The Switch House Gang (editors)
Haverhill House Publishing (July 25, 2021)
Reviewed by Elaine Pascale
Train tracks are a source of wonderment. It is impossible to look at the stretches of steel and not image where the line begins and where it ends. Fright Train produces a similar sense of wonderment in its table of contents, which contains many celebrated contemporary horror writers and a few seminal authors like Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The editors, AKA the Switch House Gang, may be familiar to some from contributions to past anthologies both as writers and as the masterminds behind the themes and the books: Charles R. Rutledge, Tony Tremblay, and Scott T. Goudsward. The cover by Mikio Murakami encapsulates the stories within, but works as an evocative piece on its own.
Fright Train is an engaging read, with offerings of the highest quality. As always, a few stories stand out. The book opens with the heavy hitter “Weightless Before She Falls,” by Bracken MacLeod. Most women have experienced the premise of the story: that creepy guy who thinks he has every right to ignore boundaries. Alice had strong premonitions that she would encounter the creepy guy on the train; furthermore, her intuition told her that the ride would be life altering.
As a lifelong Dracula fan, I loved the premise of Charles R. Rutledge’s “The Habit of Long Years” in which a train goes directly to Dracula’s castle. Like Scott T. Goudsward’s apocalyptic “Plague Train” (another favorite of mine), this felt like the beginning of a longer story. I would gladly read more of both.
Two impressive stories about karma were “Pépère’s Halloween Train” by Tony Tremblay and “Tunnel Vision” by Elizabeth Massie. Both are about final punishments, and both are riveting.
“The Midnight Train” by James A. Moore and “A Traveler Between Eternities” by Amanda DeWees were about ghost trains, and both were reverently told. They also contained rewarding character arcs, which can be an unexpected pleasure in the horror genre.
The two stories that deserve the highest praise are “Lust for Life” by Errick A. Nunnally and “All Aboard” by Christopher Golden. Nunnally’s offering is a supernatural detective story that was completely engaging. I found myself smiling happily at the ending (even though I cannot say it is a happy ending). And Golden’s story perfectly captures that level of grief that is so deeply embedded it becomes a person’s very existence. The beautiful writing and spot-on emotions haunted me long after I finished reading.
If you are unable to travel this summer due to the Delta variant, take a ride on Fright Train. You won’t be disappointed!