Little Black Spots – John F.D. Taff
Reviewed By Steve Stred
“IN THIS CORNER, HAILING FROM PARTS UNKNOWN… THE KING OF PAIN!”
I seriously hope that’s how John F.D. Taff, Mr. King of Pain is announced at this year’s StokerCon. I myself won’t be there to find out, but I sure hope someone makes it happen and films the moment to share with the world.
Little Black Spots is my first Taff outing, and much like my personal embarrassment over my lack of Jonathan Janz reads under my belt, I feel the same shame admitting this about Taff.
I’ve personally always believed that in some cases a short story collection is a good way to be introduced to an author, and in this case Little Black Spots didn’t disappoint. The collection features a grab bag of emotion, atmosphere and chills, while Taff rambles off story after story of dark delights.
It took me a bit to get through this collection, because while the tales were good, I didn’t connect with some of them. It’s bound to happen in a collection.
I’ll focus on my fav’s for a brief synopsis/review.
My fav tale in this entire collection was easily ‘Just a Phone Call Away.’ Good grief this was a psychotic Pin-Head-esque tale of eroticism I didn’t expect. I’d love to see this made into a film. This just kept digging itself into more disturbing territory and the terrain was littered with razor blades.
‘A Winter’s Tale’ is a Lovecraftian ode that has found itself on the Stoker ballots, and rightfully so. I found the set up and the ending worked really nicely together. I’ve enjoyed lately, that there always seems to be one tale in horror-author’s collections that will make you weep, and this was the one that did it for me.
‘The Bitches of Madison County.’ At first I had looked at skipping the story entirely because of the title, but then decided to dive in. Boy was it a twisted look into voyeurism when the subject doesn’t believe they’re being a voyeur but just doing their job. The ending was fantastic and Taff showed how to cast a wide net then narrow it down to throw you into unexpected claustrophobia.
‘The Dark Level’ was a unique tale of dark dealings in a multi-level car garage. I’ve actually had an odd experience in a car garage where a friend and I believed someone was following us as we tried to remember where his car was parked. It turned out to be an echo that occurred specifically through a few levels and the car-park had even developed a ‘haunted’ reputation because of this.
‘The Bunny Suit’ was a demented tale of love and um… intertwining’s. Halloween costumes bringing out what the heart wants.
‘Lincoln, Booth & The Orpheum’ was a stunning closer, with an alternate reality twist. Really enjoyed this. I’m a fan of alternate history tales and Taff didn’t disappoint.
Surprisingly for me, my least favourite tale was ‘Purple Soda Hand.’ It was a brutally off the rails tale for sure, but I found that the plot moved exactly as I expected it would. The turns it took didn’t shock or surprise me, I saw it all coming well in advance. Not to say the writing was bad, it just didn’t do what it was supposed to with me.
Overall, this was a fun collection and while some tales didn’t resonate, the ones that did will stay with me for some time. At the end of the collection the publisher had included an advance look at Taff’s next release ‘The Fearing.’ I decided to not read it, as I’m looking forward to the full serial release this year!
Definitely a great starting off point for new fans of Taff, and for current fans who’ve been waiting to read this, time to get on it.
Star Rating (out of 5): 4*
Little Black Spots
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.
Steve Stred is an up-an-coming Dark, Bleak 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, the dark poetry collection Dim the Sun and his most recent release was the coming-of-age, urban legend tale The Girl Who Hid in the Trees.
On June 1st, 2019 his second full length novel, The Stranger will be welcomed to the world.
Steve is also a voracious reader, reviewing everything he reads and submitting the majority of his reviews to be featured on Kendall Reviews.
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
Ahhh… nothing like the annual summer family camping trip, right?
Malcolm, his wife Sam and their two kids have been staying at the same cabin, at the same campground for years now. Heck, Malcolm’s been coming to the campground since he was a kid.
Miles and miles of groomed trails, hiking, kayaking on the pristine lake. What’s not to like?
But this year… well this year’s different. You see, roof repairs have caused them to have to change their plans. Now they’re staying at the cabin at the end of season, in fact they’re the last campers before it closes for the winter.
While happy to be spending time with the family, Malcolm feels a shift.
The caretaker next door makes it known he hates him.
The trees… move and dance, as though calling him, beckoning him.
Then on a seemingly normal kayaking trip, the family makes a discovery.
YOU TAKE FROM ME
I TAKE FROM YOU
Something’s out there, just on the other side of the fence. Malcolm’s positive it’s just the caretaker trying to scare him, teach the family a lesson.
But what if it’s not…
What if there is something out there?
The Stranger is the second novel from Steve Stred and 9th release overall. The Stranger is another offering following in the footsteps of similar books Invisible, YURI and The Girl Who Hid in the Trees. As Steve describes his works; “dark, bleak horror.”
With this release, Steve has decided to look deeper into what makes humans tick. He confronts two key elements of mankind; bigotry and our environmental footprint.
Featuring stunning cover art by Chadwick St. John (www.inkshadows.com), The Stranger will be a story that will leave you feeling uneasy and have you looking at the trees differently.
Maybe it’s not the wind making the branches sway…