A cracking review of Shadows & Tall Trees from Goodreads.
A nice, diverse selection of spooky/weird stories. The writing is solid all around, and the subjects move well beyond the basic fare of scratches at the window and thumps under the bed. My favorites were Robert Shearman’s deeply weird “It Flows From the Mouth,” “Summerside” by Alison Moore, and Michael Wehunt’s “Onanon” which was without question the strangest and most gleefully surreal piece in the collection. The scariest,, however, was a good-old-fashioned haunted-house story by V.H. Leslie called “The Quiet Room”; the fact that it made me jumpy was a pretty impressive feat, as I was reading it outside in the middle of the day.
One thing did strike me, though—and I would call this more of an observation than a criticism—which was that the likable characters seemed few and far between in the anthology. It’s possible that that is just the nature of these types of tales; dark things happen, and somehow it seems fitting that they happen to dark people; that is how we make sense of the world. In other cases, the characters are not so much offensive as they are painfully limited—isolated or abandoned types who finally step outside their private shelter only to find the world to be stranger, harsher and more dangerous than they had imagined. Maybe the latter is a reflection of writers’ own bookish personalities, or maybe it’s just easier to send your characters to their doom if they’re a bit obstinate and aren’t texting with a collection of upbeat and levelheaded friends who advise them to please, just go to a regular amusement park and not the abandoned one on the outskirts of town where all those children disappeared.
I mention all that not to suggest that there’s anything wrong with the anthology—because I do think it is very good—but maybe just as a reminder to myself and other writers that jerks and introverts make it easy to manufacture drama but they’re not really the most fun people to hang around.