I recently had the pleasure of reading Mark Lukens’ A Dark Collection: 12 Scary Stories. It’s a great little Horror anthology, and when I finished it on the bus this morning I knew I had to give it a good review this afternoon. I came across A Dark Collection while just randomly searching for scary story anthologies on Amazon, (I don’t recall the exact search terms) and buying (for Kindle) one with a good cover and good reviews. For $2.99, I definitely got my money’s worth.
Lukens’ collection is composed of 12 stories, one for each month, with a theme (usually loosely) connected to that month. The horrors of each story range from Navajo skinwalkers, to eccentric millionaire manhunters, to psychic cult leaders, to good-old-fashioned zombies (but with a major twist.) Each story is different, and vary considerably in length. They all felt the proper length for their content; the pacing was good.
I found myself engaged in each story from start to finish. Lukens’ does a good job of revealing information at a pace that intrigues me without leaving me bored. He has a good minimalist descriptive style; there’s every adjective there needs to be, and not one more. The dialogue and thoughts of characters are for the most part quite natural and contribute to characterization and moving the story along. Lukens’ uses all the senses (where they make sense) in his great descriptions of action, unsettling environments, and disturbing gore. The stories don’t lean on excessive gore to be “scary,” either!
I think my three favorite stories were: Crow Manor (January), Squish (March), and Skinwalkers (September). The first because it was intriguing and suspenseful from start to finish, the second because it was a wonderful kind of disturbing, and the third because it was a creepy and unique portrayal of a non-Western monster, and used its period (the Wild West) well.
The next time I want a new Horror book, I’ll look to Mark Lukens’ again. I hope he writes another anthology, because this one’s great!
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