Coffin County by Gary A. Braunbeck
Gary A. Braunbeck
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Destinations Unknown

A three-novella collection of original dark fiction concerning itself with people, cars, and the open road.

In "The Ballad of Road Mama and Daddy Bliss," a man assigned community service duty with the city morgue after a DUI arrest is offered a simple deal: transport an old woman's body back to her hometown, and his record will be wiped clean. But this is no typical old woman, and — as he soon discovers — he is taking her to a town that is on no map. The old woman's identity, as well as the reasons behind the town's secret existence, will be revealed to him over the course of a few nightmarish hours between midnight and dawn — the time when The Road demands its sacrifices.

In "Congestion," a man who has hated cars all his life finds himself stuck in a traffic jam on a sweltering hot day...a very different type of traffic jam.

In "Merge Right," a businessman on a long road trip comes to a long and lonely stretch of highway where every sign he passes orders him to MERGE RIGHT. There are no exits in sight, no other cars, no sign of civilization...and there is something very strange about the scenes appearing in his rearview mirror.

Review Excerpts

"Anyone who's ever suffered through a traffic jam or experienced the mixture of exhilaration and exhaustion that comes with a long road trip will be able to appreciate the love/hate relationship the characters herein have with their vehicles. 'The Ballad of Road Mama and Daddy Bliss' is the standout of the book... The narrator's voice is engaging, the servants of the highway gods are creepy as hell and satisfyingly complex, and the plot ticks along like a well-tuned engine."

"...this collection reinforces Braunbeck's reputation as one of the more inventive contemporary writers cultivating the dark fantasy terrain."
Publishers Weekly

"I enjoyed these three stories more than anything I’ve read in the past year. I give Destinations Unknown 5 stars. Wow."

"Known throughout the genre as one of the best and most consistent short story writers out there, Gary Braunbeck rarely disappoints. His car-themed collection of one novella and two short stories is no exception . . . Braunbeck's deft touch is on full display here."
Rue Morgue

"Gary Braunbeck may still not be known much yet outside of the small press, but Destinations Unknown is one more piece of evidence that he's rapidly becoming one of our finest modern fantasists. The short novel that opens this collection, "The Ballad of Road Mama and Daddy Bliss", is like the flipside of J. G. Ballard's Crash, a wry and outlandish look at car culture. Braunbeck starts with a story of an average Joe working off community service hours by driving an ambulance, but soon turns our protagonist's world upside-down, when he finds himself in a community where both cars and people are recycled, and "The Road" is a living, breathing thing. Like a great road trip, this tale takes plenty of entertaining side trips, but they all point the way to an ending full of action, comedy and horror. Probably no author since R. A. Lafferty has been able to pull off a mix like that, although comparisons to the emotional punch of Theodore Sturgeon are apt as well.

"The collection is rounded out with two shorter works, "Congestion", an uncomfortable piece about a man suffering a heart attack while stuck in a traffic jam; and "Merge Right", a serious left turn into the dreadful surrealism that has marked much of the author's other work.

"The volume is also graced by the fine cover art of Deena Warner. One could have wished for an introduction, perhaps discussing Braunbeck's own forays into car culture, but the excellent fiction should be enough for anyone."
— Lisa Morton,

"There is only one word you can use to describe Gary Braunbecks’ writing. Outstanding! Braunbecks’ stories are more than just wonderful story telling, they’re a phenomenon unto themselves... These are all excellent stories, well executed, and impeccably paced. I couldn’t stop reading. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I have placed it back in my to be read pile. Highly recommended."
— Horror World

"The road will never be the same following Gary Braunbeck’s suspense filled horror novella ("The Ballad of Road Mama and Daddy Bliss") and two psychological ghostly shorts. All three tales keeps the audience reading while wondering what is really going on. At the final destination, fans will simply know the next signpost has to be in the Twilight Zone as Mr. Braunbeck provides three thrillers that Rod Serling would have appreciated."

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