Weirdsmith Issue #4: Featuring E. R. Robin Dover
Review by D. S. Ullery
Let me begin this review by explaining the backstory of the Weirdsmith series for those who are unfamiliar with it.
In 2020, author Terry M. West ended his involvement with his original publishing concern Pleasant Storm Entertainment and decided to strike out on his own with a new publishing venture he would build from the ground up, called Too Much Weird ( yes, also a play on his own initials).
West solicited work from several authors working in the indie scene ( including yours truly) and launched multiple publications. It was a frankly inspiring feat to witness as he quite literally conjured up a small industry of his own during the pandemic through a combination of the resources he had available, accommodating talent and pure force of will.
One of the outgrowths of this endeavour -which is still going strong as of this writing – was the creation of a monthly series titled Weirdsmith, a literary anthology in the vein of such classic publications as Tales from the Crypt or The Twilight Zone.
Each issue features two tales from a single author, some brand new, some reprints. All dark horror fiction.
This brings us to the fourth issue, which features work from an author by the name of E. R. Robin Dover. I’m a fan of Robin’s work going back several years now and I’ve long held the opinion he’s one of the best, most underappreciated writers working today. When it was announced he would be featured in this issue of Weirdsmith, I knew I’d have to acquire a copy. He hadn’t released a new short story in some time and I was eager to find out what he had in store.
The man did not disappoint.
As mentioned, two tales grace this instalment. The first, “Simple Man”, is a brand new work and the second, “The Evil One”, is a reprint of a story Dover penned as part of Terry Wests’ larger literary universe featuring a demonic entity known as the Car Nex (short for Carnivore from the Nexus).
I thoroughly enjoyed both tales, but of the two I would say I lean toward “Simple Man” being my favorite. In fact, it’s the best new short story I’ve read so far in 2021.
The plot involves a young man in his late twenties who has returned home to confront the troubled domestic life he left behind in his younger days. Dover elects to tell the tale from the perspective of the protagonist, populating it with his characteristically rich, wonderfully descriptive prose.
As the story progresses, we are provided with an ever-expanding view into just how dark of a past this family has, with the mother and father locked into an abusive, often violent relationship.
This could have been just another story about the demons domestic abuse births in those who suffer it, but Dover has loftier aspirations with this one. He came here to play with the reader and have some fun with the concept. I wouldn’t dream of giving anything away, but I will say what seems predictable early on really isn’t. The author skillfully lays some narrative traps which, when sprung, swerve the story into a hard right turn that is as gracefully executed as it is powerful. This is a haunting story of tremendous power. It represents Dover at the top of his game.
“The Evil One“ is an engagingly intense action/horror piece about a fictional Mayor of New York, a man involved in a plot to try and prevent Muslim extremists from destroying the city.
Things go awry and he soon finds himself summoning an ancient, hungry evil in an effort to stop the terrorists from spreading more death and destruction, a decision that carries with it horrifying consequences.
“The Evil One” is a fun read and, as with “Simple Man”, Dover weaves in some clever twists. However, the author is beholden to the larger Car Nex universe with this one, whereas “Simple Man” is a pure representation of his own unique vision at work. I found myself more engaged with the first story. I think it echoes with more thematic resonance, though that isn’t to take anything away from “The Evil One.” It’s a terrific tale. I just liked his new, original story more.
Horror fans looking to kill an afternoon with a superb, compelling read can do no better than Weirdsmith # 4. E. R. Robin Dover is back and he has some scary stories to tell you. You should listen.
“Simple man”: ***** out of *****
“The Evil One” **** out of *****
WEIRDSMITH is a series that spotlights talented authors of horror and the weird. This issue focuses on ER Robin Dover and reprints his out of print Car Nex tale, “The Evil One”.
Aldo Capello, the mayor of New York City, is threatened by an underground terrorist group that he has been secretly financing in an effort to keep New York safe. With a wide-scale terrorist attack looming, Capello summons a creature of hell to destroy his enemies. The Car Nex has been unleashed, and it is ready to take Manhattan!
Also included is the brand new weird tale, “Simple Man”.
Ronnie Murdock did everything he could to follow the things Momma taught him when he was only twelve years old: to live his life as a simple man. Ronnie finally reached adulthood and left home. But at the conclusion of his dedication and devotion to live a simple life, his failure to do so led to emotional damage and unfulfillment. Although he accepted his destiny… he hadn’t completely given up hope.
Ronnie had been raised in a violent family environment. Alcohol abuse led to physical violence which led to misunderstandings, twisted secrets and a shocking misdirection of the truth.
Seventeen years has passed since that meeting with his mother. He is twenty-nine years old and has returned home. And Ronnie wants to make a difference.
D. S. Ullery is a cartoonist and an author of short Horror fiction. He’s published two single-author collections and his ongoing comic panel Goulash can be found on Webtoons Canvas. An Affiliate Member of the Horror Writers Association, D.S. resides in South Florida, where he shares an apartment with a reasonably unstable feline named Jason, a black cat born on Friday the 13th.
You can read Duane’s ongoing comedy/horror comic series Goulash HERE
You can buy Highway 181, Duane’s most recent horror collection HERE