More Than Midnight
Brian James Freeman
Cemetery Dance Publications, 2012, 119pp
Signed, Limited Edition Hardcover $35.00
Review by Wayne C. Rogers
I’ve known of Brian James Freeman for years, but specifically as the Managing Editor of Cemetery Dance magazine and the owner of Lonely Road Books. In 2010, I picked up a copy of his novella, The Painted Darkness, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought it was extremely well crafted with prose that spoke to the darker regions your mind and was written by a man who knows his horror and how to write it.
Mr. Freeman is back with a collection of five short stories in the anthology, More Than Midnight. What each of these stories is designed to do is to provide a snippet of pure entertainment that scares the living daylights out of you. As I mentioned before, Mr. James clearly knows his horror and how to write it. His intentions are therefore achieved with flying colors with the sound of a marching band in the background and flags waving frantically in the air. This is an author who will tease you into entering his house of the macabre, slam the door shut, lock it, and then proceed to horrify you with his vivid imagination. I wonder if he ever wakes up during the night, screaming out from a terrifying nightmare.
After a brief introduction by Michael Koryta, who sets the mood for the coming journey into the realms of darkness, the first story that appears is “What They Left Behind.”
In this delectable piece of fiction, a small, family-owned business has just purchased the old Timlico factory in a last ditch effort to stay open during the changing economy. The neglected complex has been closed for years due to a fire in which many of its workers were killed in. The son, sister, and sister’s boyfriend are there on the weekend to start cleaning up the grounds and the inside of the warehouse. What they’re unaware of, until it’s too late, is that there’s something inside the building…something that has been dormant for years, waiting patiently to kill again. It wants them, but also needs them to take a few more steps into the flooded warehouse so it can pick a victim.
The second story is “The Final Lesson.”
Ah, now we have an older, mild-mannered, high school music teacher whose wife was viciously murdered in a convenience store robbery two years before. He’s mowing his lawn of this summer day as he thinks about her and the recent murder of two residents in the neighborhood. The quiet, peaceful town that he has lived in for so long is gradually changing for the worse, and he doesn’t like it, or know what to do to prevent the ugly occurrences from happening. Of course, that changes a few minutes later when he finishes with the law and hears something unexpected inside his garage. What he encounters will change his life forever.
The third story, “Among Us,” deals with a hard-working lawyer who’s invited upstairs for a meeting with the partners of the firm. He thinks all of his diligent work for the firm and the long hours away from home have finally paid off…that he’s about to receive a promotion and then move up the ladder. Well, he is, but not the kind of promotion he wants. Law firms can be such treacherous places for those who are unaware.
The fourth story, “Pulled Into Darkness,” centers on Edward and his daughter, Nell, during a coming thunderstorm at night. Edward’s insane wife, Sarah, has escaped from a mental health facility (the nut farm) and is on her way back home to finish what she started three years before…to kill him and Nell. When Sarah finally arrives at the house in the country, naked and bruised from her long journey in the rain, she gets the upper hand on Edward, who has a bum leg due to his wife’s previous attack. Edward is going to have a long, dreadful night as the attempts to figure out a way to save himself and his daughter. There’s certainly nothing like the warm embrace of a loving spouse to ease the tension of the day.
The final story in this superb collection is “Answering the Call.” This is a story I wanted to be longer in length so I could find out more about Mr. Smith and his life as a trouble-shooter against evil. You see when evil people die, Mr. Smith appears so he can make sure their residue is extinguished before they latch on to anyone, or leave a residence filled with their negative energy to disturb and torment others. Mr. Smith is extremely good at his job. He should be. He’s been doing it for hundreds of years. The thing is he’s tired and needs a break from the bump and grind of it all. In this story an elderly man has died, and he was pure evil to the core, having murdered dozens of little girls over the years. Mr. Smith isn’t sure about the dead man’s widow, but he rids their house of evil, fighting the deceased over the telephone as he purifies everything. This could definitely be a lead up to a great horror novel, if the author were to pursue it.
Well, there you have it.
So, do you love the short stories of Stephen King? If you do, then pick up a copy More Than Midnight by Brian James Freeman. The author writes like a young Stephen King who’s just graduated from college and is ready to tackle the publishing world. Mr. James is a writer who’s here for the long term, sharing his nightmares with the thousands of horror fans out there who are eager to travel into blackness of night, not knowing what’s waiting in the darkness. This man knows how to create vivid characters, distinct dialogue, and suspense-filled tales that lure you in like a tantalizing seductress.
More Than Midnight by Brian James Freeman is the dark night of the soul with lightening snapping in the background, revealing that lone, dark figure standing in the roadway with his arms open for you. Go ahead and buy the book, then give that stranger a hug and pray he doesn’t strangle you before the last page is finished.