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Ed Gorman
Different Kinds of Dead And Other Tales
Reviewed by: Mario Guslandi 2005

Five Star Books
ISBN 1-59414-213-0
310 pages, $ 25.95
Publication date: July 11, 2005
Date reviewed: August 26, 2005

Index: Mystery  Horror  Science Fiction  Fantasy  General Fiction

Does anyone know exactly how to define Ed Gorman's fiction? Kirkus calls him "one of the most original writers in crime fiction". Agreed. But what about his horror tales, his mainstream stories, his atypical SF work? A fantasist, then, or a writer of dark fiction in its broadest sense. Enough.

Let's just say he's an author endowed with an uncanny storytelling ability, especially as regards short fiction. Very few short story writers can encompass all the subtypes of the dark genre with the same ease and tell a yarn with the same casualness while demanding the reader's attention from beginning to end. The only names I can think of are the late Robert Bloch and Stephen King at his best. Here's a collection of fifteen tales by Gorman spanning twenty-five years in composition and a variety of sources in their publication.

'Muse' is a kind of "femme fatale" story within the frame of a complex plot involving pop stars, newspapermen and a lot of greed, all told in a tongue-in-cheek manner. 'Riff' is a bitter tale about a man dying of cancer and his cheating wife. Simply perfect. While ' A girl like you' remains too moralistic to fully entertain and convince, 'Lover boy' very effectively describes the joys (and the dangers) of cybersex.

'The Brasher girl' will scare everyone, where the third party in a deadly triangle is an alien living in a well, forcing the unlucky couple to commit crimes. The title story ' Different kinds of dead' reminds me of the Twilight Zone themes, but with a peculiar undercurrent of sadness. The first few paragraphs are sufficient to masterly portray the lonely, empty life of the story's main character. By contrast, in the excellent 'The Broker' the hero is a man of many resources, the most profitable of which is a beautiful whore with some weird properties… Also in 'Yesterday's dream' we find an unusual woman — this time a blind girl able to exert healing effects. Partly a crime story, partly a supernatural piece, the tale drags along a bit too much and turns out a not quite accomplished hybrid.

In 'Junior', a cute mix of dark humour and cruelty, we make acquaintance with the unscrupulous family of a much-feared man, trying to take advantage of his bad reputation. A mother fights hard to protect his odd child in the deeply disturbing 'Emma Baxter's boy', while in 'Deathman', a superlative tale of loneliness and perversion; we discover the hangman's darkest secret. Another disquieting piece is 'Masque', the unmerciful portrait of a serial killer with the brain of a child.

'The long sunset' describes the tragedy in the life of a woman and two men, friends since their childhood. This rather uneven story, addressing our desperate need for happiness, is tainted by unlikely references to space ships and aliens bringing supernatural gifts. Finally, the weird scenario of 'Survival' is that of mutant children employed as Paineaters during surgical procedures. Although I found this piece entertaining enough, while reading it I was unable to achieve a sufficient suspension of disbelief.

With a very few exceptions, this story collection is apt to reconcile any disillusioned reader with the pleasure of enjoying a good book while comfortably sitting in his favourite armchair. And never mind genre labels of any sort.

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