By Terry Grimwood

Reviewed by Mario Guslandi

Dark fiction in the UK is thriving thanks to the continuous appearance of new talents who not only keep the genre alive but make it richer and darker.

Terry Grimwood (if this is his real name then he was doomed to become a horror writer) is one of the authors who better represent the new generation of British authors devoted to disturb and unsettle their readers.

Some writers choose to scare or to disgust with gore and violence, monsters and repellent creatures; others, like Grimwood, prefer to unnerve and generate a sense of unease by means of gentler tools.

One of Grimwood's more effective literary tools is ambiguity, as in Coffin Dream, in which a man heavily in debt and threatened by his creditors keeps dreaming (dreaming?) he is to be locked in a coffin, The Friends of Mike Santini, a tale about supernatural forces disguised as an ordinary story of the mafia in showbiz or The Lowestoft Monster, a nostalgic piece where childhood memories are tainted by a dark suspicion involving an ominous uncle.

Mikki is a poignant story featuring a man torn between the memory of a former lover and the reality of his married life, while John depicts a man coming back from the dead, quite changed, to visit his wife and fulfil her wishes.

Melissa and the Singer is the extraordinary, vivid portrait of a fat, shy and lonely woman experiencing a night of popularity among her colleagues only to fall back into obscurity the morning after.

The future in Grimwood's stories is often bleak and menacing, as in Deadside, a dramatic piece describing a world ruled by the dead , and in the intense Coffin Road, where a transmissible disease decimates the human race sparing only elderly people.

Other accomplished pieces are the title story, The Exaggerated Man, about the terrifying experience of a man stuck between life and death, and The Fairest, a dark follow-up to Snow White.

The collection includes two outstanding stories in which the author, in a restrained but masterful writing style probes with surgical precision the inner secrets of human relationships. Chemo, where the difficulties of a failing marriage come to the surface as cancer strikes the wife and guilt and doubt take hold of the husband, and Red Hands, revolving around a man who, married to his boss' daughter, tries hard to save his marriage and his career while surrendering to his hidden homosexuality, but steps into a world of paranoia and murder.

In short, an excellent debut collection by a gifted writer, which will provide many hours of rewarding reading.

The Exaggerated Man & Other Stories by Terry Grimwood. Tpb, 237pp, $12.61 (also available as a download at $4.54). Published by The Exaggerated Press through lulu

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