THE COLLECTED SHORT STORIES OF FREDDIE PROTHERO by Peter Straub
A mere child yet a precocious writer, young Freddie records a series of terrifying encounters with an inhuman being that haunts his life . . . and seems to predict his death.
GROUP OF THIRTY by Jack Ketchum
When an award-winning horror writer on the downward slope of a long career receives an invitation to address the Essex County Science Fiction Group, he figures he’s got nothing to lose. He couldn’t be more wrong.
NANCY by Darynda Jones
Though she’s adopted by the cool kids, the new girl at Renfield High School is most drawn to Nancy Wilhoit, who claims to be haunted. But it soon becomes apparent that poltergeists—and people—are seldom what they seem.
I LOVE YOU, CHARLIE PEARSON by Jacquelyn Frank
Charlie Pearson has a crush on Stacey Wheeler. She has no idea. Charlie will make Stacey see that he loves her, and that she loves him—even if he has to kill her to make her say it.
THE LONE AND LEVEL SANDS STRETCH FAR AWAY by Brian Hodge
When Marni moves in next door, the stale marriage of Tara and Aidan gets a jolt of adrenaline. Whether it’s tonic or toxic is another matter.
Praise for Dark Screams: Volume Three
“Well worth picking up and reading . . . If you have not tried the series yet, do yourself a favor and grab a copy of any (or all) of the books for yourself.”—Examiner.com
“Freeman and Chizmar have brought their A-game to Dark Screams: Volume Three. If you pick just one installment in this series to read, pick this one.”—LitReactor
“A gathering of perfect little bites of fiction . . . As you finish one story you’ll definitely be ready to move on to the next one.”—Sweet Southern Home
“Every story has something to offer for horror fans. They’re creepy, thought-provoking, scary and quick reads.”—The Reader’s Hollow
“[Horror] needs to hit you in the sweet spot where the amygdala and the cerebrum whisper to each other, where intellect and emotion intertwine, and all of these stories do that, and they do it well.”—Bibliotica
“A fun, frightful read . . . If the editors keep raising the bar, I’ll be back again and again.”—Atomic Fangirl
About the Author
Richard Chizmar is the founder, publisher, and editor of Cemetery Dance magazine and Cemetery Dance Publications. He has edited more than a dozen anthologies, including The Best of Cemetery Dance, The Earth Strikes Back, Night Visions 10, October Dreams (with Robert Morrish), and the Shivers series.
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The Collected Short Stories of Freddie Prothero
Introduction by Torless Magnussen, Ph.D.
The present volume presents in chronological order every known short story written by Frederick “Freddie” Prothero. Of causes that must ever remain obscure, he died “flying solo,” his expression for venturing out in search of solitude, in a field two blocks from his house in Prospect Fair, Connecticut. His death took place in January 1988, nine months before his ninth birthday. It was a Sunday. At the hour of his death, approximately four o’clock of a bright, cold, snow-occluded day, the writer was wearing a hooded tan snowsuit he had in fact technically outgrown; a red woolen scarf festooned with “pills”; an imitation Aran knit sweater, navy blue, with cables; a green-and-blue plaid shirt from Sam’s; dark green corduroys with cuffs beginning to grow ragged; a shapeless white Jockey T-shirt also worn the day previous; Jockey briefs, once white, now stained lemon yellow across the Y-front; white tube socks; Tru-Value Velcro sneakers, so abraded as nearly to be threadbare; and black calf-high rubber boots with six metal buckles.
The inscription on the toaster-sized tombstone in Prospect Fair’s spacious Gullikson & Son Cemetery reads frederick michael prothero, 1979–1988. a new angel in heaven. In that small span of years, really in a mere three of those not-yet-eight-and-a-half years, Freddie Prothero went from apprenticeship to mastery with unprecedented speed, in the process authoring ten of the most visionary short stories in the English language. It is my belief that this collection will now stand as a definitive monument to the unique merits—and difficulties!—presented by the only genuine prodigy in American literature.
