Reviewed by David Price

The second issue of Gary Fry's dark fiction magazine opens in great style with Antony Mann's 'When?' Daniel Altman has a gift he doesn't want; just by looking at people he can tell, to the day, when they are going to die. One day he meets a fellow 'Dater' on The London Underground and learns that there are more people with the same ability. This intriguing premise is rounded off with a wonderfully shocking finale.

A little less satisfying is Gary McMahon's 'The Man in the Chimney', a suitably eerie piece that just fizzles out at the end.

'Death Will Come Softly, To The Beating of a Drum', by Simon Bestwick, is a little more like it; a tale of mounting dread in which a man's life starts to fall apart after he receives a disturbing photograph (apparently showing his own death) from an anonymous source. The 'is-he-crazy-or-isn't-he?' narrative keeps you on edge right up to the genuinely chilling conclusion.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Matt J. Drake's rather mediocre offering, 'Silent Pine'. I've read far too many of these 'they've-all-been-bastards-to-me-so-I'm-going-get-'em!' tales to get excited over this one; and as it's set in a mental institution, the final 'twist' will surprise no-one.

'Quarry Games' by Mark Patrick Lynch, is an intriguing tale about the formative years of a serial killer, and the chain of events that affect his life at an early age. This is a vividly written story, and the writer creates a convincing chain of events in which a young man's mind is gradually twisted to the darker side of human nature. A disturbing tale, it leaves the reader with something to think about.

Joel Lane contributes the surreal urban nightmare, 'Blind Circles'. Set in a violent suburb of the West Midlands, it follows the investigation of a relief police officer (seconded into the area when most of the local force are mysteriously taken ill) into the activities of a group of racist agitators who have seemingly appeared from nowhere. A powerful tale, it mixes stark realism with the supernatural to great effect; and, like the story before, it leaves the reader with that little something to think about at the end; a remarkable, thought-provoking story.

However, I'm afraid I could muster very little enthusiasm for Nicholas Royale's 'The Pied Piper of Hammersmith'. It's about a film-obsessed man running amok with a knife on The London Underground. The climax is written as a series of script directions; which is different, but about as interesting as reading the contents label on a can of soup! Much better is 'Flies', by Kevin L.Donihe, a highly unusual tale of the paranormal. A man whose career and private life are shattered by a scandal finds redemption from a most unusual source; very dark, and very unsettling.

'Like a Stone in a Riverbed', by Michael Kelly, is pure class, a beautifully written tale about lonely people. Sheryl, a woman with no friends and no love in her life, meets a girl called Emma. Things take a bizarre turn when Sheryl presents her new friend with a rather macabre gift. It is a story that could have lost its impact if it had lapsed into eroticism, or opted for a shock/horror ending; as it is, it ends on a wistful note, and is more effective for doing so. This is a real gem, and the finest story in the issue.

Andrew Humphrey's 'Blind Spot' is about a weak-willed gangster's gopher who is tempted by his bosses seductive wife. Andrew creates a tense and violent atmosphere, but the ending is a bit of an anti-climax.

Rounding things off is a bizarre contribution from Clint Venuezula called 'The Meeting', a surreal homage to the small press writer, D. Harlan Wilson. It doesn't set the page alight, but it doesn't try the patience, either.

'FH is a fiction-packed magazine, and with 'fusing atoms' (100/200 word vignettes) filling every inch of blank space, you get a lot of reading for your money. There are no interior illustrations, and Gary is deciding whether or not to add them at a later date. As it stands, this is a value for money magazine that really doesn't need any frills, a welcome addition to the independent press that is well worth checking out.

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