Reviewed by Gary McMahon
(Available from http://www.horrorseek.com/horror/darkcorners)
Another new Small Press title featuring selected horror fiction appears on the market, and this can only be good for the genre--which seems to be flourishing within the pages of these raw and gritty labours of love, even though some preach from street corners to anyone who will listen that “Horror is dead!”
Horror will never die. You just have to know where to look for it.
Being reasonably familiar with editor Tim Johnson's own work, I knew to expect some well-told traditional pulp-style horror tales in this premier issue of Dark Corners. And, for the most part, that's exactly what I got.
The magazine itself is neat, tidy and compact, with an eye-catching--if not exactly subtle--cover image by Chris Friend. Excellent, professional quality interior illustrations come courtesy of various artists who will no doubt be familiar to regular Whisperers.
First up--after the editor's bright and breezy intro - we have The Ballard Of Earl And Joe Henry by Tim Curran. This is the story of two dirt-poor petty criminals who are hired to steal a supposed treasure chest from a travelling carnival. Obviously, things don't go as they'd planned.
The story adopts a “folksy” style of narrative, in a manner similar to some of Joe R Lansdale's work - but not nearly as sharp. Although the tale has a good central concept, I found the EC Comics style ending a little abrupt--even though I didn't see it coming. For me, this one could've been a little longer, stretching out the tension to the grim revelation at the end of the tale. Good last line, though.
Next we have The Fire, by James R. Cain, an altogether more subtle and ironic piece of storytelling. The narrative is crisp, the imagery evocative. I liked the way that this was written with great economy, and in a deceptively simple style. I should mention that this story also boasts the standout illustration of the issue, from the talented Marcia Borell.
You Wouldn't Know What It's Like by Nelson Stanley is a subtle suburban ghost story, and my favourite of the tales on offer here . It starts off with the slightly amusing account of a young man visiting his crotchety maiden aunt, and then, by degrees, turns into something far darker.
The story is well paced and constructed, and has some fun imagery. Stanley also shows a good ear for language and has a feel for awkward interfamilial scenes.
Eric S. Brown's Hungry just didn't work for me. It's written without any real style, and reads more like a list of events that happen to a cipher of a character. I realise that the magazine is showcasing traditional pulp horror, but for me this tale was too pulpish, too old-fashioned, too slight and one-dimensional; readers expect more in these days of complex character-driven fiction. There was very little substance to the piece, and the twist ending was a weak one. Indeed, it seemed to me that the story was written purely as an excuse for the final line.
Prey, by the extravagantly named Aurelio Rico Lopez III is far better fare. A neat little tale with a slight moral kick in its ending, this one manages to wring another interesting twist out of an old theme. In the space of a few hundred words the reader comes to care about the main character and his family, which makes the ending all the more effective.
Finally we have a short, humorous article from sub editor Jeremy Ewing. This rounds the issue off on a welcome light note, and acts as a kind of bookend to Johnson's introduction.
Overall, a fairly mixed bag, then, but with only the one story that did nothing for me. First issues are always tricky, though, as they have to both set out the stall regarding the philosophy of future issues, and pull in potential subscribers.
Tim Johnson is to be congratulated on the classy design of Dark Corners. The 'zine has a real sense of permanence: even at this early stage it feels like it's been around for a while. I look forward to seeing how the magazine develops, and feel quite positive that, with careful handling and a few more risks taken with the fiction selections, it could quietly grow into a strong voice in the field, despite the minor shortcomings of this debut issue.
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