Writer David Morrell has dabbled in various forms of the art, penning dark novels of horror, high-action thrillers, a couple of westerns, and a nonfiction account of his teenaged son's heart-wrenching battle with leukemia. Throughout it all, Morrell has had an off-and-on love affair with the short story, several of which have won awards and appeared in various journals and anthologies. Now he has assembled 15 of his best shorts for a collection that is as varied as it is chilling: Black Evening.
The collection marks a 20-year period in Morrell's life during which he experienced incredible highs, soul-shattering lows, and a remarkable evolution of his writing talent and career. Collectively, the stories are a story in themselves, mapping out Morrell's journey through both life and his craft.
The first story, "The Dripping," which was also Morrell's first published short, is brutal and bloody, a harrowing piece of graphic horror. In others, like "Black and White and Red All Over," Morrell relies more on psychological terror. There's plenty of the supernatural to go around, too. "Mumbo Jumbo" is an almost lighthearted tale of a magical mascot used by a wily football coach with devastating results. "The Storm," a truly spooky tale of the ultimate payback delivered by an Indian magic man to a scornful disbeliever, delivers plenty of horror throughout and ends with a one-two punch that is both literally and figuratively chilling.
In some cases, Morrell's introduction to a story provides for certain insights that make the piece even creepier. Such is the case with "But at My Back I Always Hear," a tale of one college student's otherworldly stalking of her professor, a premise that came about when Morrell, a real-life professor, had an overzealous student of his own. Writers will love the ironic horror behind "The Typewriter," and anyone in business or looking for a job will appreciate the desperation and cunning behind the mind of the character in "The Partnership."
Morrell provides an overview and, often, a bit of personal history as an introduction to each story, giving the reader some fascinating insights on the thoughts, emotions, and processes that were involved in creating each one. None are quite so poignant as the introduction to "Orange Is for Anguish, Blue for Insanity," which Morrell wrote while sitting at the hospital bedside of his dying son. Equally touching and perhaps surprising is Morrell's revelation about how he found solace in reading horror during this difficult time, for the made-up horror offered a sort of barrier against the all-too-painful real-life horror.
Though the mood and character of each story in Black Evening are unique, Morrell's ability to raise the goose bumps remains constant. With this career-spanning collection, he spins out the suspense with an increasingly masterful hand as he delves into the horrors -- both imagined and real -- that lurk just beneath the surface of everyday life. The stories themselves are eclectic, with subject matter that ranges from the supernatural to simple homicidal maniacs. But one thing they all share in common is a powerful taste of horror that is consistently and chillingly rendered.