Book Review: The Repentant Edited by Brian M. Thomsen and Martin H. Greenberg

28 Jul

Why, you might ask, am I reviewing an anthology of stories published in 2003? Well, I wanted to start working through my book shelves and read some of the ones I had acquired and stored for later (apparently 19 years later) and I wanted to start writing short stories again. Good news, I rather enjoyed some of the tales about penitent supernatural baddies, and I whipped out a 6,000 word story in the past twenty-four hours.

The Repentant collects 13 original tales about creatures that haunt the night, but decide not to use that excuse to be their worst selves. The stories are divided into sections: Werewolves and Witches, The Dead, The Undead, and the Demonic. Many of these stories prove to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek, and more than a bit campy, but campy horror comedies are among my favorites in the spooky genre, so reader be warned. Almost all of the authors were new to me, except for Jeff Grubb, who did a lot of work with Marvel Comics in the past. I believe he may have even written elements of the long gone MARVEL SUPERHERO ROLE PLAYING GAME which I arduously studied when I was twelve. Grubb’s tale, “Lycanthrope Summer” was well written and atmospheric and is a good start to the anthology. Overall, I will definitely be looking up a few names from my favorites to see what else is out there by these authors. Some of the stories were a little hard to get through (especially the ones that were fantasy based and had plots around the strange rules around death and life in this particular fantasy mythos). Although, I am intrigued to read more by some famous types (Yarbro, Elrod), there were a few that were sort of…boring. It seemed that the editors included some of these stories just based on the name of the author. The best were a bit light-hearted and clever send ups of the traditional spooky situations. Let’s get to some highlights:

  1. “A Hollywood Tradition” by Brian M. Thomsen- This one stood out as a fun homage to Tinsel Town, where a non-fic book writer, desperate for a new pitch, takes a room in an old Hollywood Mansion and gets an earful from the old man running the place. The Caretaker gives the writer a story he can really sink his teeth into.
  2. “The Devil You Know” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman- This tale, set in 19th century America, is about the child of amateur wizards who watches while a demon devours his parents after a botched summoning. The Demon adopts the kid and teaches him for the price of bringing him a human to feed on every Solstice. The story is a real page turner with the kid desperately trying to figure out a way to defeat his adopted parent while gathering a group of gifted people around him.
  3. “The Recall of Cthulhu” by Tom Dupree- This one is pretty funny, well written, and acts as a kind of humorous sequel to “The Dunwich Horror” by H.P. Lovecraft. In this, the monstrous twin brother of Wilbur Whateley, F’tagn, tries to make friends despite the fact that he has the heart of a man, but the form of an obscene Old One. I had a good chuckle from this one.
  4. “Slaughter” by P.N. Elrod- This pulp noir vampire story, details a vampire assistant to a mob boss in Chicago having to contend with an upstart and newly transformed Vampire honing in on mob territory. Although a bit straightforward, it reads at a real clip, and I will probably look into Elrod’s other vampire works.
  5. “The Den Mother” by Edo van Belkom- This story is about a therapist who steps in to help a domestic abuse victim come into her own power. The story is a satisfying one, where the real monster is the brutal jerk who lives next door.

Overall, although the quality of the stories is a bit uneven, there were plenty of gems to pass the time, and they did help inspire me to write a weird little witch story of my own.

3 Stars out of 5.

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