That Prothero’s fiction permits a multiplicity of interpretations supplies a portion, though scarcely all, of its interest to both the academic and the general reader. Beginning in 1984 with childish, nearly brutal simplicity and evolving toward the more polished (though still in fact unfinished) form of expression seen in the work of his later years, these stories were apparently presented to his mother, Varda Prothero, née Barthelmy. (Baathy, baathy, momma sai.) In any case, Momma Baathy Prothero preserved them (perhaps after the fact?) in individual manila files within a snug, smoothly mortised and sanded cherrywood box.
As the above example demonstrates, the earliest Prothero, the stories written from his fifth to seventh years, displays the improvised variant spelling long encouraged by American primary schools. The reader will easily decipher the childish code, although I should perhaps explain that “bood gig” stands for “bad guy.”
From first to last, the stories demonstrate the writer’s awareness of the constant presence of a bood gig. A threatening, indeterminate figure, invested with all the terrifying power and malignity of the monster beneath a child’s bed, haunts this fiction. Prothero’s “monster” figure, however, is not content to confine itself to the underside of his bed. It roams the necessarily limited map of the writer’s forays both within and outside of his house: that is, across his front yard; down Gerhardie Street, which runs past his house; through the supermarket he, stroller-bound, visits with his mother; and perhaps above all in the shadowy, clamorous city streets he is forced to traverse with his father on the few occasions when R(andolph) Sullivan “Sully” Prothero brought him along to the law office where he spent sixty hours a week in pursuit of the partnership attained in 1996, eight years after his son’s death and two prior to his own unexplained disappearance. The commuter train from Prospect Fair to Penn Station was another location favored by the omniscient shadow figure.
Though these occasions were in fact no more than an annual event (more specifically, on the Take Your Son to Work Days of 1985–86), they had a near-traumatic, no, let us face the facts and say traumatic, effect on Prothero. He pleaded, he wept, he screamed, he cowered gibbering in terror. One imagines the mingled disdain and distress of the fellow passengers, the unsympathetic conductor. The journey through the streets to Fifty-Fourth and Madison was a horrifying trek, actually heroic on the boy’s part.
A high-functioning alcoholic chronically unfaithful to his spouse, “Sully” was an absent, at best an indifferent father. In her role as mother, Varda, about whom one has learned so much in recent years, can be counted, alas, as no better. The Fair Haven pharmacists open to examinations of their records by a scholar of impeccable credentials have permitted us to document Varda’s reliance upon the painkillers Vicodin, Percodan, and Percocet. Those seeking an explanation for her son’s shabby, ill-fitting wardrobe need look no further. (One wishes almost to weep. His poor little snowsuit too tight for his growing body! And his autopsy, conducted in a completely up-to-date facility in Norwalk, Connecticut, revealed that but for a single slice of bread lightly smeared with oleomargarine, that Prothero had eaten nothing at all that day. Imagine.)
In some quarters, the four stories of 1984, his fifth year, are not thought to belong in a collection of his work, being difficult to decode from their primitive spelling and level of language. Absent any narrative sense whatsoever, these very early works perhaps ought be considered poetry rather than prose. Prothero would not be the first author of significant fiction to begin by writing poems. The earliest works do, however, present the first form of this writer’s themes and perhaps offer (multiple) suggestions of their emotional and intellectual significance.
Among the small number of us dedicated Protherians, considerable disagreement exists over the meaning and identification of the “Mannotmann,” sometimes “Monnuttmonn.” “Man not man” is one likely decipherment of the term, “Mammoth man” another. In the first of these works “Te Styree Uboy F-R-E-D-D-I-E,” or “The Story about Freddie,” Prothero writes, “Ay am nott F-R-E-D-D-I-E,” and we are told that Freddie, a scaredy-cat, needs him precisely because Freddie is not “Monnutmann.” “Can you hear me, everybody?” he asks: This is an important truth.
This precocious child is self-protectively separating from himself within the doubled protection of art, the only realm available to the sane mind in which such separation is possible. Ol droo, he tells us: It is all true.
