In The Closet, Under The Bed
Trade Paperback, 269 pages, $ 16.00
Review by Mario Guslandi
A major representative of gay speculative fiction, Lee Thomas is the author not only of various successful novels (the Bram Stoker Award winner Stained, Damage, Mason etc) but also of a number of horror stories, now collected in a single volume (featuring seven reprints plus eight previously unpublished tales).
Even if you don’t care for this particular sub-genre (gay horror fiction) this book can offer moments of exceptionally good reading, thanks to Lee’s solid narrative style and strong imagination.
Personally I don’t mind the gay aspect, as long as the stories are good.
In the best pieces included in the present collection the gay element is irrelevant, in that it blends effortlessly with the structure of the tale. It’s when the story is weak and the plot incongruous that the homosexual aspect appears a bit cumbersome and tedious, but simply because the events, the characters and the atmospheres are not interesting enough.
In other words the weaker tales in the volume would remain such, even if centered around a male and a female instead of two males.
But now to the more remarkable stories.
In “The Good and Gone” – a strong, although slightly implausible piece – a man, lying in a hospital bed, leaves his body to discover the dirty secrets of an old pervert.
“I’m Your Violence” is a sordid story of paedophilia graced by a disturbing, graphic narrative style.
In the splendid “Crack Smoking Grandpa” a gay affair is simply the veneer of a much more complex story where an alien creature pursues its unhealthy plans with cruel determination, while in the tense, thrilling “They Would Say She Danced” a woman waits for the execution of a serial killer whom she knows too well…
“All the Faces Change” on the surface is the portrait of a man who, going home to visit his dying father, meets an old pal with whom he had a fleeting sex encounter in the past. Actually the story is a sharp analysis of the monsters lurking in the depth of our souls and poisoning our daily lives.
The collection’s highlights are two outstanding, unforgettable pieces.
“Healer” is a great, beautifully told story, deeply moving in its terrible cruelty. A sick child bound to die is saved by his father by summoning a mysterious Healer whose fee will be paid only years later.
“An Apiary of White Bees” (previously appeared in Ellen Datlow’s anthology Inferno), is a superb, compelling tale blending different themes into a vivid, disquieting symphony. A man finds, in a secret cave under his newly acquired property, some bottles of a special honey endowed with unusual psychic effects. White bees mark the events of a long gone past which returns to haunt the present and to influence the future. Absolutely memorable.