Short story collections are funny beasts…for publishers and authors they can be a tricky sell. I’m not sure why? I love reading short stories as much as I love to read novellas and novels and when the short story format is done well, it sings.
John F D Taff is a writer who excels in this format. He has full command and control of the short story, knowing when to put the foot down and when to ease off. He also knows the importance of character and emotion, hence him being dubbed the king of pain. Regardless of the stories length, John’s characters burst into life on the page. They are rounded and realistic and it’s what sets John’s stories apart from so many others out there. This latest collection finds Taff at the top of his short story game.
Little Black Spots is a book chock full of surprises and scares. Who else could write a story like Purple Hand Soda? Here is a tale in which a boy finds a human hand floating inside his soft drink. Sure, it’s a little bizarre, to say the least, and requires the reader to suspend their disbelief, but does it ever veer off into the ridiculous? Actually no, instead the story builds towards a fantastic conclusion that left this reader well pleased. Sat alongside stories like this are more what I’d call straightforward tales of horror that feature urban settings. The Dark Level was another such highlight. Here, Taff captures the paranoid, claustrophobic horror of a dark multi-storey car park. These can be terrifying places at the best of times, especially when you’re alone in one late at night. Who is watching? What was that strange noise you just heard? Why are the lights suddenly flickering on and off? Taff takes urban horror up several levels with this one and in doing so leads the reader down a dark path indeed. Elsewhere, The Bunny Suit is another excellent tale I found myself drooling over. It’s a little bit dark and a little bit sexy. I was captivated and creeped out by this story about a couples decision to get dressed up for Halloween only for them to descend into madness. Is the bunny suit a metaphor for a disintegrating relationship and how the couple are drifting further apart? Or do they just want to have a killer night? I’ll leave it up to you to decide.
The great thing about short story collections is that different stories resonate with different people for different reasons. I’m a big believer in variety being the spice of life and there is huge variety lurking inside of Little Black Spots, it’s one of the things that makes it stand out for me. Writers like John F D Taff don’t come around too often. For me, the man can do no wrong and this collection solidifies his standing as a must-read author of dark fiction. So, you want to read a high-quality short story collection from one of the best publishers in the business? Here you go, make sure you leave a lamp on.
5/5 spontaneous combustions from the Grim Reader.
Pick up a copy from here.
When you have finished reading this perhaps listen to…
30 Years of Nuclear Blast: As far as compilations go, this one is pretty dang good. Much has happened in the last 30 years at Nuclear Blast Records but their vision has remained true. This compilation contains 4 CDs and a DVD featuring bands such as Kataklysm, Dimmu Borgir, Nightwish, Slayer, Nile, Behemoth, Hatebreed, Opeth…quality stuff! Like I said earlier, variety is the spice of life!