Here’s the thing: sometimes I just want to sit around and read spooky stories.
There’s nothing quite like the delicious fun of snuggling in, safe in one’s abode, perhaps with a blankie and hot beverage, lights dimmed, and being scared silly by something that’s clearly pure fiction.
Burke aptly speaks to this, in fact, in his introduction to Dead Leaves, a collection of short horror tales. Halloween, he says, is a controlled horror. It takes us away from the very real horrors we face in life and allows us the freedom to enjoy an escapist story; one with which we can always close the book if it becomes too much.
Through Dead Leaves, Burke offers approximately 100 pages of spooky fun.
Think of it as a slightly more adult version of the stories we told around campfires as kids. Spooky enough to tell with oogly spirit fingers, but no gore or extreme violence.
A standout is “The Toll,” in which a misanthropic millionaire awakens to find himself buried alive. “Someone to Carve the Pumpkins” is another keeper, featuring brothers who dare one another to approach the old woman who sits constantly on the front porch of the neighborhood’s suspected haunted house.
Some of the stories pack more scares than others. Some of the phrasing is a touch awkward. Metaphor use is a bit heavy-handed. Overall, though, Dead Leaves is a good book to add to the “sit around and tell scary stories” cannon.
Kealan Patrick Burke
Published October 2011