Short Sharp Shocks! #19
Erik Hofstatter: Isidora’s Pawn
Reviewed & Questioned By J.A. Sullivan
Orrin is about to start a new life, far from home, to escape banality and his childhood memories. His beautiful new boss, Dores, gives him all the right signals to begin a torrid affair, but he should have known things seemed too good to be true. In the shadows of the library where Orrin works as a janitor Isidora is watching, jealous of a love she wants for her own. As a bizarre love triangle develops, Orrin is trapped in a deadly game of cat and mouse with an otherworldly huntress.
Fasten your seatbelt for this intense and thrilling read! Straight away the story pulled me in as Orrin’s first steps in Spain take him through the streets where the El Colacho festival is in full swing. Leaving street images of men dressed like the Devil jumping over babies, Orrin’s new home is even stranger, beneath an 18th century-built library which uses bats to protect books from insect damage. The details of the surroundings throughout the story are so rich you can practically smell the ancient books and bat guano.
Within the story, author Hofstatter infuses an intriguing reimagining of the Jersey Devil legend. This is one of my favourite North American legends and I loved the way it was developed into Isidora’s Pawn. The myth is integrated so well, adding layers of mystique, that even those readers not familiar with the Jersey Devil will easily be able to follow along.
It’s difficult to discuss more of this story without spoiling it, so I’ll just say that if you want a fast paced story filled with strange family dynamics, love, lust, betrayal, and splashes of gore, you need to check this book out.
After the main story, two unrelated shorts follow. While I enjoyed both “Ichor” and “Cranial Goals” I wished they were longer so the author could expand the stories with the richness I found in Orrin’s tale.
Orrin is desperate to escape life’s crushing banalities. Enter Dores, a charismatic Spanish librarian he befriends on Instagram. With a gratuitous job offer on the cards, he travels to León and begins a night shift in a place where the broken and weary congregate in healing silence. The medieval library is painted with images of raw and deformed beauty, rivers of anguish, self-torment, lonely exile, and unexplained sorrows. As Orrin explores blackest shadows of the library, he discovers further paintings of dozen children riding a giant goat glowing with human vitality. He’s about to become Isidora’s pawn. You’ll see what she wants you to see…
J.A. Sullivan Post Review Questions
J.A. Sullivan: Are there any myths, legends, or cryptids from your native Czech Republic you plan on integrating into new stories?
Erik Hofstatter: I flirted with an idea of writing something about the Golem, years ago. It’s a popular figure in the Czech Republic and it always captured my imagination. But at the moment I have no concrete plans. Right now I’m plotting a Gothic horror/fantasy novelette about a grieving ship, a mysterious swimmer, fire-eating lizards, and a mute woman on an island with no sun or moon.
JS: Why do you think tales of these mythical beasts endure for so long, even in our modern culture?
EH: People are fascinated by folklore for different reasons, but personally I’ve been drawn to Gothic romanticism and urban legends since an early age. The darker side of love. Its pain. Its agony. I also enjoy writing about body horror. The “beauty and the beast” mythos. I interpret them in my own style. I think they endure because most of us like to dance with morbid curiosity.
JS: Congratulations on your story “Tender Whisper on a Crimson Tongue” being accepted in the charity anthology Burning Love and Bleeding Hearts, which is raising funds for Australian bushfire victims. What can you tell us about your story?
EH: Thank you. ‘Tender Whisper on a Crimson Tongue’ is a tragic love story centering on two people, both broken by life. They find brief romance in unusual circumstances. It’s tricky to explain a spoiler-free synopsis, as it’s only a short. I experimented with my writing style and despite its measly length—it took several months to finish. Part of me died.
Erik Hofstatter is a dark fiction writer, born in the wild lands of the Czech Republic. He roamed Europe before subsequently settling on English shores, studying creative writing at the London School of Journalism. He now dwells in Kent, where he can be encountered consuming copious amounts of mead and tyrannizing local peasantry. His work appeared in various magazines and podcasts around the world such as Morpheus Tales, Crystal Lake Publishing, The Literary Hatchet, Sanitarium Magazine, Wicked Library, Manor House Show, and The Black Room Manuscripts Volume IV. Other works include Katerina, Rare Breeds, The Crabian Heart, and Toroa.
You can find out more about Erik by visiting his official website www.erikhofstatter.net
You can follow Erik on Twitter @ErikHofstatter
J. A. Sullivan is a horror writer and paranormal enthusiast, based in Brantford, ON, Canada. Attracted to everything non-horror folks consider strange, she’s spent years as a paranormal investigator, has an insatiable appetite for serial killer information, and would live inside a library if she could.
Her latest short story can be found in Don’t Open the Door: A Horror Anthology (out July 26, 2019), and other spooky tales can be found on her blog. She’s currently writing more short stories, a novel, and reading as many dark works as she can find.
You can follow J. A. on Twitter @ScaryJASullivan
Check out her blog https://writingscaredblog.wordpress.com
Find her on Instagram www.instagram.com/j.a_sullivan