Post-Spring Break Short Story Recommendation: “Dave’s Last Choice”

At one point or another we’ve all experienced the situation where we’ve seen or heard some new idea, word, or concept, and suddenly, we see it everywhere.  When I bought my car in 2020, I suddenly began seeing Nissan Versa Notes constantly.

Similarly, there seems to be a certain synchronicity to events.  Right as I released The One-Minute Mysteries of Inspector Gerard, Rachel Fulton Brown and the Dragon Common Room poets published Centrism Games.  After a week of reviewing short stories—and then contemplating writing my own collection of short stories—my buddy Jeremy Miles announced that he is working on a new short story project.  Indeed, last week’s TBT, “TBT: The Creation of Culture,” looked back at Jeremy’s excellent collection of poetry, A Year of Thursday Nights (now in a more affordable “Shades of Grey” edition).

So it was with great delight that I read not only Jeremy’s plans to compile a collection of short stories, but that he also included a draft of one of them, “Dave’s Last Choice.”

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Lazy Sunday CVIII: Spring Break Short Story Recommendations 2021 Recap

Well, it was fun while it lasted—another Spring Break is in the books.  I enjoyed this brief respite, the eye in the middle of the storm that is the Spring Semester.  The next couple of weeks will be a flurry of activity for yours portly, followed by the long, graceful descent into summer vacation.

Like last year, I’ll be recapping the short stories I recommended this past week, and offer up a short ranking of them.  The list will be shorter by two this year, as I dedicated last Monday to a movie review and did not reblog an earlier short story review Thursday.

Oh, well.  Here’s what I did read:

So, how do they fall this year?  You’ve probably figured it out, but it was an easy call: Michael Noonan‘s “The Personality Cult” won the day for me.  Here is my ranking:

1.) “The Personality Cult”
2.) “Black Tancrède”
3.) “Out of the Deep”

There you have it!  Happy Reading—and haunting!  Mwahahahahahaha!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

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Spring Break Short Story Recommendations 2021, Part III: “Out of the Deep”

Rounding out this week’s Spring Break Short Story Recommendations is Walter de la Mare‘s 1923 psychological ghost story “Out of the Deep.”  This story is the second in Chilling Ghost Stories, edited by Stefan Dziemianowicz.

“Recommendation” is perhaps a strong word for this story, which is, at times, excessively wordy and confusing—and that’s coming from me!

“Ghost story” is also, perhaps, a bit of a misnomer, though there does appear to be at least one—and possibly three—apparitions in the story, although that’s never made entirely clear.

It’s the wordiness and lack of clarity, though, that paradoxically make the story interesting.  Walter de la Mare was a poet, and brings something of poetry’s attention to the consonance of words.  At least, I’d like to think that’s what he is going for here; he clearly enjoys playing with language, almost the way a punster does.  It makes for tedious reading at times, but does have the effect of keeping the reader guessing as to what is really happening.

But I digress.  The real “ghosts” are the ones haunting the protagonist, Jimmy, a listless young man who has taken possession of his late uncle’s rambling London townhouse.  Jimmy apparently has no occupation, and lives by selling off the sumptuous possessions his aunt and uncle left behind.  Jimmy is also something of an eccentric insomniac, who finds it difficult to sleep unless bathed in candlelight (at least once in the story he sells some household items so he can purchase candles).Read More »

Spring Break Short Story Recommendations 2021, Part I: “Black Tancrède”

It’s another glorious Spring Break for yours portly, which means it’s time to whip out some classic tales of ghostly spookiness.  This week I’m working my way through Chilling Ghost Stories, edited by Stefan Dziemianowicz, published in March 2020.  It’s a collection that was clearly compiled for the bargain section at Barnes & Nobles, with a list price of just $10 for 471 pages of medium-sized print chills (I picked it up for $8 plus tax thanks to my handy Educator’s Discount card).  The stories were written from 1893 to 1929, with today’s selection, Henry S. Whitehead‘s “Black Tancrède,” being the latest.

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Lazy Sunday XCIV: My Favorite Things

Today is the 99th edition of Lazy Sunday; it is also my birthday.  I’m getting to that age where my birthday is still enjoyable, but also serves as a reminder that I’m on the wrong side of my thirties, slipping towards forty ever-faster.

