Souls lost in personal limbos of guilt, regret and alienation
reveal the depth and horror of purgatory in this dynamic collection
of fantasy fiction and art. In the introduction, Braunbeck (The
Indifference of Heaven) interprets the human and supernatural figures
moving through the bizarre landscapes of Clark's paintings as "all
trying to escape Purgatory." Clark (Imagination Fully Dilated)
chips in that some of the five stories and their wraparound frame
were written in collaboration, some were inspired by the art, and
vice versa which could explain the unevenness of their telling.
The contents are anchored by two greatly varied novellas: "Mr.
Hands," a wrenching tale of horror in which the grief-stricken
mother of a murdered child conjures a clutching monster to serve
as her avenging "Hand of Fate," and "The Big Hollow,"
a meandering dark fantasy whose sketches of the living dead in a
small-town cemetery forced to confront their failures in life seems
to owe as much to the Spoon River Anthology as to the weird fiction
tradition. There are moments in nearly all of the selections in
which the philosophizing overwhelms the narrative, and only "A
Host of Shadows," which concisely explores ideas of salvation
and redemption through its portrait of an aged and ailing Jack the
Ripper, has a plot that adequately supports its ideas. Though these
tales may wear their ambitions on their sleeves, they are powered
by a sincerity and ingenuousness that will move even the most jaded
reader of macabre fiction.
a real Fourth of July firecracker of a book. I hope
you treat it with all the reverence it deserves. Stuff of this quality
is far too thin on the ground for any of us to be complacent.