Occasional Beasts – Tales: John Claude Smith
Reviewed By Steve Stred
John Claude Smith came highly recommended to me and after gauging his releases I decided to start with Occasional Beasts: Tales. This collection was getting a ton of online love which pushed me towards starting here. The fact his first novel had also been a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel definitely persuaded me to take a trip into John Claude’s writing.
Occasional Beasts: Tales is a collection of 14 tales, all which showcased Smith’s vibrant imagination. I found a few of the tales missed the mark for me, or more accurately I just didn’t connect with them. But when they did – WOW!
I enjoyed the small town creepiness of Dandelions, the horrifying tale that was Personal Jesus, and the lengths some will go to achieve in Vox Terrae.
For me though, there were three exceptional stories that stood out and I’ve found I can’t stop running them through my head.
The first story The Glove just started things off with a celestial, cosmic-horror bang. The story focused on a washed up “psychic” who became inflamed when a new person showed up with real powers. The ending will leave you wishing Smith was going to turn it into a full length.
The second tale that really gripped me was The Wounded Table. My lord what a stellar piece of twistedness. A young girl wonders were her friend is. They’ve began to explore each other and think that just maybe they’ve discovered a kinship, perhaps love? She goes to her friend’s house, greeted by her trailer-trash junkie mother. Once inside things take a turn. Another completely off the rails ending which will catch you off guard.
The last tale that really stood out, may very well be one of the best short stories I’ve ever read. The Cooing is one of the most demented, insane things I’ve read recently and thankfully Smith doesn’t let up. It’s a short, quick read, but from the first sentence to the grisly ending, this tale will make you sit up and take notice. The growing sense of dread that John Claude created was glorious and by taking the main character down a peg, with her significant other insisting she’s just being a scaredy cat was well used. I hope somewhere along the line we get a film adaptation of this tale, because this is a special effects team’s dream job.
I love peppering my long reads with short story collections and this one didn’t disappoint. John Claude Smith brought the gore, the feels and the absurd and did it with spades.
Star Rating (out of 5): 4*
Occasional Beasts: Tales
Occasional Beasts: Tales features fourteen stories, four never before published, exploring the landscape of love and transformation, of desire and damnation, of unleashing the beast within, or encountering the beast of another made flesh, including gods made monsters in the eyes of deranged acolytes, and even the unflinching revelation of one’s true self, be it beastly, otherworldly, or the most horrific beast of all: Man.
We are all Occasional Beasts…
Steve Stred is an up-an-coming Dark Horror author. Steve is the author of the novel Invisible, the novellas Wagon Buddy, Yuri and Jane: the 816 Chronicles and two collections of short stories; Frostbitten: 12 Hymns of Misery and Left Hand Path: 13 More Tales of Black Magick.
Steve also has a number of works on the go and enjoys all this horror, occult, supernatural and paranormal.
Steve Stred is based in Edmonton, AB, Canada and lives with his wife, his son and their dog Oj.
You can follow Steve on Twitter @stevestred
You can visit Steve’s Official Website here
The Girl Who Hid In The Trees
Something lurks just beyond.
Centuries ago a heinous act created a ripple that still haunts the residents to this very day.
Now the kids who reside near McConnell’s Forest live forever in fear.
Jason lost his brother when he was young. He left with his friends to ‘debunk’ the urban legend and never came back.
Now Jason and his group of friends are fed up and want to discover what is happening, what is the real cause of the terror holding their small town hostage.
But something is waiting for them. She may look sweet and innocent, but the friends are about to find out that pure evil can exist in the smallest of packages.
She’s out there. And while you may not know her name or what she looks like, the local kids will tell you if you ask, that you should fear for your life from the girl who hid in the trees.
From the dark mind of Steve Stred, the author of Wagon Buddy, YURI and Invisible comes this fast-paced, seat of your pants coming-of-age tale. A quick, violent, bleak read, The Girl Who Hid In The Trees will make you think twice about those sounds you hear far off in the woods.