Edited by Lenore Hart
$14.95 271 pages
Genres. Most of us have a preference (perhaps a fetish) for certain genres or sub- genres of fiction. Some may be hooked on “Historical Romance” or “Martian Sci-fi” or “Blue-haired Lady Sleuth Mysteries”. I’ll admit to a certain attraction for the occasional “Quasi-historic Western”. This anthology might be very appealing to readers who prefer “Paranormal” or “Time Travel” or “Fantasy Horror” or “Modern Faerie” stories. I may have missed a sub-genre or two but you get the idea. Keep in mind, I’m just a bit sub-genre snobbish, and probably not the target audience.
The unifying theme of the anthology is the “Night Bazaar,” a traveling tent sale of strange and magical objects, potions and services. It’s definitely an adult only venue and is accessible only by invitation. It seems to show up in different cities around the world but this anthology leans towards New York City. And there is a sub-thread running through the thing with many of the characters being Romani/Gypsy folk. Each story starts with a little evocative descriptive blurb that doesn’t always illuminate the tale.
The quality of these eleven stories and the little headings that serve as introduction are uneven. Two struck me as very fine tales indeed. “Full Moon Shift” by Roy Graham and “The Least Detailed Plans of A Great and Complicated Apparatus” by Edison McDaniels soar above the rest. The first is a macabre, hard to describe, tale about a magician working as a waiter in a very strange restaurant. It is sometimes gruesome, sometimes quite funny and always skewed. The second is a long short story of several sections that covers an immense time span. This one, too, is often quite gruesome, sometimes funny and involves mad doctors, a creature from Neanderthal times and a big finish in San Francisco in 1906.
Two other entries are for hardcore fans of the genre. “Obey” by Isaav Skinner is a lively psychological horror story about a young grad student’s frightening and bloody encounters with Gypsies at the Night Bazaar. “Ember and Ash” delves into what remains of a dysfunctional family of circus performers. It too has a strong dose of horror film tropes.
Short story anthologies should, I think, start with a strong, well-written piece. Unfortunately, the opener in this book, “Weekly Pass” by Jim Scheers, is one of the weakest, most cliché filled things in the collection. It is very much like a couple of scripts from the “Twilight Zone” TV show of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s recut into one tale.
About the adult faerie stories. The adult faerie stories in the collection are well written, and probably rise above the norm, but I’m really not receptive to this sub-genre. Magic dust and spells and other mystical silliness become boring very quickly. Although, one of those stories, “The Kindly Ones” by Naia Poyer, whose main character, a faerie going through a gender alteration with some difficulty, is full of twists and turns and enough odd humor to keep even this non-receptive reader involved.
Most of the stories in this collection have the classic “good versus evil” theme at least implied. Or perhaps they have “pretty bad versus really horrible” themes. Either way, a little moral of the story usually comes through. This collection might be a real winner for a more accepting audience. Perhaps a little bit of rearranging of the stories and one less faerie tale would have made a stronger anthology for this reader. But, the overall concept of the collection, with its “Night Bazaar” theme, is a good one.
Jim Bourey is a certified senior citizen, a retired plumbing and heating wholesale manager and lifelong student of poetry. His work has appeared in Fourth Coast Arts Magazine and “Said & Unsaid” an anthology from Winding Road Press in Marietta, GA. His chapbook Silence, Interrupted was published by the Broadkill River Press. He lives in Dover, DE with his wife Linda but he spends an inordinate amount of time at a cabin on the Deer River in northern New York State.