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Dread Central, September 2005
Reviewed by Scott A. Johnston
In the realm of literature, there is an often-unsung format that provides readers with just as much, and oftentimes more, bang for their buck. Novels can be ponderous things, clumsy in their dimensions and difficult to manage. Try reading The Stand, even the paperback version, on a subway between stops with your arms laden with packages and you'll see what I mean. Literary magazines are often no better, as stories tend to get buried between pages of advertisements, or get split between sections of filler. As if in answer to the rapid transit problem, many authors publish chapbooks, containing stories too long for acceptance in magazines, but too short for the standard novel fare. And while chapbooks have long been preferred among poets, their pages are no strangers to horror. Ireland's Brian J. Showers proves that a longer short story can pack a punch with his two chapbooks, The Old Tailor & The Gaunt Man and The Snow Came Softly Down.
The first tells, as the name implies, of an old tailor who finds himself replaced by the machine age. No longer do people clamor to buy his hand-stitched suits, preferring to purchase things made quickly and cheaply from modern clothing stores. When it seems his usefulness is over and he is to join his beloved wife in the grave, he receives a curious guest who wants a new suit, made to the old tailor's exacting standards.
The Snow Came Softly Down is a Christmas tale, in the vein of A Christmas Carol. In it, a man struggles to cross a haunted forest to get home to his wife and children on Christmas Eve, and discovers the kindness of strangers, even if they happen to be ghosts.
While, at first glance, Showers' chapbooks may look small and amateurish, the writing inside resonates with the voice of a seasoned professional. Bringing to mind the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Showers is able to conjure compelling stories, all the while giving the reader a taste of fear and of the macabre to keep fans of classic horror glued to the pages. There are no surprise endings. In fact, almost from the first paragraphs, the readers can see what's coming. However, as a testament to his writing ability, Showers is able to keep the reader's attention, weaving a heart-felt and chilling story until the last word.
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