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BOOK REVIEWS: March 1999
By Paula Guran

WILD HORSES
Brian Hodge
Morrow/$24/320 p
ISBN: 0-688-16527-3
(Available Oct 2002 in paperback)

book cover Wild Horses isn't horror, but this darkly comic thriller, won't disappoint fans already appreciative of Brian Hodge's four previous horror novels and fine body of short fiction. Combining aspects of a crime novel, a modern western, romance, and comedy, Hodge comes up with a splendid cross-genre blockbuster sure to win a wider audience. The book starts with a bang and never flags. Allison, who believes life is directed by some cosmic playwright with a strange sense of humor, discovers her blackjack-dealing boyfriend Boyd has been two-timing her with an older woman, casino pit boss Madeline. Allison smashes Boyd's windshield with a potted cactus, dumps his hard drive onto floppies that she packs up and ships with her other worldly goods to a cousin in Mississippi, then hitchhikes out of Las Vegas. But Boyd's dalliance with Madeline has more to do with dollars than desire -- 700,000 of them skimmed off a casino. Boyd wants his unjust rewards, as do Maddy and her brawny, brainless, cold-blooded boyfriend, Gunther. The complication is that the loot is stashed in the Cayman Islands and the codes needed to un-stash it were on the laptop on which Allison wreaked her vengeance. Everyone is soon chasing after an oblivious Allison. Richly nuanced, slightly wacko characterization drives a plot that veers from the serious to the hilarious without dropping a beat of the author's lyrical prose. Both brutal and tender, raucously entertaining and quietly thought-provoking, at its core Wild Horses is really about human relationships and trust. Playing this against the criminal capers, visceral violence, and murderous mayhem, Hodge devises a metaphor for the diverse absurdity of modern life that becomes one sweet ride for readers.

THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF BEST NEW HORROR 9
Edited by Stephen Jones
Caroll & Graf/$10.95/494 p
ISBN: 0-7867-0585-X

book cover

With 400 pages of superlative new horror stories and novellas first published in 1997, a sixty page introduction that covers that year in horror, listings of useful addresses (organizations, magazines, book dealers, market information), and a necrology -- The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror has to be the best annual value any horror lover can imagine at a paltry $10.95. With this ninth volume of the award-winning series, editor Stephen Jones again presents some of the finest dark fiction in the field from both sides of the Atlantic. As always, there are new delights for even the most knowledgeable horror reader: Andy Duncan is an up-and-comer in speculative fiction; American readers may not be familiar with British writers like Simon Clark, Conrad Williams, and Stephen Laws; other authors -- like Pat Cadigan, John Burke, David Langford, and Gweneth Jones -- are, perhaps, better known in fields other than horror. In fact, Jones never relies on "name value" to compile these anthologies as even the better-known contributors -- Ramsey Campbell, Dennis Etchison, Christopher Fowler, David J. Schow, Michael Marshall Smith, Caitlin Kiernan, Kim Newman, Brian Hodge, Douglas E. Winter, Thomas Ligotti, Yvonne Navarro -- are far from being considered "bankable" in the publishing world. No, Jones' prejudices seem to, thankfully, lie only with superbly written modern horror stories for intelligent readers. Year after year he proves just how good horror can get these days. The only negative? The book, covering 1997, came out in fall 1998 in the U.K.; readers in the States had to wait until February 1999.


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