanity and sometimes, inhumanity, beneath the surface. He supports the horror community with bloodied open arms and demonic vigor.
Dream Darkly and Keep Writing.
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