It should go without saying, though unhappily it cannot, that the author’s statement, in the more mature spelling and diction of his sixth year, that a man “came from the sky” does not refer to the appearance of an extraterrestrial. Some of my colleagues in Prothero studies strike one as nearly as juvenile as, though rather less savvy than, the doomed, hungry little genius who so commands all of us.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Disclaimer: This is a review of a book which I received as a free ARC. Dark Screams: Vol 3 is the best addition to the series to date. Every story in this collection works and the work well with each other. Granted, this is to be assumed when you put together some of the giants of the horror community in a collection edited by two masterful editors. The short stories in this collection are: “The Collected Short Stories of Freddie Prothero” by Peter Straub All right, I have a confession: I’m not really a big fan of Peter Straub. For the most part the only works of his which I have enjoyed were his collaborations with Stephen King. “The Collected Short Stories of Freddie Prothereo” has definitely been added to my list of great things by Straub. It is written in the psuedo-intellectual style of many literary reviews. What makes this rather tongue in cheek is that the collected works being reviewed are the almost incoherent, yet terrifying, ramblings of a young boy. They start out when the child is barely older than a toddler and continue for only a few years. The interplay between the high-brow criticism and the style of the stories themselves only accentuates the creepy nature of what the child is writing about. “Group of Thirty” by Jack Ketchum This was my favorite of the book. Ketchum explores the oft asked question “Who is ultimately responsible for the actions of a reader? Is the creator of a work of fiction culpable if a reader then goes on to mimic the horrific acts in that work of fiction?” These themes are examined through this tale of an author who is invited to an intimate gathering of fans. Naturally, this being Ketchum, things aren’t quite what they seem on the surface. The ending was extremely satisfying. “Nancy” by Darynda Jones What is worse than being the new girl in school? Being the new girl in school and knowing that eventually the popular kids will find you out and you will end up a social outcast, just as you have been in every school before. Standing up to the popular crowd and befriending the other downtrodden students seems like a good idea, but it goes awry when one student is not only being picked on by the in crowd, but also by a poltergeist. A twisty tale of haunting and social cliques. “I Love You, Charlie Pearson” by Jacquelyn Frank The other side of the high school popularity coin, this is the story of an outcast who knows that he and a high school beauty are destined for each other…if only he could get her to see that truth. Frank does an admirable job of portraying how the filter of obsession can change the view of the world. “The Lone One and Level Sands Stretch Far Away” by Brian Hodge In lesser hands this would have just been a tale of free-runners and the horror that they stumble upon. Instead we have a masterful story of human interaction, how people can fall in and out of love, and how emotions can force people out of their comfort zones and into a world of horror.
I'm enjoying this series of short horror stories from a great publishing company. In this volume, I felt it turned the fire up in the creepy category. The first story, by Peter Straub, I felt was wierd. At first. Then it started company together and I enjoyed it. The second, a Jack Ketchum, was good, somewhat slow and mopey, but a good story. It had the feel of someone who is used to getting praise and approval, but not on this occassion. The third, NANCY, by Darynda Jones, was very good. I have not read anything from her before making it a pleasant surprise. I loved the ghost story in the YA genre. The fourth, by Jacqueline Frank, was also very good and had a surprise ending to it as well. This is also the first story I have read from her. The fifth one, by Brian Hodge, was very different and seemed to have come to an abrupt end. I think it could have gone on into a SciFi novel. It's nice to read these stories and get a taste of some authors I have never read before. I look forward to the next book in the series! ARC for the publisher through NetGalley.
loved it! A definite must read!
