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Ray Garton

Cemetery Dance Publications

US Signed Hardcover Edition

ISBN 1-881475-54-9

127 pages; $30.00

Reviewed by Rick Kleffel © 1999



Horror, Mystery

04-29-02, 12-13-02

The line between writing that is classified as 'suspense' and 'horror' is about as blurred as they come. Ray Garton gleefully dances around that line in '411', the third release in a Cemetery Dance series of novellas. He takes what might be a Lifetime movie subject -- a mutation of 'Sorry Wrong Number' -- and pumps up the viscous, cruel terror into the realm of Laymonesque splatterpunk. '411' is also a rather nice limited edition package with garish and disturbing interior artwork by Earl Geier that might send a chill down the spine of the reader all by its lonesome. If you're going to pay about a quarter per page, and you don't mind a few scenes of toe-curling terror, then '411' is well worth your time and money.

'411' begins with Kaitlin, a crippled information operator in Redding, California overhearing what might be a murder while answering a routine call to 411 to get the number of a pizza joint. She lives in a slightly isolated house. And that's it, short but not in any way sweet. Garton sets up the life of his character quickly and cleanly. He doesn't get in his own way as he tells his taut little tale of terror. Each of the supporting characters is clearly defined and easy to assimilate.

The plot in '411' moves at a breakneck speed; but what else would you expect from a 127 page book? The novella form is ideal for this type of tale. It gives the writer enough room to flesh out his characters, and the ability to put them in constant, terrorizing danger. Like any good mystery writer, Garton throws in some red herrings. And Geir's drawings are unsettling, especially an illustration of a clown that looks like one of those drawn by infamous serial killer John Wayne Gacy. Garton matches that creepiness tit for tat in a scene of assault that is likely to offend -- or sear the soul -- of the unwary and unprepared reader.

The only real mystery here is why Garton isn't topping the bestseller lists. His portraits of realistic people shoved into situations of horrific terror and violence are compelling reading. '411' is a limited edition, but for the writer's sake, the reader will hope it doesn't stay that way. Garton is too good to languish in obscurity.