Monday, February 1, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Women of Darkness edited by Kathryn Ptacek

About the Editor

Kathryn Ptacek is the author of horror novels, Shadoweyes, Blood Autumn (pictured right), Kachina, In Silence Sealed and Ghost Dance, but has also written novels in several other genres, including historical fiction, romance, suspense and fantasy. She also publishes the Gila Queen's Guide to Markets, a useful tool for writers looking for outlets to publish their work. In 1989, her short story, Each Night, Each Year, was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award. Ptacek was married to late horror author Charles L. Grant. It was announced on January 25 that she will be this year's recipient of the Horror Writers Association Silver Hammer Award for being the volunteer who has contributed the most to the HWA. Ptacek is the editor of the HWA newsletter.


In the introduction to Women of Darkness, Kathryn Ptacek explains how, out of curiosity, she grabbed a few horror short story collections and counted how many featured female authors, finding very few or none, which lead her to publish this "women only" collection of horror short stories.

I decided to do the same experiment, grabbing three random short story collections, finding The Museum of Horrors edited by Dennis Etchison has 4/18, Greystone Bay Vol. 1 edited by Charles L. Grant has 4/14 and Prime Evil edited by Douglas E. Winter has 0/13. I guess it shouldn't come as a shock seeing as how out of approximately 300 horror novels I own, only 20 are by women. Anyway, I'm glad that Ptacek came up with the brilliant idea of publishing an all-female horror short story collection. But I'm less than thrilled with the content. That may have something to do with the fact that I read the second volume first and thought it was amazing - very high quality, creepy stories - therefore was disappointed when reading the first collection. I'm going to write the name and author, one line about the plot and my rating of each story to give you an idea of how much they vary - in subject matter and quality.

Baby by Kit Reed - A childless woman, who is less than thrilled about parenthood, visits her sister who recently had a baby - an odd, creepy baby. Rating: 3/5

Ransom Cowl Walks the Road by Nancy Varian Berberick - A murderer who had died long ago, seems to have come back to life. Rating: 3/5

True Love by Patricia Russo - A historical horror about love. Rating: 1/5

In the Shadows of my Fear by Joan Vander Putten - A man who killed his girlfriend visits her body which he dumped in the ocean. Rating: 1/5

The Spirit Cabinet by Lisa Tuttle - A couple moves into an old house in the UK and realize it's haunted by a ghost, much to the delight of the girlfriend. Rating: 4/5

Hooked on Buzzer by Elizabeth Massie - A young woman punished by shock treatment as a child becomes addicted to it. Rating: 1/5

Little Maid Lost by Rivka Jacobs - A strange man with magical powers befriends a teenage girl who works in her parents' seedy motel. Rating: 2/5

Mother Calls But I Do Not Answer by Rachel Cosgrove Payes - A teenage girl with a harelip becomes obsessed with staring in the mirror, so she can see her friends who live inside. Rating: 3/5

Nobody Lives There Now. Nothing Happens. by Carol Orlock - Ghosts move into a house in a small town. Rating: 1/5

The Baku by Lucy Taylor - An American woman who recently moved to Japan becomes familiar with the legend of the Baku. Rating: 2/5

The Devil's Rose by Tanith Lee - Another historical fiction story about love and its repercussions. Rating: 2/5

Midnight Madness by Wendy Webb - A bargain hunter goes to a store holding a midnight madness sale to find it virtually deserted and eerie. Rating: 4/5

Monster McGill by Cary G. Osborne - A wrestling match turns violent when a wrestler the audience hates goes up against a fan favourite. Rating: 4/5

Aspen Graffiti by Melanie Tem - A woman whose husband going through a mid-life crisis left her, finds out what really happens to men when they leave their wives. Rating: 3/5

Sister by Wennicke Eide Cox - A young girl visits her sister's dead body at the lake everyday, and helps her get revenge on her killer/mother's boyfriend. Rating: 3/5

Samba Sentado by Karen Haber - A woman visiting her sister in Brazil becomes involved in voodoo. Rating: 4/5

When Thunder Walks by Conda V. Douglas - A woman who is accepted as a Navajo jeweler gets more than she bargained for. Rating: 1/5

Slide Number Seven by Sharon Epperson - A woman who works in a lab becomes infected with a deadly disease. Rating: 4/5

The Unloved by Melissa Mia Hall - Twin women rent out an apartment above their garage to a man who doesn't know they share a dark secret. Rating: 4/5

Cannibal Cats Come Out Tonight by Nancy Holder - Two best friends become addicted to eating human meat. Rating: 5/5

As you can see, I loved some of the stories and hated others. Some were painfully dull, but saved somewhat by the shocking twist ending. And others were the opposite: interesting all the way through but letdown by an ending that didn't live up to the rest of the story.

Some of my favourite stories might be worth slogging through the boring ones. I love cannibalism in fiction and loved Cannibal Cats Come Out Tonight, laughing out loud at the boys' list of celebrities they want to eat. Yum I bet Madonna tastes delicious. Also, since I work at a store during hours when it's mostly deserted (I start at 7:00 am), I can relate to the creepiness of being in an empty store, seen in Midnight Madness.

The best part of Women of Darkness is that now I have tons of new women horror authors to add to my reading list. Even though some stories didn't grab me, I would give all the writers another chance because 10 pages is such a short time to gauge an author's writing ability. I have already put a few books on hold at my local library.

Although the quality of Women of Darkness is somewhat spotty, I would recommend it if you can get it from the library or used for the right price.

Rating: 3/5

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