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DarkEcho Horror
deccoclock by Rick Berry
Book Review

Nightscape
David Morrell
Subterranean Press / $35 / 340p
ISBN: 159606000X

Cover David Morrell, "father" of the modern action novel and creator of Rambo, has been telling stories now for more than three decades. He has the craft of it down pat. With the exception of an occasional overindulgence in exclamation points, his stories are textbook examples of how to write short fiction. The only problem with many of the stories in this collection is that, although perfectly written, the supposedly shocking is about as surprising as a puddle after rain shower and just as predictable. The virtue of obedience is turns to the sin of obsession in "Remains to Be Seen." The object of the obsession is an incorruptible Eva Peron-like body. In a world where a piece of silk used to cover the casket of the real Evita just sold for $158,000, the obsession is, at least, realistic. In "Front Man," a veteran screenwriter deals with Hollywood's vicious ageism by making a devil's bargain with a young man to front his scripts. The only thing unexpected in this story is the portrayal of an agent with ethics. The unintentional "surprise" in "Elvis .45" is that a professor who sees Elvis symbolic of an America being destroyed by the media is considered crazy. Morell fares better in "Rio Grande Gothic" which posits an agreeably urban legendary theory about abandoned shoes in streets. He's at his best when writing with real poignancy as in "Resurrection." Here, a fatally ill father is saved by his dedicated son's discovery of a cure -- 46 years after being frozen to await that cure. Novella "If I Should Die Before I Wake" is the strongest in the collection, possibly because its inspiration, the horror of the influenza pandemic of 1918, is still horrific. Best read with tempered expectation.

--review originally appeared in Cinemafantastique Aug/Sept 2004

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Copyright © 2004 Paula Guran. All Rights Reserved.