The Midnight Man
By Stephen Laws
June 2013, Samhain Publishing e-book $ 6.50; Paperback $ 16.00
Reviewed by Mario Guslandi
British writer Stephen Laws is the successful and respected author of several novels(Spectre, The Wyrms, The Frighteners, Darkfall, Daemonic, etc. )whereas, unfortunately, his short stories have been few and far between. His first collection, The Midnight Man, appeared in print in 1999 from Silver Salamander Press and is now reprinted by Samhain Publishing, much to the fulfillment of lovers of good horror fiction. Let me make myself even clearer: the book is a veritable feast of compelling, exciting horror stories, so much so that it’s difficult to pinpoint the best tales among such abundance of excellent material.
“He Who Laughs” is a nightmarish piece where supernatural horror lurks behind a man’s laughing habits, “Man Beast” is an effective variation on the werewolf theme, graced by an unexpected ending, and “The Penitent” an offbeat tale of “religious horror” taking place in a confession box.
“The Crawl” is a terrifying story where a couple travelling on a highway is hunted by a creepy, murderous creature, while “Junk” is an overlong but powerful tale featuring a junkyard owner who has to face an ordeal after failing to present a mysterious customer with the requested item, and “Outrage” a shocking , vivid piece of graphic horror, depicting a terrible story of vengeful violence.
By contrast, Laws provide stories such as “Gordy’s A-Okay”, a gentle, moving ghost story about a young woman living with a sense of guilt after the loss of her little brother, and the fascinating “The Secret” (included both in the form of a story and of a screenplay) , a “twilight zone” tale with a nasty ending.
To further prove the author’s eclecticism, the reader will enjoy “The Song My Sister Sang”, a dark tale full of lyricism about sisterly love, the mysteries of the deep sea and the hidden truths of the universe, as well as the traditional “The Fractured Man” , where a serial killer taking his vengeance on a bunch of old schoolmates gets apprehended because of a slight oversight.
My own favorite stories are two outstanding , gripping mixtures between of horror and a crime , “Black Cab” featuring a man hunting a taxi driver who’s supposedly a serial killer, and “The Causeway”, displaying in full the author’s terrific storytelling ability.
Each story is complemented by the author’s interesting comments and reminiscences about the circumstances surrounding the writing process.
A superb collection, highly recommended.