I am a bit of a newcomer to the writings of Alan Baxter. I have come across his short stories in a couple of anthologies through Cohesion Press and I really enjoyed his novel ‘Bound’ featuring martial arts magician Alex Cane. ‘Crow Shine’ is a vast collection of speculative treats right out of the top draw.
I have often said that there are writers and there are storytellers. In my eyes a storyteller drags you into their world and takes you on a literary journey to another place where you can forget everything else that is happening in your life and instead spend some time in somebody else’s, where as a writer spins a good tale, but the words can seem empty and don’t quite give you the feels. Alan Baxter is a storyteller and I became lost in these wonderful stories. I enjoyed this collection for a number of reasons. The first one being Baxter’s writing, which is effortless to digest. Baxter creates three-dimensional characters who often have to make difficult choices in life, whether it be the man who breathes life into his toy creations at the expense of his own health or the journalist that uses a Ouija Board one night and has to deal with the consequences in the excellent novella length piece ‘The Darkest Shade of Grey’. They all have decisions to make, often resulting in life or death consequences. ‘Crow Shine’ features many stories, all varying in length and whilst most are quite short, Baxter manages to effortlessly pull you into the story with his powerful and thoughtful storytelling. Some of these stories deal with the fantastic, magic both light and dark play a large part in his storytelling. Whilst it is safe to say I loved all of them it is the final story ‘The Darkness In Clara’ that truly felt like a cocktail of everything that is great about Baxter’s writing and the book in general, I’d say it is probably my favourite. It has some horror moments, with a little Lovecraftian influence, and it’s once again a thoughtful and emotional story featuring dark magic all mixed together in a fantastic narrative and it’s a great way to end the collection on a high. There is a tremendous variety of stories on offer and this is where Baxter plays his trump card. You never know which direction the next story will take you, such is the diversity on offer.
Alan signs off the book with a short piece about his love of dark fiction and why he chooses to write it and It’s a great way to finish things off. I don’t often read books a second time, perhaps some of the classics by King, McCammon but I will definitely be visiting ‘Crow Shine’ again. The stories have an everlasting quality to them that I feel won’t dim over time and there are 19 of them to get through! This is the best single-author collection I have read for quite some time so more please Mr Baxter.
Pick up a copy of ‘Crow Shine’ from here.