CEMETERY DANCE MAGAZINE #65
GRAHAM MASTERTON SPECIAL ISSUE December 2011 (ISSN: 1047-7675)
Cemetary Dance Publications
OK, full disclosure: I’m only new to reading Cemetery Dance Magazine, having started reading from issue #61, but from that very first issue I was hooked, eagerly awaiting its appearance in my mailbox every few months from the US.
As a reader and writer of horror I have found the magazine and its contents to be essential, with its fiction, non-fiction, reviews and opinion pieces always providing me with insight and inspiration.
Issue 65 is a massive issue, profiling the work of UK horror legend Graham Masterton and including two new stories by him. In total the issue contains 10 new short stories and four interviews and five other features and of course all the usual fare of reviews, news and publishing trends. The issue apparently experienced some delays in production and did take longer than expected to arrive, but it was still – and always will be – worth the wait.
The issue kicks off with the Masterton interview – a fascinating Q&A, which provides an insight into a truly captivating author. He talks candidly about his time as the author of several sex guides, but its Masterton’s comments on how he only recently came to admire his novel The Sleepless that I found the most interesting, because I (and many more of his fans) believe it’s one of the best books he’s ever written.
Masterton’s two new tales provide proof of his skill. Anka is a chilling tale of the real-life horror of child neglect, melding with the Baba Yaga myth. In his typical style, Masterton gives the characters plenty of heart and soul, only to terrify them with equal measures of ghastly imagery and little hope for a happy ending.
Saint Bronach’s Shrift however is reminiscent of a parable, with two brothers settling their differences in an apparent dream state. Masterton takes a little-known story about a saint and his medicinal brew and twists it to meet his own ends.
Matt Williams examines Masterton’s stories in great detail, analysing how the author balances myth and fact in his tales. He also puts forward that the author’s strongest skill lies in his ability to create wholly believable characters. I think CD’s review of Masterton’s vampire novel Descendant, actually proves it’s the author’s ability to reinvent old ideas that is his greatest prowess, but maybe that’s just me.
CD moves away from Masterton briefly to offer us an interview with Michael Koryta – a rising star in mystery fiction. The interview is far too short, but the excerpt from one of his novels, The Cypress House, and his tie-in short story more than makes up for it. The tale, Winter Takes All, gives the reader the opportunity to learn more about the tragic past of The Cypress House’s main character, a seemingly reluctant psychic. I’m now very curious about Koryta’s work.
There’s an interesting interview with Maurice Broaddus – the “Sinister Minister”, but it contains many references to what he’s going to be up to in 2010? All the same, Broaddus’ life outside of his writing, makes for interesting reading.
His story for the issue, Rainfall, is a neo-noir tale that paints a gritty picture of a PI in search of his sister’s killer. When the PI meets a man who offers him the chance to “go back”, there are, of course, dire consequences awaiting him on the other side.
My favourite tale in the issue however is Glen Hirshberg’s After-Words, a mesmerising tale of a world where books are forbidden and how a small band of anarchists seek to restore them to their former glory through evil means. Authors and readers alike will relate to the drug-like effect books can have and Hirshberg explores that well in his story.
J.A. Konrath also has a story, Dear Diary. What starts out as little more than the diary entries of a naive, lovelorn teenage girl, takes a satisfyingly dark turn in the final moments.
The most interesting opinion piece in the issue is Peter Straub’s What About Genre, What About Horror? Straub exposes some hard truths about genre fiction and clarifies a few misnomers about people’s opinion of horror fiction. Straub highlights the work of Michael Connelly in his piece as an author who remains “honest” to his work, but in his enthusiasm (which is most welcome) he inadvertently flits between referring to him as “Connelly” and “Connolly”. We’ll forgive him that though.
The brief Ray Bradbury interview focuses, unfortunately, on his aversion to e-books and technology as a whole. I would have preferred to know what writing he was up to, if any, or what appearances he has been doing, anything other than going over the same old e-book debate.
Another great column to read was Mark Seiber’s reminiscence on the value of libraries to authors as well as readers and how they hold a wealth of great classic fiction – never a truer word spoken Mark. Robert Morrish’s Publishing Spotlight column, among other things, provides an in-depth interview with Bad Moon Books’ owner Roy Robbins. Robbins’ years of experience as a bookseller and calculated publishing choices have helped him gain much success and respect and should serve as a template to emerging small presses. Amongst Morrish’s book picks, he gives out some quite a bit of praise to Aussie author Terry Dowling, particularly highlighting his collection Amberjack.
Another Aussie to be praised is Steve Gerlach. Reviewer T.T Zuma says Gerlach’s novella Within His Reach, could “easily have been the basis for a Twilight Zone script”.
Lisa Tuttle’s story Manskin, Womanskin offers a unique take on human coupling and actually points out the importance of love in a relationship, by putting sex in a supernatural context.
The second to last interview features anthology queen Ellen Datlow; the most fascinating aspect being that despite not having “any interest” in writing fiction, she is still the finest gatherer of horror fiction in the industry – and she despises paranormal romance!
David Bell’s tale, The Book of the Dead is a marvellous blend of morbid curiosity and confronting grief; when a young woman who loses her husband on the same day of John Lennon’s assassination. The prose has a quiet resonance that stays with you well after you’ve read the final words.
Whitley Strieber’s interview reveals a very frank and honest author; frustratingly his answers are all too brief.
In the final story, The Town Suicide, S. Craig Renfroe gives the reader a depressing repertoire of inexplicable suicides in a small town and there’s not a sliver of hope to be seen anywhere, not even after the main protagonist manages to stop his girlfriend from taking her life.
All in all a very enjoyable issue; Cemetery Dance continues to deliver the goods with fresh, memorable horror fiction and with issue #66 (supposedly shipping as of this writing) promising new fiction from the likes of the aforementioned Dowling, Steve Rasnic Tem and Jeremy C. Shipp, my mailman had better watch his back!
Review by Greg Chapman