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Four Dark Nights (2004)
Fiction Review by The Gravedigger

Four Dark Nights (2004) FOUR DARK NIGHTS (2004, Leisure Books):Included here are four novellas, all dealing with ancient, mysterious places of worship to 'older gods'.

In THE CIRCLE by Bentley Little, a group of teenaged boys decide to investigate a strange temple that's located in the backyard of a peculiar neighbor. Rumor has it that if you go there and make a wish it will come true. But things go horribly awry when they encounter a weird, burnt-looking creature that inhabits the small temple. It makes one of the boys kill himself by banging his head repeatedly on the ground. The others flee but encounter variations of the fulfillment of their wish, which, for a teenaged boy is to wish for a beautiful woman. What I liked about this story is the complete sense of dread it provokes, the three different points-of-view from the different characters, and the nonlinear structure of the tale. No one is safe in this story-not even the reader!In Christopher Golden's PYRE, a young woman, returning to her hometown to go to the funeral of her estranged father, decides that she must finally get answers from him. And the only way to do this is to resurrect him at a viking altar, which is situated on a nearby island. She involves a high school friend (who had a crush on her) to help her dig up her father's grave and haul the body to the island, which is guarded by swarms of vicious seagulls. She performs the ritual and the resurrection doesn't go quite as planned. Although pretty much a variation of 'THE MONKEY'S PAW' story, the Viking aspect adds a different flavor to the tale.In JONAH AROSE, by Tom Piccirilli (winner of the 2003 Stoker award for novel), a former child evangalist/sideshow geek travels to a bizarre section of the city in order to rescue his son, who was stolen by his crazy grandfather. Accompanying him on his quest are several of his friends from the freakshow-the hairy man, the fat lady, the skeletal guy and the fishboy. This is one of those tales in which the reader is continually surprised by what's real and what's not, making it the most surreal of the four novellas. It also has some horrendous, stomach churning imagery. Piccirilli is not one to waste words. The last story, by Douglas Clegg, is a Lovecraft inspired tale of two high school-aged friends and how one of them is determined to bring forth creatures from beyond 'the Veil'. This page-turner is very compelling, with likeable characters, monsters and brutal killings.I'm not a huge fan of anthology fiction but I'm glad I read this as it introduced me to three notable horror authors I've never read before-Bentley Little, Christopher Golden and Douglas Clegg. Damn if I don't have to start reading all their previous work!

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