Swallowed by the Cracks
Bill Breedlove & John Everson, Editors

Dark Arts Books (2011)
Trade Paperback, 305 pages, $19.95
Review by Mario Guslandi

Swallowed by the Cracks is the last horror quartet from Dark Arts Books, this time offering stories by Lee Thomas, Gary McMahon, SG Browne and Michael Marshall Smith, four authors of dark fiction displaying extremely different writing styles.
Thomas is known for his effective tales of graphic horror. Among his four contributions here are reprinted one of his most accomplished stories, “I’m Your Violence,” a vivid unsettling tale of pedophilia, and the more gentle “Before You Go,” a perceptive meditation on the power of marital love over life and infidelity.

The ubiquitous Gary McMahon provides “A Night Unburdened,” a perfect tale of psychic vampirism, the masterful “Creep,” where a young woman’s secret fears materialize in flesh and bone and “My Name Is Natasha Putkin,” the disquieting diary of an abused girl, kept prisoner in the house of a cruel man. The weakest story is “The Ghost In You,” the depressing portrait of a man descending into an abyss of alienation and drinking.

SG Browne’s tales are entertaining, but rather flimsy. In “Dream Girls” the dream of any heterosexual male comes true, while in “The Lord of Words” an author is portrayed with writer’s block and paranoid tendencies. “Dr Lullaby” is a tale of pharmacological horror while “Lower Slaughter” depicts the dangerous, horrific adventure of an American tourist and his petulant wife vacationing in the UK.

I’m always been partial to Michael Marshall Smith’s classy fiction and, once again, he does not disappoint. “Death Light” is a superb detective story with a supernatural flavor, written in that great storytelling style which is Smith’s trademark. “The Stuff That Goes On in Their Heads” is a bittersweet, superb tale where a little boy’s troubles turn out to be imaginary (or not?). “REMtemps” is a great SF piece featuring a man with the ability to take on himself the burden of people’s unwanted dreams and memories.

All in all another uneven but good anthology apt to satisfy the taste of any horror fan.

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