I received an advance reader copy (arc) of this book for the purpose of providing an honest review. As I have mostly enjoyed the previous two installments of this anthology, I was truly looking forward to this, the third installment. With three (supposed) heavy hitters and two (to me) unknowns, this anthology certainly had great potential. Whether it lived up to that potential or not remained to be seen. The brightest star was certainly The Lone One and Level Sands Stretch Far Away. At the complete opposite end of the spectrum was The Collected Short Stores of Freddie Prothero. I have never been a fan of Straub's writing and this story is a pretty darn good explanation as to why. Overall, I would consider this anthology a bit stronger than volume 2 buoyed mostly by Hodge's story and would rate it just over 4 stars. This anthology includes these stories: —The Collected Short Stories of Freddie Prothero, by Peter Straub. As I have read reviews of other works by Straub, one overwhelming opinion is that you will either love his work or hate it. I can honestly say that the only thing that I have read by Straub that I even remotely enjoyed was The Talisman and Black House. I just with that I could get back the time I invested in reading this short story. The idea was intriguing, but it shouldn't require so much effort to make heads or tails out of a story. As others have said, what's the use of a story that can't even be deciphered. 0.5 Stars —Group of Thirty, by Jack Ketchum. I more often than not like Ketchum's writing. I have to be careful as it is usually brimming with violence and depravity that puts it on the borderline of what I can stomach. Not so with this story, which seems at least slightly autobiographical. While there was great tension and build-up at which Ketchum is an artist, the shocking turn was jarring without being bloody (much). 3.5 Stars —Nancy, by by Darynda Jones. I wasn't familiar with Jones' work before this story but, based on this taste, am interested in seeking out more of her work. This was essentially an olde timey ghost story with a little murder mystery thrown in. It wouldn't have hurt my feelings if it had been longer. 3.5 Stars —I Love You Charlie Pearson, by Jacquelyn Frank. Another author with whom I'm not familiar which, given how much I enjoyed this story, is a very bad thing. What appears to be your typical stalking and kidnapping story turns out to be nothing of the sort! The tables are turned and then some! 4.0 Stars —The Lone One and Level Sands Stretch Far Away, by Brian Hodge. I have enjoyed what I have read by Hodge and I was surely not disappointed with this read. I felt that the atmospheric buildup was so in depth and involved that I surely must have been reading for dozens of pages. There was also a depth of character development, even for the peripheral characters, the belies this story's short length. Certainly a testament to the condition of our man-made world as it ages and decays around us. 4.5 Stars
This is book series is full of stories to make you look at the things around you differently. I have been enjoying this series so far and this is another great addition. The first story The Collected Short Stories of Freddie Prothero by Peter Straub is a little over the top for me. I know he is trying to create a REAL character in the way it is written but I did not care for the format. I feel it would have been just as great a story if it was written in a normal fashion. People like things that don't follow a set form and I think this story makes a good effort for that. The second story Group of Thirty by Jack Ketchum is one for that I feel anyone that wants to be a writer will definitely be interested in and is a great story of how your craft can influence people. The next story Nancy by Darynda Jones is a great story about an outsider that is full of twists. The forth story I Love You, Charlie Pearson by Jacquelyn Frank is a story that shows you just might get what you want. The last story The Lone One and Level Sands Stretch Far Away by Brian Hodge is probably my favorite of this set. Brian has a way of writing that makes me see things in real life differently and feel like I am right there with the characters in the story.
DARK SCREAMS: VOLUME THREE edited by Richard Chizmar and Brian James Freeman The most eclectic mix in this series yet and a uniformly strong collection from which it is impossible to pick a favorite. I truly enjoyed all of them for their individual uniqueness. THE COLLECTED SHORT STORIES OF FREDDIE PROTHERO by Peter Straub I had read Straub's piece elsewhere before and enjoyed reading it again about a "precocious" child writer. GROUP OF THIRTY by Jack Ketchum Jack Ketchum's entry is a nifty little piece about a writer receiving inspiration in a most unusual and tense way. NANCY by Darynda Jones A nifty twist on the possession story. I LOVE YOU, CHARLIE PEARSON by Jacquelyn Frank Another nifty twist on the stalker story. THE LONE AND LEVEL SANDS STRETCH FAR AWAY by Brian Hodge A strong finish to this collection with an urban spelunking / apocalypse bent. This one contains well drawn characters.
