MIDNIGHT STREET #9

Reviewed by Catherine Davis

Midnight Street is a professional looking A4 magazine with colour illustrations on front and back covers. There are ten stories, varied in style and content, but all dark.

The cover story, Mark Howard Jones' The Ice Horse has an enigmatic feel to it. A man imprisoned for unknown reasons in an ice sculpture of a horse searches desperately for an escape while haunted by visions of his family. The story is strongly atmospheric; I felt the cold throughout and the tension held me through the narrator's gradual deterioration.

There is desperation also in Chris Ward's Shoplifting. Cain, a repulsively well-drawn character, has stolen something from a department store and is now unable to leave until he can work out what. It is the strength of the character that carries the story as the plot feels a little vague, yet it comes smoothly to its conclusion with dark humour.

There's Something in Autumn Palms Lake by Ken Goldman is about a girl who accidentally gains a pet alligator. It follows Allison and her pet, Betty, as they grow up, and Betty's release into a lake. Themes of guilt and secrets are explored, and the horror is very subtle. However it walks a fine line between being a story and simply a series of events.

Peter Straub's Lapland, or Film Noir is unusual. Written as an article about a town, Lapland, with titled sections, it is difficult to find the story, especially as there are gaps in the text filled in with ellipses. After several readings I still do not fully understand the story. Perhaps it works better for fans of film noir.

In contrast, Allen Ashley's And I, The Footman is an easy read. Three friends return to the house where one of the men's girlfriends committed suicide ten years ago and find themselves visited by a ghostly woman in their beds. Although there are moments where my belief sagged, the men's casual acceptance of the ghost, for example, the narrator is likeable enough to carry the story as it touches on issues such as betrayal and nostalgia, and questions whether it is ghosts we should fear.

Bliss by Peter Loftus is set in an Ireland plagued by a fatal flu. Immune Aidan has been caring for his partner, Barry, but they have both had enough. The story follows Aidan as he acquires bliss, a drug that allows you to die in absolute happiness. Mostly the story and its ideas work well, but I felt let down by its passive ending.

In Sharon Bidwell's Degrees of Sickness a dying woman remembers snatches of her troubled life. The story feels unfocussed, unsure of the narrator's character. This may have been Bidwell's intention, but for me it didn't quite come together as a coherent whole.

The Flowers of Edo by John Paul Catton is a ghost story set in Tokyo that suggests the bombings of World War II still echo today. It begins with a group of children playing in 1945, then moves back and forth in time between this and a present day building site. The 1945 scenes are the most emotive and gripping, and in contrast to this the building site story does not quite have enough tension or urgency to really come alive.

In Roz Southey's Spin-Off Merchandise fashion and plastic surgery have been taken to their extreme, with everyone desperate to get the latest face. Brea and Andy have become outcasts simply by keeping their own faces. Now Andy has been kidnapped and Brea is looking for information of his whereabouts. The story is full of ideas, clones, the Others, participation programmes, and this makes it confusing and hard to follow at times, as well as giving the story an unfocussed feel.

If you are eating while reading Midnight Street it is probably best to stop when you get to Donna Taylor Burgess' Dreams of Elvis. Morbidly obese Beulah is stuck, unable to move, in her bathroom with her hungry cats while her Elvis CD plays on repeat. This is a naturalistic horror story that is very much character driven, and while Beulah isn't quite sympathetic, she remains believable as she becomes more desperate and her hallucinations grow stronger.

Also in Midnight Street #9 are poems by Geoff Stevens and Steve Urwin, interviews with Peter Straub, Sarah Pinborough and Donna Taylor-Burgess and articles and reviews.

Midnight Street edited by Trevor Denyer, 7 Mount View, Church Lane West, Aldershot, Hampshire, GU11 3LN, England. A4, 56pp, £3.50/$10US or £9.50 for 3 issues/ $28US All cheques etc payable to “T. DENYER” (online purchase details, including other countries, can be found at the website).

Website: - www.midnightstreet.co.uk


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