Blanket of White
Damnation Books, LLC
Trade Paper, 146 pages, $12.49
Review by Sheila M. Merritt
Blanket of White is an odd little collection of short stories. Comeuppances, just desserts, or righteous rewards tend to end each tale; but the narratives themselves are predominantly character studies. Most involve a handful of personages engaged in degenerate or extremely complicated exchanges. There is a pervasive undercurrent of gallows’ humor; quite black and bleak. Malicious motivations stem from frequently kinky and often complex unions. Author Amy Grech focuses on dialogue, and confrontation of feeling. Individuals are forced to step up to the plate, or lethal weapon. They thereby acknowledge the situations that have seduced them into dangerous depths. At once simplistic in style, yet morally convoluted in addressing relationships that beg for retribution, the works are rather like poems: Extremely expressive in their brevity; rhythmic and often repetitive in motif. There is power in the terse tension of the writer’s reiterations of wrath and rapture. For every action, there is a reaction; in Grech’s depictions, it can be downright deadly.
In the most upbeat of the tales, a teen-aged horror geek gets sentimental at Halloween. He knows he’s become too tall in stature and a bit long in the tooth to be a vampire attired trick or treater. Pining for the days when the love of all things creepy was more socially acceptable, his bedroom remains a testament to his tenacious taste for terror: “Dracula. Frankenstein. The Mummy. The Wolfman. Posters covered his walls, as did cotton cobwebs, rubber tarantulas, and bats strung with elastic. Dribbles of wax added authenticity to the gold-painted candelabra on shelves covered with Tales from the Crypt and Vault of Horror comics and antique Aurora monster models.” Despite the inherent adolescent qualms, the protagonist discovers some perks in getting older; aging doesn’t require suppression of one’s inner freak.
The rest of the thirteen stories are not as benign in subject or tone. Several regard peculiar driving forces between parents and children, while others probe perturbing aspects of sexual intensity. And in some of the narratives both themes intersect; “The Apple of My Eye” is an example. This tough and tawdry take on bringing a lover home to Daddy, is seriously twisted. Father and daughter have a deeply demented dynamic, and outsiders are welcome exclusively for perverted purposes. The familial fidelity is foul and frightful.
In terms of format, the volume is most frustrating: No table of contents; if there is a particular story one wishes to go back to, it’s necessary to fiddle through the pages to locate it. The titles of the individual works aren’t even listed at the top of each page, which further complicates the issue. Also, it is stated on the back cover that two of the yarns have never before been published – but it doesn’t denote which two, or attribute the original sources of publication for the remaining dozen.
Presentation quibbles aside, Blanket of White is a pleasantly disturbing book. The bulk of the characters who inhabit it are very troubled, indeed. Amy Grech deftly hones in on their foibles and fears. In her capable hands, the qualities of venality and vulnerability not only coexist: They are conjugal partners.