Monstrous Affections – David Nickle (2009)

I picked up David Nickle’s horror short collection Monstrous Affections mistakenly thinking he was another author whose work I read in another anthology. Basically I was in the mood for some good horror and wanted to try something other than my ‘go to’ Stephen King pile. While it was a case of mistaken author I’m glad to say the error was a fortuitous one as I enjoyed this collection. I thought that the first entry, The Sloan Men, was easily the best story in the lot and the one story indicative of the great cover art on this book in case you were as curious about that face as I was. (Credit artwork to Erik Mohr).

Here’s a rundown of the stories:

 

The Sloan Men

Meeting your boyfriend’s parents for the first time is always a touchy and nerve fraught affair. Moreso if your boyfriend and his father are actual monsters only you did not know it despite the clues.

 

Janie and the Wind

This Wendigo story is told from the point of view of a rather naive woman made a virtual prisoner on a secluded island by her mate. I did find that the story was creepy at first but loses a bit of its luster towards the end.

 

Night of the Tar Baby

An ex-con has picked up a few tips on mystical powers while in the slammer and raises the power of a Tar Baby to protect his family from evil. But as some members of the family soon find out, a Tar Baby does not discriminate between outside threats and those in the family itself. What is a Tar Baby you ask? Must read this to find out and you won’t be disappointed.

 

Other People’s Kids

Fezkul is a devilish imp that only children can see and who readily do his bidding. Even murder. But Sam is on the cusp of adulthood and this borderline state gives him the rare opportunity to save a popular roadside grill and park from Fezkul. A literal coming of age story that includes a bit of lighthearted comedy.

 

The Mayor Will Make a Brief Statement and Then Take Questions

A one-pager story on the hit-and-run death of a child. But buried (deep) in the mayor’s soliloquy is a subtle hint of unstated paranormal horrors.

 

The Pit-Heads

A tale of life friendship among a group of artists and how embracing vampirism may be beneficial to honing their craft while redefining ‘lifelong’. The pit-heads referred to by the title are the mine entrance sheds in which the take refuge.

 

Slide Trombone

Head scratching tale of a doped up Led Zeppelin cover band that can’t figure out how and why they have a trombone player. And then there’s the trout swimming in the bathtub. I did say it was a head scratcher.

 

The Inevitability of Earth

Another very odd tale of a young dreamers anguished life mission to find his long gone grandfather who just “flew away” one day while his family tries to keep him well … grounded.

 

Swamp Witch and the Tea-Drinking Man

This is clearly a fantasy story of a so called ‘swamp witch’ who has snatched and held a town in time. But her time has come when the ‘Tea-Drinking’ man has made the same bargain with the devil. Fantasy has never been my cup of Tea so it’s not surprising that this was my least favorite story.

 

The Delilah Party

When a sex cult tries to set up an emotionally unstable young boy for a tryst with his long time infatuation, they get more than they bargained for.

 

Fly in Your Eye

Single pager exactly fitting the title with a little shocker for an ending.

 

Polyphemus’ Cave

When a renown gay actor returns home upon receiving a telegram of father’s death the ensuing investigation on the exact circumstances include a circus, a soul-sucking giant cyclops and a circus. Guaranteed to be the strangest coming out story you’ll ever read.

 

The Webley

This would fit nicely in a Stephen King collection as it is a story about some kids in a small town, a gun (the titular Webley) and a dog. My only problem was the too abrupt ending as I really wanted more.

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