It’s also that point in my life that I’m becoming more aware of my own mortality.  Youthfulness compensated for poor dietary choices and succulent overeating in fifteen years ago; now, I’m feeling more and more the ravages of delicious indiscretions.  I also find I don’t sleep as well (usually) as I once did, and I will ache in places that never bothered me before.

That said, I’m still fairly spry, and while my on-stage antics might not be nearly as acrobatic as they were in my twenties, I still manage to huff and puff my way around a stage—and onto coffee tables, if need be.  Anything to entertain the crowd.

With that, I thought I’d celebrate Lazy Sunday and my birthday with some of my personal favorite posts:

That’s it for this birthday Sunday.  If you’d like to celebrate with me, considering giving yourself the gift of subscribing to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.

Regardless, Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

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Gig Day IV: Spooktacular II

We’re a mere day away from Halloween.  All the build-up and fun are reaching their culmination.  Indeed, I’ll be playing a fortieth birthday party tomorrow—a last-minute booking that will make it a very lucrative Halloween for yours portly.

But tonight I’ll be hosting my second annual Halloween Spooktacular!  I staged my first Spooktacular last year, and it was so much fun, I decided I had to do it again.

Unfortunately, in The Age of The Virus many venues have stopped hosting live music.  For example, the coffee shop that hosted last year’s Spooktacular is doing take-out orders only.  That’s the case with a number of other coffee shops in my area, which has eliminated most live performances and open mic nights.

So I decided to stage the Spooktacular on my front porch!

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TBT: Lazy Sunday LVIII: Spring Break Short Story Recommendations Recap

It’s getting into that spooky time of year, so for this week’s TBT I decided to look back at “Lazy Sunday LVIII: Spring Break Short Story Recommendations Recap.”  I spent most of my Spring Break this year reading horror short stories, writing reviews about and recommendations for some of the better stories I read.

I won’t do much more editorializing than that, as the original post is quite lengthy and detailed.  I will add that love short stories, and find the form chillingly effective for horror.  The brevity and concision of the form encourages horror writers to deliver chills and terror straightaway, and allows for frights to be the focus.

With that, here is “Lazy Sunday LVIII: Spring Break Short Story Recommendations Recap“:

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TBT: On Ghost Stories

Today marks the first day of October, perhaps my favorite month of the year.  We’re already getting that first crisp coolness in the air here in South Carolina, and it’s feeling more and more like autumn every day.

So with Halloween just thirty days away, I thought it would be fun to look back at a post from last “All Hallowe’s Eve Eve,” as I wrote at the time:  one all about ghost stories.

I finally finished slogging my way through The Penguin Book of Ghost Stories, thanks in no small part to quarantine.  It’s an excellent collection, and I stand by my recommendation from last October, but there are a handful of stories that are way too long—or dense.

I’m now reading through a more accessible, far lighter read:  the classic Tar Heel Ghosts by John Harden.  It’s a collection of North Carolina-based ghost stories published in the 1950s, so it has that pleasing sense of implicit patriotism and love of place that is now so sadly missing from our cynical, cosmopolitan writing of today.  Like The Story of Yankee Whaling, it possesses a refreshing innocence about and love for its subject:  no hand-wringing over now-unfashionable ideas, no condemnation of a lack of diversity, no talk of “marginalized” groups being “unrepresented.”

I picked up the book sometime in my childhood on a family trip, but I don’t think I ever finished the collection.  I’m rectifying that all these years later, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it.  I also plan to reread Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree, one of my favorites to pull out this time of year.

Here’s hoping you find some spooky tales of your own to curl up with on these cold, October nights.  Here’s October 2019’s “On Ghost Stories“:

It’s Halloween!  Well, at least it’s All Hallow’s Eve Eve, but that’s close enough for some ghoulishly delicious ghost stories.

I love a good ghost story.  The Victorians did the genre best, but many writers since have honed it further, adding their own unique twists and scares.  Even Russell Kirk, the great conservative philosopher, was a fan of ghost stories.  Indeed, his bestselling book was a ghost story.

