Twelve stories. Twelve authors – Twelve tiptoeing excursions through the haunted houses of their minds’ creations. Twelve haunted house tales; of course I would want to read this. I bought it the moment I saw the ad. And then I read it. Funny how that works out!
This is the fourth time that I am reviewing an anthology. Authors and editors often take different approaches when compiling a collection of stories. It is interesting to take note of the unique perspectives and varying methods that go into this undertaking. The first anthology I reviewed is called The Mammoth Book of Haunted Houses by editor Peter Haining. It is a tome of cherished haunted house tales from gothic to modern. Each tale begins with a page that is meant to resemble log entries in a real-estate transaction book and the stories themselves are divided into themed sections, such as “restless spirits”, “ghost children” and even “sex and the supernatural”. Gathering and compiling such classic tales, while organizing them so creatively, had to be a Herculean task. Therefore, I shall call this method the Mammoth method (I might have borrowed a word from the title!) The second anthology I examined is the David Morgan Ghost Series. In this collection there are five novellas that are also sold separately. Author Frank Roberts has kindly compiled them into one book for convenience sake. It is a saga told in sequences, so I shall call this the series method. The third anthology, The Haunting of Lake Manor Hotel (edited and compiled by Nathan Hystad) is an exercise in story collaboration. Hysted creates a scenario – a haunted hotel that rests on the shores of a mysterious lake, and authors write stories that playout within the framework of his backstory. I shall call this the collaboration method.
To what method should I attribute Haunted: Houses: A Collection of 12 Ghost Stories? Before I answer this question, let me describe the book. It is a sampler – it introduces various authors to readers with samples of their work. One story, “The Promise” by Shannon Eckrich, is a short prequel to a larger series. The books in this series are sold separately, of course. Another story, L. Sydney Fisher’s The Haunted Prophecy of Natalie Bradford, is actually one chapter from her novel of the same name. Sarah by Rebecca-Patrick Howard is but one of several stories that are companions to her series Taryn’s Camera. In short, these tales, and perhaps some of the others, are contingent upon a larger, more episodic, story.
As with all anthologies, I prefer some stories to others. Together, they average out to a rating that might be articulated as “enjoyable; a fun way to pass the time.” Only a few are what I would call “filling”, which I define as “the ability to remain; something that sticks with me.” Therefore, because these are story bits that are pleasing and pedestrian, I shall call this anthologizing process the “appetizer sampler method.”
Imagine a seafood sampler at Red Lobster – a decent sized platter of various entrees adding up to a hearty meal. This is NOT what this book represents. Rather, it is more like a taster plate of small portions of shrimp and calamari, this and that; everything’s tasty but not too filling.
I hope that readers of this review are not assuming that I am panning this book on account of my contrasting-menu-item analogy. First of all, I do recommend it, but I am calling it what I perceive it to be. It would be wrong to call a shrimp cocktail a lobster plate. A shrimp cocktail is a shrimp cocktail. Second, I would like to point out the stories that did make a lasting impression on me. A.P. Killian does an excellent job creating a house and environment filled with mystery and intrigue in Through the Doorway. I was filled with suspense and sympathy as a family drags their father’s haunting past into the present in Rebecca J Powell’s The Ghosts of Past Are Present. The prequel and sample chapter stories (The Promise by Shannon Eckrich and The Haunted Prophecy of Natalie Bradford by L. Sydney Fisher, respectively), the teasers that they are, had me itching for more.
Twelve chilling tales, twelve samples from up and coming authors. If you’re in the mood for a literary appetizer, seek out this book.