The Collected Short Stories of Freddie Prothero (Peter Straub) While the introduction to the short stories had me intrigued, the stories themselves were disappointing. There was too little progress recognizable in the writing of the boy, whose first story was supposed to be written at the age of five, the last three years later. At one point, I thought it was getting somewhere, a tale of a boy haunted by a stranger or maybe abused by a familiar person, but that idea was lost just like the story was lost on me. For a child being able to already write down stories at the age of five, it seemed unlikely that he then stopped developing his writing skills and stayed with that poor expression. 1 star. Group of Thirty (Jack Ketchum) While I usually don't care about the order and read the stories of an anthology as they come, I deliberately saved this one for last, feeling that Jack Ketchum wouldn't let me down. While I did not expect it to be that funny and ironic, I relished this story like I would my favorite chocolate out of a box of pralines (which I also always save for last). The story easily could have ended with a much more expected bloodbath, but the way the situation turned around and the author (both Ketchum and the main character) thumbed his nose at his pretended fans was so much sweeter. 5 stars Nancy (Darynda Jones) If the anthology was aimed at YA, I would easily give this story 5 stars. Like the series mentioned in the story itself, 'Nancy' could have easily been told as an episode of "Goosebumps". It was a smooth but unexciting read without surprises, which might work to introduce younger readers started to the horror genre. However, while i did enjoy the well-written simplicity, this story made no lasting impression. 3.5 stars I Love You, Charlie Pearson (Jacquelyn Frank) Just like the previous story, this one seemed a bit out of place and more effective for YA readers. Reading this one, I had a constant nagging feeling of déjà vu, like I already knew the story from a movie or somewhere. 2.5 stars The Lone and Level Sands Stretch Far Away (Brian Hodge) The last story was a very quiet one, and I was really impressed by it. It flowed smoothly and effortlessly towards a baffling, but fitting ending which left me stunned and thinking about it long after. This is how a good short story should work. 4 stars The third volume fits without difficulties into the Dark Screams anthology series, however I hope the fourth part will bring a louder voice to horror again. (I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review)
This is a review of an uncorrected ARC that I received from Cemetery Dance Publications for the purpose of posting a review for potential future readers. As with volumes 1 and 2, this book consists of five stories by five authors. The collection begins with “The Collected Short Stories of Freddie Prothero,” by Peter Straub. I am a huge Peter Straub fan, but I was puzzled by this story. It collects the short stories written by Freddie before his untimely death at the age of eight. The stories are concern the presence of a “bood gig” (bad guy), and all contain such interesting spelling (the author is supposed to be young). A sense of menace does pervade the piece as one reads (sequentially) the tales written by this boy. One really has to concentrate and ponder to make sense of the piece, and although it was interesting, I would not rank it among Straub’s best works. “Group of Thirty,” by Jack Ketchum, concerns author Jonathan Daniels, who accepts an invitation to speak at the monthly meeting of the Essex County Science Fiction Group. What begins as a typical speech / Q & A takes a dramatic turn when his readers begin questioning him concerning the inspiration and direction of his writing. From my experience with Ketchum (“Off Season” may be the MOST horrifying thing I have ever read), this story is pretty sedate. Anxiety and suspense builds throughout, and I found it a fitting story for the Dark Screams series. Next is “Nancy,” by Darynda Jones, an author I have never read nor heard of. I will be looking for more of her work. The strongest and best work in the collection, it follows a student at a new school as she is torn between the popular clique who have accepted her and Nancy Wilhoit, who appeared to have no friends due to her habit of twitching, making odd sounds, and talking to herself. You see, the town of Renfield is touted as the most haunted city in Virginia, and Nancy may have her own personal ghost. I don’t want to say anything more about the plot, but for a short story there are plenty of twists and unexpected turns, and I was hooked from the beginning. As previously stated: best story in this volume! Jacquelyn Frank’s “I Love You, Charlie Pearson” also deals with high school, this time with the author’s crush on cheerleader Stacey Wheeler. When an opportunity arises to get Stacey to his house, Charlie jumps at it. Does either one know as much about the other as he/she thinks? Is it a good idea to be alone with someone you know so little about? This story gets under your skin, and it is easy to see why it was chosen for Dark Screams. The collection ends with “The Lone One and Level Sands Stretch Far Away,” by Brian Hodge, an author who is no stranger to Cemetery Dance fans. When Marni moves in next door, Aidan becomes intrigued with the parkour runs she and her friends take (I had to look it up on my Kindle; short definition runs that take place in an urban space using whatever movement is deemed suitable for the situation). Finally, he accepts the invitation to join them. As they run through long abandoned buildings, Aidan realizes that empty does not equate to idol, and there is more in the world than what we understand. Another totally original story (I have never read anything similar) this is a fitting conclusion to a great collection.
