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BOOK REVIEWS: June 2000
By Paula Guran

The Death Artist
Dennis Etchison
DreamHaven/ $30/ 189p
ISBN: 1-862058-03-0
(Now also available in mass market paperback)

book cover The twelve stories in Dennis Etchison's THE DEATH ARTIST can be taken, quite simply, as a cumulative definition of modern horror. Original, subtle, and perfectly crafted, each story derives its atmosphere of fear from the fabric of turn-of-the-current-century Southern California where nothing is so dark as just another sunny day. These tales will leave you constantly glancing over your shoulder at the shadows no matter how bright life appears to be. By building a sense of paranoia, an air of suspense, a breathless anticipation of what may come within everyday environments, Etchison slides straight into our personal veins of cold-blooded fear. You can meet his characters in a park, at the convenience market, at work, attending a party, at the car wash, in your very own living room. Etchison's first new collection in eleven years should serve as a reminder to those previously acquainted with his work that this is an author who ranks among the finest short story writers of our day. For others he will be a revelatory "new" discovery. Enhanced by some of J.K. Potter's most disturbing illustrations (the back cover is terrifying, the front shocking), THE DEATH ARTIST is one of the best collections of this or any year.

STRANGE ATTRACTION
Edited by Edward Kramer
Introduction by Harlan Ellison
Bereshith/Shadowlands /$34.95 /426p
ISBN 1-9230595-00X

book cover Artist Lisa Snellings' kinetic art has a way of drawing the viewer in. More often than not, it's a disturbing place to be. Two dozen writers connect on a particularly intimate level to her Ferris wheel sculpture, part of a carnival project, in this art-inspired anthology. The resulting twenty-one stories and three poems are compelling dark visions of carnies, clowns, side shows, and the vast amusement park of life. Charles de Lint explores alternate lives and the perception of reality in "Many Worlds are Born Tonight": John Shirley looks at the "what if" of a woman's life in the touching "Occurrence At Owl Street Ridge." Caitlin R. Kiernan considers a last chance in "By Turns"; Peter Crowther takes a final ride in the evocative "Days of the Wheel." "Harlequin Valentine," by Neil Gaiman, follows a Harlequin as he pursues his Columbine. In Robert Sawyer's "Fallen Angel" a high-wire artist sells her soul to save her from a fear of falling. Two children learn to survive after a "profoundly abnormal" night visit to a dream carnival in Gene Wolfe's "Pocketsful of Diamonds." Another child gains the ability to give a "scare they'll never get over" in Nina Kiriki Hoffman's "The Whole of the Wideness of Night." These and other stories in this remarkable anthology are introduced by Harlan Ellison's tale of his own adventures with the carny at the age of thirteen. All-in-all it's a great show and well worth the price of admission.

AT THE FOOT OF THE STORY TREE
Bill Sheehan
Subterranean/ $40/ 350p ISBN: 1-892284-77-4

book cover First time author Bill Sheehan's "Inquiry into the Fiction of Peter Straub" takes a serious but highly readable literary look at "one of the most significant -- and underrated -- bodies of fiction published in America in recent years." Thorough (even Putney Tyson Ridge, Straub's fictional critic and alter-ego, is covered in an appendix), insightful, and illuminating, AT THE FOOT OF THE STORY TREE is an absolute "must read" for anyone interested in modern fiction. It's an "absolutely necessary read" for writers who seek an understanding of a brilliantly inventive modern writer's life, imagination, and work or those who wish to know more of the power of "thriller fiction."


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