Editors: Mort Castle, Sam Weller (2012).
I'm not sold on Bradbury tribute stories, but Shadow Show has a few of my go-to authors, so I spent the day dipping in and out of it.
Notes and excerpts:
The Companions by David Morrell
....About a third of the audience was leaving through the front gate. But coming from the opposite direction, from the parking lot, Alexander and Brother Richard emerged from the darkness, making their way through the courtyard. What puzzled Frank wasn't that they had left and were coming back. Rather it was that a spotlight seemed to be following them, outlining them, drawing Frank's attention to their progress through the crowd. They almost glowed.
I've been reading Morrell's thrillers for a quarter century. They never disappoint. Most start with new characters, something bestselling writers don't often do. Perhaps that is why Morrell has a reputation as a writer's writer and not a crowd-pleaser.
His short stories of the uncanny are typically very strange, but perhaps not traditionally supernatural. They are finely crafted, disturbing, and linger to tease the mind long after finishing.
"The Companions" is an outstanding example, filled with coincidence and spiritual disruption. And it is supernatural, but in a Machenesque sense, not a contemporary horror sense.
The Page by Ramsey Campbell
The sight of a fully clothed man on a beach desperately chasing a piece of paper strikes the unsettling note of M.R. James suggestiveness at the beginning of "The Page." As with Thirteen Days by Sunset Beach, Campbell's protagonists (Ewan and Joyce) are retired and on a family vacation with kids and grandkids in Greece. Ewan seeks out the page.
....Ewan picked his way to it as the wind set it beckoning. More than once his sandals missed a foothold on the slippery rocks, so that he was afraid of twisting an ankle or worse. His bare legs were stinging with sand and salt spray by the time he grabbed the piece of paper. It was the last page of a book called Sending Them to God.
Other than the title it contained just four words: "but there is none." Why had the man been so desperate to retrieve it? How reassured would he have felt if he had? The words had no such effect on Ewan, who was inclined to give the page back to the wind. He might encounter the man, and he slipped it into his shirt pocket. He was peering at some odd marks in the crevice—they looked as if fingers had been groping ineffectually for the page, though they must have been made by the wind on the sand that was plastered to the cliff face—when the phone in his hip pocket emitted a clank. The message was from Joyce. where, it said....
Ewan and Joyce discover that the book's author, Jethro Dartmouth, retired to the very village where they are vacationing. Ewan takes the page to the author's house. The page seems to have other plans:
....As he made all the speed he could uphill the page fluttered in his hand. He might have imagined someone was trying to snatch it, and he slipped it into his breast pocket, where it struggled to unfold before lying still.
Jethro Dartmouth is dead, but Ewan interviews his adult daughter about the weird life of Sending Them to God. She declines to take back the page.
As Ewan leaves Dartmouth's house:
....She waved as the gates met behind him, and he was hurrying past the railings when he seemed to glimpse a man among the trees. In a moment the figure was gone, as if it had needed only to turn sideways to vanish. Ewan looked for it as the villas gave way to apartments, but there was no further sign of it. The page from the book lay quiet against his heart.
A perfect Campbell paragraph. But the page's work isn't done yet.
Who Knocks? By Dave Eggers
I've never read anything by Eggers. But "Who Knocks?" shows him to be a very confident and capable writer, giving the reader the chance to want more.
....She had just closed her eyes when she heard another knock. This time it was louder, a crisp clok clok clok. Like the sound of someone knocking hard on a wooden door. Except this knocking was coming from the bottom of the boat.
26 May 2019