David’s Haunted Library: Whispered Echos and The Devil’s Children

We all have something we’re scared of. In the back of our heads, we hear a little voice that reminds us about our darkest fears. It’s like a Whispered Echo that just repeats itself over and over again. Whispered Echoes by Paul F. Olson is an anthology that looks at things that scare us so much that we never forget it. This book contains 12 stories set in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula showing it as a place where strange things happen.

What’s interesting about this anthology is that the stories are presented in chronological order by the dates that were written. The first story was originally published in 1983 and the last one was written this year. So what you have in this book are stories from a horror writer who’s writing improves a little with each tale told. You also get a good look at what goes on in the mind of Paul Olson and how he has evolved as a horror writer.

Mr. Olson has a few different themes that he works with in this book. One of these themes is individuality. In a story called The Visitor, a man visits the town of Patterson Falls every year in Autumn and when he does, someone gets hurt. The people in town finally get fed up with this routine and decide to confront him but they don’t get the results they are looking for. This same theme comes into play in two other stories in the book with a man suffering the consequences of not being like everyone else.

My favorite story in this book is They Came From The Suburbs. You could call this a zombie story but its a little more complex than that. David Finley works in a mall and notices that the same people show us every day and seem to mindlessly wonder the mall and shop. He calls them the quiet ones but he soon finds out that if they can’t consume anything there will be hell to pay. I love the message about how some people go through life blindly doing things having no real life at all and how it affects others. This was a perfect little horror tale that had a Twilight Zone feel to it.

Another good story here was Bloodybones which includes ghosts, a serial killer and a mystery. What I liked most about this story is the descriptions of the setting. Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is as much a character here as the people in it and I loved reading the description of an area that I’m familiar with. Olson’s using of Michigan and Wisconsin in his stories reminds me a little of how Stephen King uses Maine in his stories.

Whispered Echoes could be looked at as a philosophy book disguised as a horror anthology. Paul Olson writes about staying true to yourself, loyalty, love and not letting the past define you. These themes are all presented in short horror stories that pack a punch. This is the kind of book that young horror writers should read because it shows that good horror can deliver a  message and your writing will get better over the decades if you stick with it.

Harry and Adam grew up together in a small New England town. They were never the most popular kids in school but they had a good time watching horror movies, drinking alcohol, exploring abandoned buildings and hunting imaginary demons. Flash forward to the present, life is not going well for either person and they decide to move back to their old hometown to relive their childhood. When they get there they discover that something strange is going on in their old stomping grounds.

People are seeing ghosts, Adam is having visions of his old teenage girlfriend who has been missing for 13 years and a local historian has sealed off a newly discovered tunnel that may have the answers to some old mysteries. We soon find out the demons that Harry and Adam hunted may have been real and they may be the only ones who can stop these strange happenings. As Halloween night rolls around, Harry and Adam put a plan into action to stop the evil that is plaguing their town.

The Devil’s Children by Benjamin Blake is the kind of book that I love reading. It’s a simple horror story about a couple of outcasts who notice something strange is going on and realize that they are the only ones who can stop it. I love the characters in this book, Adam and Harry reminded me of a couple of people I knew in high school and the way they both changed by the end of the book showed that they had a lot more depth than your average character in a horror novel. I also like how the story is told from the present with flashbacks showing how they use to be in the past. The one thing I didn’t like about the book is that it seemed to take a long time to get into the action of the story. While I liked the characters enough to keep reading, it could have used a few more scares in the first half of the book. The Devil’s Children is sort of a mixed bag but it has enough good parts to make it worth your time. Despite what I didn’t like about this book, I’m still looking forward to what else Benjamin Blake comes up with in the future.

 

 

 

David’s Haunted Library: Meddling Kids

 

Imagine what a story would be like if you had 4 kids and their dog who went around solving mysteries.  Each time they solved a mystery they discovered that the culprit was someone in a fake monster suit. Does this sound familiar? This book isn’t about that group of detectives, this story is about the Blyton Summer Detective Club. Back in 1977 they solved their last case throwing a man in jail for pretending to be a lake monster and life hasn’t been the same since.

Kerri went on to become a biologist but can’t seem to hold onto a job and she still lives with a dog who is the descendent of the club’s original dog. Andy is a tomboy wanted in two states who can’t get over the fact that they sent the wrong man to prison. Peter has died of a drug overdose and Nate has been in and out of mental asylums and still talks to Peter’s ghost. All of them are broken adults and the only way to put the past behind them is to return to the scene of their last case and confront the real life monsters at the bottom of the lake.

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero is what you get when you combine Scooby Doo with H.P. Lovecraft. Hearing the description of this book, I considered it a must read and despite some flaws, it doesn’t disappoint. What makes it stand out is how the story unfolds. In the beginning you hear about how the detective’s last adventure was an open and shut case. Then you see how all of them are damaged in their own way and you realize that there is more to it then meets the eye. You could say that the main idea of this book is about facing your fears. Each of the main characters tried to deny the truth about what happened and acted like they were fine but the truth ruined them and 13 years later they had to face their fears to be able to move on.

The thing I didn’t like about Meddling Kids was that it felt like it needed a good editor. Some parts felt dragged out. For instance, there was a scene in a mine shaft that was long and unnecessary, I couldn’t figure out why they had to go down there in the first place. Then there was a scene where Nate reads a passage from an ancient text to bring the lake creatures to life where I was wondering “why is he doing that and why aren’t the others stopping him.”  Also, Andy’s obsession with Kerri’s hair really got on my nerves after a while.

That being said, this book is worth your time if you like a good mix of horror and humor. The detail that goes into the characters lives shows that Edgar Cantero has a real passion for his creations. It’s like he sat down and said “I wonder what the Scooby gang would be like in real life” and came out with a very detailed description of all of them. What I liked most about this book is that the author gives a mythological explanation for what is going on and he also gets into a scientific explanation as well. There is one scene where Nate and Kerri are arguing about the reason for what’s happening with one talking science and one blaming everything on old gods and ancient texts that make this a must read.