Dark Delicacies III: Haunted
Del Howison, Jeff Gelb, editors
Hardcover, 336 pages, $26.95
Review by Sheila Merritt
Dark Delicacies is a little shop of horrors situated in Burbank, California. It sells books, DVDs, toys, t-shirts, etc. related to fiction’s dark side. The store’s owner is Del Howison, who is co-editor of the anthology Dark Delicacies III: Haunted. Howison’s establishment’s location makes for opportunities to connect with various showbiz types. In this collection, for example, a number of contributions are by screenplay writers, directors, actors, even a spouse of a director; the foreword is by actor and writer Steven Weber. Given this Hollywood slant, some of the stories in the volume are concerned with professions in the movie and TV world. To categorize this anthology as favoring industry types and themes, though, is to do it a great disservice. The twenty tales in the book are varied in tone and texture, and some are downright dazzling.
Two of the best works involve mutilation/dismemberment as a means of achieving a creative goal. “In How to Edit,” Richard Christian Matheson takes literary editing to great lengths. Instead of “scribble, scribble, scribble,” the philosophy here is “whittle, whittle, whittle.” As the first person narrator cuts his writing and life to the bare bones, the reader is treated to a morbidly humorous rumination on the notion of less is more. Coming in at a scant seven pages doesn’t diminish its power or punch lines.
Film director-writer-producer Mick Garris maims to please in “Tyler’s Third Act.” This is a story of many parts: Social comment, scathing satire, kinky romance, and potshots at the Hollywood machine. When industry insider Tyler finds himself down and out, as part of the aftermath of a writers’ strike, he turns to the Internet for salvation. What ensues, to coin a phrase, is a win some/lose some scenario. In Tyler’s case, the losses are extremely personal.
Other notable inclusions in the book are: Chuck Palahniuk’s “Fetch,” in which a ghostly presence inhabits a tennis ball; the lovely and lyrical spectral story “A Haunting” by John Connolly, where an elderly man has a rhapsodic reunion with his dead spouse; and Eric Red’s “In the Mix,” a twitchy composition that leads an aspiring rapper from the ‘hood into a personalized hell.
Editors Howison and Jeff Gelb have compiled a fine selection of tales which depict various aspects of being haunted. This third volume of their Dark Delicacies anthologies features notable names in the business of horror; it’s a supremely well calculated collection.