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DarkEcho Horror
deccoclock by Rick Berry
Book Review

PEACEABLE KINGDOM
By Jack Ketchum
Subterranean Press/ 400 pages / $40
ISBN: 1-931081-68-9

PEACEABLE KINGDOM is the definitive Jack Ketchum short story collection. A decade of short fiction: all the stories from previous collection THE EXIT AT TOLEDO BOULEVARD; a bunch of additional stories; an original novella, "Closing Time"; and two new short stories, "Twins" and "Lines: Or Like Franco, Elvis is Still Dead." There are the very familiar (like the often-reprinted, award-winner "The Box"), the unforgettable (like "The Rifle," "Gone," "Megan's Law," "Forever"), the shocking ("To Suit the Crime"), the unexpected ("Luck"), the surreal ("Amid the Walking Wounded" and "The Holding Cell"), your darkest fears ("Snakes" and "The Exit At Toledo Blade Boulevard"), the darkly humorous ("The Great San Diego Sleazy Bimbo Massacre"), the thoughtful ("When the Penny Drops"), and even the somewhat endearing ("Firedance"). When dealing with the clichéd, as in "Mail Order," a snuff film-revenge story, or "The Best," a revenge-redemption tale, Ketchum has a knack of pushing just far enough to make it fresh. Sometimes, as with "The Haunt," he adds a new twist. Occasionally he simply treads where few can conceive of treading, as in "The Work" where he combines a writer's nightmare and with her gruesome salvation (of sorts) and adds a drop or two of justifiable cynicism.

Book Cover Ketchum is a straightforward writer. He might toy with the reader a bit or end with a twist, but he never cheats, never pulls the narrative rug out from under the reader's feet -- although it may get blood-soaked and gore-splattered. If he has a trademark, that's probably it. You might add a disdainful view of humanity as a whole and more sex, violence, booze, and cigarettes then anything else side of a hard-boiled P.I. story.

The best thing about this collection is that if you are familiar with the author's work, you'll discover a voice here that you may have heard many times before, but never fully perceived. (If Ketchum is a new find for you, congratulations.) And that's what makes a great collection -- when the whole exceeds the sum of its parts. (Sept. 2002) -- Paula Guran (Cemetery Dance #41)

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Copyright © 2003 Paula Guran. All Rights Reserved.