Haunt Of Southern-Fried Fear: Ronald Kelly
Reviewed By Paul Flewitt
Ronald Kelly is a writer of some renown, boasting a 30-year career in the industry and an impressive back catalogue of work including Fear, Undertaker’s Moon and The Halloween Store.
Kelly’s stock in trade is the setting of the American South, bringing the flavour of the area he lives on to the page and bringing it to life. That he does so in such an authentic way is testament to his skill as a writer and storyteller. Reading his work, you can almost smell the trees of the Smoky Mountains, or taste the mint juleps and iced tea being drunk at the local barn party.
Southern Fried Fear is a collection of short stories which hold all the hallmarks of Kelly’s style. In keeping with the title and his usual MO, these are all set in the American South, and each one invokes the spirit of the location perfectly. There’s a homeliness about this style which really appeals, puts the reader at their ease, only to rip the carpet from under them when the horror begins.
There’s a lot to like here, so I’ll give a short rundown of the tales on offer.
Tallow: Follows the Kilgore family on their search for the home of legendary “Soap Sally.” So the tale goes, the woman was a brutal killer of children, who still haunts the area around her home. The house still stands, and so the Kilgores go in search of it. What they find there is a funhouse of horror which plays on their deepest fears, before a final meeting with the woman herself.
Tallow is a great opener and introduction to the collection. The tension is high from the first page, and carries on in a similar vein throughout. Like all of this collection, it’s good, old fashioned, classic horror.
Anniversary: November marks the anniversary of a terrible mining accident in the town of Ravenna, and the fallen often return for a visit on that date. Not everyone in the town is happy to receive their visitors, but it is unwise to turn them away.
This one is a poignant study of grief, abuse and revenge. A very quick read which keeps the pages turning nicely.
Forever Angels: A cruel prank played on young Deanna Hudson leads her to discover there is a sliver of truth in most urban legends. The prank presages a turn of events which is equally as heartbreaking as it is terrifying.
Don’t go in without tissues. This one is so well written and from the heart, builds nicely to a tearjerker of an ending.
A Scream In The Night: Follows a divorcee who needs an escape from the drudgery of his life in Chatanooga. He decides on a trip to the Smoky Mountains. Right from his first night there, he becomes embroiled in a battle between two warring spirits.
A nice cabin in the woods story, and another which tugs on the heartstrings as the tale spins out and the reasons for the afterlife feud and violence are revealed.
The Pedlar’s Journey: Christmas Eve night is an occasion for ghost stories by the hearth of a roaring fire, and Grandpa has The Pedlar’s Tale to tell Chester and David. But, some tales are true, and come very close to home.
This one is brilliantly written, and with a twist at the end which will leave even the most hard-hearted reader with a smile. This is a tale with a lot of heart, its roots going back to the very earliest ghost stories.
Forget Me Not: A serial killer is haunted by the last words of his final victim.
This one is very short, but does what it needs to do. Comes in with a bang, and leaves with a “what the hell?” moment. Classic stuff.
Sawmill Road: Scott meets up with an old friend on a brief visit to his old hometown, dredging up memories of an adventure in the old town sawmill.
This is perhaps the strongest story in the collection, and Kelly is certainly worshipping at the altar of Stephen King at his very best here. Sawmill Road is reminiscent of It and The Body, and is just as compelling.
Black Harvest: There’s a good, old fashioned corn shucking after the Leman’s biggest harvest in years. When Curtis finds a red ear of corn in his pile, it offers him a traditionally lustful prize … one he’ll wish he never accepted.
This is another lovely, homely story with a nicely horrific ending. Just don’t go into the corn with strange women, okay?
Cumberland Furnace: The haunted history of a local landmark, and why it stands as a derelict monument to a cruel past of slavery.
A comment on the history of the American south, told in a very human way. This should be a blues song as poignant as The Ballad of John Henry. A lovely way to end the collection.
There’s a lot to like here, and Kelly clearly has a deep love and understanding of his roots. That’s what shows here in every page. These are love letters to the place he loves, they just happen to be really creepy ones.
The only drawback in this collection is a number of typing errors which pop up throughout the book, but they don’t mar the enjoyment of the stories overmuch.
This book is a great read, perfect for snatched moments on a lunch break or to read a quick chapter between chores. They’re bite-size tales which will leave you satisfied to the last morsel. Pick it up when it’s released March 29th.
Haunt Of Southern-Fried Fear
Down below the Mason-Dixon Line, deep in the shadowy hills and hollows of Tennessee, lives a teller of terrifying tales and a spinner of dark yarns unlike any you have ever heard before. Stories to chill your bones and pepper your flesh with goose bumps. What his true name may be, no one knows for sure. But, if you listen closely, you can hear his voice ringing through the dead of night!
Pull up a tombstone and join your host, The Old Storyteller, as he shares nine tales of ghostly horror that will run a shiver down your spine! Tour a backwoods graveyard, neglected and forgotten…a cemetery haunted by restless spirits and wayward souls. Some are earthbound by sorrow and remorse…others by an unearthly hunger for vengeance!
Now enter…the Haunt of Southern-Fried Fear!
Paul Flewitt is a horror and dark fantasy writer from Sheffield, UK, where he lives with his wife and two children.
Paul began publishing in 2012, beginning with the flash fiction story, Smoke, for OzHorrorCon’s Book of the Tribes anthology. He went on to pen further short stories, including Paradise Park, Climbing Out, Apartment 16c and Always Beneath.
In 2012, he also published his first novel, Poor Jeffrey, which was received to much critical acclaim.
Paul cites writers such as Clive Barker, Stephen King, James Herbert and JRR Tolkien as inspirations on his own writing.
Paul continues to write, contributing to Matt Shaw’s The Many Deaths of Edgar Allan Poe anthology in 2020 with The Last Horror of Dear Eddie. He also began releasing free short stories and fanfiction on his Wattpad account for fun.
You can find more information, and keep up to date with latest news at these links…
Facebook: Paul Flewitt
Amazon: Paul Flewitt