Shallow Creek: Edited by Tomek Dzido
Reviewed by Brian Bogart
KR: Please note Kendall Reviews was lucky enough to have access to an early draft of this anthology for this review. Not all the stories had been collected together and the publisher made it very clear to us that this was a beta version. I will be reviewing the final physical version of the anthology shortly.
Welcome to Shallow Creek- a dark little corner of the universe, begging to be explored.
“My first task was to set up a competition to lure writers into the town. And how they came. I gave them each a resident to investigate and base their story on, and a location in the sprawling cityscape to research so that they could unearth Shallow Creek’s deepest, darkest secrets.
….The best ghost stories, for example, don’t actually have ghosts in them. Or at least, you shouldn’t see them in the story. You should feel their actions as they brush past you, or sense their presence by subtle means…”– Mallum Colt
The above bit is part of the smooth and completely in character introduction, explaining the initial setup of the anthology and peppering the reader’s appetite for the upcoming literary endeavors. I do have to say, I enjoy an anthology that spins a theme that holds the pages together.
Given the creative freedom allowed, let’s explore how some of the stories try to get under your skin….
We start off with an interesting story with a (somewhat) light-hearted title: DAVE DANVERS’ FINAL FORAY INTO ALL THINGS WOO WOO by J. Stuart Croskell. A pessimistic man’s last-ditch effort to write about and explore the unexplained, with a brief but chilling glance at Colt himself. It serves as a tasty little morsel to get the ball rolling. Dave is pretty sure that the town is nothing but a joke, playing up the oddities to help tourism to the near-forgotten town. A dangerous trek lies ahead, with the chilling reminder to “ride the smile” lest it consumes you. Woo Woo, indeed. (This plays out very similar to those old black and white horror movie scenes, where the weary traveller suspects that much is amiss, but tramples ahead anyway, complete with the companionship of Colt’s henchman and the local witch.)
BEHIND THESE EYES by Alice Noel goes for a more sorrowful approach, touching on the themes of a parent getting older and their mind slowly fleeting. These bits are brought to life decent enough, but it’s the vivid imagery towards the end that really give it some flavor. Lately, her father has more spring in his step, more aware. And he has a “surprise” for her, too. She should be delighted, but everything has a cost. Especially in Shallow Creek…
ARROWHEAD by Daniel Carpenter, is a short story about nostalgia, greed and how- in Shallow Creek- it’s best not to assume anything. Some of the ideas presented reminded me of my youth, when I collected sports cards and comics. You know, minus the inherit doom.
“When death arrived in Shallow Creek, it surfaced in the soil. The snow had peeled back in Spring like a coquettish debutante showing off her bruises, revealing ghastly yellow rectangles where the ground soured over plots of the buried dead…”
THE SOIL OF STONIER HEARTS by Erik Bergstrom brings to mind a bit of Stephen King, and not just because of the title. There is something in the way the dialogue flows and the characters themselves. I’d be curious to see if other readers felt the same. A simple, effective story, with some great writing.
You know what I love about anthologies?
The exposure to different styles and voices, most of them trying to invoke the same creepiness in a different way. The great thing is, there is almost always something for everyone. SHALLOW CREEK offers plenty of variety.
You know what I hate about anthologies? When I go to review them. I want to touch on EVERY story but then I remind myself this is a review, not a thesis or novella.
I definitely had a few favorites, though. Sarah Lotz, Ian Steadman, Adam Lock round out some of them, alongside Brian Wilson’s DISTRACTION (first place winner for the Shallow Creek competition).
All in all, a wide array of stories and authors. Each tale gives a glimpse into Mallum Colt’s shady little landscape and most tales end just as the horror begins to unfold. Adhering to the motto of creepy, atmospheric suspense with occasional glimpses at the grim that lies beneath- this is a unique and highly readable collection.
So, if you find yourself in the middle of town, anxiety scraping away the familiar before your very eyes:
Never mind those eerie smiles plastered on each denizen’s face, or the cantankerous barkeep working the till. Assure yourself that those screams you hear are only those lucky enough to ride the rollercoaster at the fairgrounds- you can set your clock to it, I hear. One eye over your shoulder is fair advise. You know. Just in case.
And if you decide to step foot into the local curio shop, be sure to be careful what you ask for. Men like Mallum Colt are nothing but courteous and well-spoken, with old school charm and manners. He will kindly shake your hand and wish you well, but make no mistake. Colt loves this town and she loves him back.
Just remember, lovers whisper their darkest secrets in the black comfort of shadows…
Welcome to SHALLOW CREEK.
This is the tale of a town on the fringes of fear, of ordinary people and everyday objects altered by terror and madness; a microcosm of the world where nothing is ever quite what it seems. This is a world where the unreal is real, where the familiar and friendly lure and deceive. On the outskirts of civilisation sits this solitary town. Home to the unhinged. Oblivion to outsiders, This…is Shallow Creek.
Spawned from the annual STORGY Short Story Competition. Shallow Creek consists of twenty-one brand new stories by some of the most talented horror writersat work today, inclusind stories by Sarah Lotz, Richard Thomas, Adrian J. Walker and Aliya Whitely. Told through a series of interconnected narratives, Shallow Creek is an epic anthology that uncovers the raw human emotion and heart-pounding thrills at the genre’s core. Enter if you dare…
You will be able to buy Shallow Creek from the Storgy Online Store
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.
You can follow Brian on Twitter @DreamsDarkly
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