I received this ebook free from Net Gallery for an honest review. I had read the first two entries in the series and quickly grabbed a copy. With at least three known quality authors I jumped right in to devour it and … for, some reason, it took about three weeks to finish. I have been a Peter Straub reader since day one and really loved his early creations. He doesn’t do a lot of short fiction (maybe a couple dozen) but most of what I’ve read I’ve liked. That is, until I came upon “The Collected Short Stories of Freddie Prohero.” I read it twice, with a day or so in between, figuring it needed a little time to jell. Maybe there is a big concept there, involving fear, identity, creativity, evil and the unknown but I couldn’t get beyond (not the fragmented, child-learning to write, inability to really describe) the idiocy of the academic whose lifework is this “prodigy” study. Maybe Straub was writing a satire but I don’t think so. This was the single reprint story in the collection. Jack Ketchum is noted for his in-your-face, take-no-prisoners execution so “Group of Thirty” is a change of pace. The writer who has pretty much dried up accepts the predictable invitation from a small literary gathering to speak about his work. Easy money but not quite what he imagined. Could it be a round-about Ketchum tale after all? Not really, but I actually liked this one quite a bit. Darynda Jones' “Nancy” had the most clichéd situation: teenage girl ostracized in high school by the clique. But there was the somewhat interesting setting of the most haunted town in the country, a narrator who seemed to have a backstory, the really strange, put-upon girl, the ghost, and the twist. I liked it better that I thought I would. At first I felt that “I love you, Charlie Pearson” by Jacquelyn Frank was a teenage take on a Richard Laymon tale but I’m afraid it wasn’t. The POV of a teenage stalker who is totally clueless was fun, with the twist at the end really pinpointing his complete oblivion. It gave me a laugh. The best tale for me this outing was Brian Hodge’s “The Lone One and Level Sands Stretch Far Away.” Well-written and smoothly told, the story creeps up on you. The atmosphere is there, an almost seen presence. The narration is somewhat slow but I’m sure that was intentional. I like cosmic horror and that’s the center of this work. And the ending is, fittingly, so bleak. Ah, that final image of the seeming breath sucked back down into the darkness… At first I didn’t like this volume as much as the two prior but on reflection it does seem to have a lot going for it. I am looking forward to starting the next one, which I already have on my kindle.
Rating: 3.5/5 Thorough mix! This is, fairly obviously, the third volume in the Dark Screams series. It contains another five diverse, dark, short stories, all with twists in them somewhat reminiscent of the ‘Tales of the Unexpected” stories by Roald Dahl shown on television many years ago. As usual in these collections, the stories range from childhood encounters, pure horror to psychological thriller to just plain creepy romance! As with most collections of stories by different authors the appeal of the stories varies but overall I believe the collection worthy of the 3.5 stars I’ve given it, which is slightly lower than the earlier volumes. Having said that, some of the stories in this were brill but others just missed the mark as far as I was concerned. Again, no two stories in the collection are alike making this an anthology in which you’re not quite sure what you’ll be reading next! Another great collection to have you screaming, even if only figuratively and a welcome addition to the series. Thanks to the author, publishers and NetGalley, too, for letting me read a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I received this book via NetGalley to give an honest review. When I read the title I expect real horror, frightening tales being told. This was very disappointing for me. The reason why is it didn't have anything like that within the stories. The Collected Short stories of Freddie Prothero: I honestly don't know what to say about this story. I understood how the author wrote it but it just felt all over the place to where I just ended up skimming over it mostly. This is a diary of a young boy and it is just kind of like nonsense, I couldn't truly understand all what was being written. Group of Thirty: I enjoyed the story and it wasn't scary but it was like whoa these folks are just plain crazy I liked the idea behind the story. You have an author who writes some murder stories and his so called fans are not who they say they are. Nancy: I liked this one though I wished it was more in depth and longer so we could find out the full consequences of what happened. It made me think of a Goosebumps in a way which is a good thing. You have Nancy who has some weird things going on within her life. The new girl tries to befriend her as she is curious but as you know curiosity killed the cat will that happen here? I Love You, Charlie Pearson this one was another one of those creepy stories that you just wonder where it could go. I really wish this one was longer as well, especially when it has something to do with bones being sucked on!!! How freaky does that sound. Charlie is a teenage boy who has a crush on this beautiful girl though she doesn't really pay him too much mind. He has it to where he wants her and will stop at nothing but will his plan backfire? The last story The Lone and Level Sands Stretch Far Away um, I really didn't know what to make of this story. You have a marriage that is doing okay until Aidan comes into the picture. I didn't really understand the ending and it left me a bit confused as to the whole thing. Because I only enjoyed three of these short stories I ended up giving this book a solid three wine glass rating.