For the Victorians, ghost stories were told at Christmastime.  This timing, while peculiar to modern readers, makes sense intuitively—Christmas is a time for remembering the past, in part (perhaps especially) our honored dead (just ask Washington Irvingif he comes by to haunt you).  The “ghosts” of departed loved ones linger closely during those long, frosty nights.  The inherent nostalgia of Christmas and the winter season—and bundling up next to a crackling fire—sets the perfect mood for ghostly tales.

Nevertheless, what other time of year can beat Halloween for a good tale of witches and werewolves; of monsters and mummies; of ghouls, goblins, and ghosts?

As such, I’d encourage readers to check out “Nocturne of All Hallow’s Eve,” a deliciously frightening, blood-soaked tale of the supernatural and the macabre from Irish-American author Greg Patrick.  Alternative fiction website Terror House Magazine posted it back in September, and I’ve been saving it to share on the blog until now.

Patrick’s style conjures the dense verbiage of Edgar Allan Poe.  Indeed, he overdoes it a bit (see his more recently published “The Familiar“).  But his subject matter is pure Halloween—the tenuous space between the natural and the supernatural, the mysterious rituals, and on and on.

If you’re still in search of some ghostly reads, check out The Penguin Book of Ghost Stories.  It’s the collection I’ve been reading since my trip to New Jersey this summer.  It’s a truly spine-tingling collection that covers some of the great—and many of the undeservedly unsung—writers of the genre, the men and women who truly created and molded what makes a good ghost story.

So wherever you find yourself the next couple of nights, curl up with a good book, a warm fire, and a good ghost story (and maybe someone else, if you’re so inclined).  You and the ghosts will be glad you did!

Ghost

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Things That Go Bump in the Night

Audre Myers over at Nebraska Energy Observer always has some interesting observations about the world around us (indeed, once a week she writes a post called “Random Observations“—check it out).  Her latest post—the whimsically titled “ooOOoo – BOO!“—explores the world beyond our observation, the world of ghosts, spirits, demons, and “haints.”  It’s also the world of angels, and of God.

Myers makes a point that that really hit me when I was in college taking a senior seminar history course called “Society and the Supernatural”:  that as Christians, if we believe in the Holy Trinity, we also have to believe in a broader supernatural world.  For Christians, there is ample scriptural evidence of not just the presence of the Holy Spirit, but also of angels—with their own hierarchy and roles—and demons, those fallen angels that joined Lucifer in his prideful rebellion against God.  The Bible speaks often of “principalities” and spirits that rule over ungodly nations.

How far beyond Scripture such supernatural creatures extend is a source of speculation and debate, and I suspect we won’t truly know until we’re on the other side.  There is a danger in exploring the non-godly supernatural, as it opens spiritual doors within us that could make us susceptible to demonic influence—or, at the extremes, possession.  Compulsive sinning can have the same effect, but messing with the occult—even out of an innocent curiosity to understand that world better—seems far likelier to result in catastrophic unintended consequences.

What I did learn in that college course, though, was that at least one member of the Scottish Enlightenment (whose name and work I cannot locate—blast!) expended a great deal of energy trying to discover fairies (apparently, people are still looking for them).  He reasoned that if fairies, giants, and other mythical creatures of Scottish folklore existed, that would prove the existence of the supernatural.  If the supernatural is real, God is real; if God is real, then fairies can exist.

Our groping, grasping attempts to understand the supernatural are, well, natural—it’s certainly a fascinating subject.  But the Bible makes it clear what fate awaits us if we accept Christ—and what awaits us if we reject Him.

Still, I do not discount out-of-hand the possibility of supernatural presences beyond what we know from Scripture.  I don’t want to go poking around in their domains for the reasons stated above, but it’s intellectually arrogant and shortsighted to assume we know everything.  That’s the folly of our modern age—we applaud ourselves for demystifying the world, yet we’re more lost and in the dark than ever.

And what of those Scottish fairies?  Surely their existence is more than the feeble attempts of ancient minds to explain the natural world, as the priests of scientism and materialism would argue.  No, there is too much anecdotal evidence—across thousands of years and cultures—to discount the existence of such things.

All I know is that Jesus is alive—and all this talk of ghosts has me excited for Halloween.