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Book Review by Jean Russell,
McKenna’s stories will keep you awake
Evil Little Stories
By Neal McKenna
Evil Little Stories: A Collection
Don’t read these stories when you’re alone on a dark and stormy night. You might not make it to morning.
Neal McKenna is well known to Showcase readers for the front cover feature stories he writes here.
Those usually bright and cheery profiles of people and events give no hint to his dark side—the side that writes truly chilling tales.
Here’s a sample.
“Howling, a whirlwind swept about him. He was whisked upward and away. I’m dreaming, his mind confirmed, I must be dreaming! He vanished into a silent void…
“Naked, Matt Turner stood in the funeral chapel. The room was empty except for Barry’s open coffin. A hymn played softly from somewhere. Compelled, he moved forward, approaching the altar and the casket. The smell of roses was overpowering. He forced himself to look into Barry Hueson’s face.
“Peaceful, the body rested as though sleeping. Matt Turner gripped the coffin’s edge for support. “Barry, please.” He spoke to the dead man. “Not tonight.” To his horror, Barry Hueson’s eyes sprang wide, staring glassily. His hands lurched without direction.
“Repelled, Matt Turner pulled back. Intellect refused to believe what his senses conveyed. His body held fast, unable to respond to the directive for flight. Only a hollow hiss issued from his larynx. The corpse flailed in the burnished oak and bronze casket, dead hands clawing at the white satin lining for support. Barry Hueson sat upright. The head turned mechanically. Vacant eyes stared, gaining a gradual intelligence. A sardonic smile scarred the waxy face.
“‘Was it a hot wedding night, Matt?’ The cadaver slung a limp leg out of the coffin. ‘Did you have a good time with my wife?’ The thing cocked its head wryly, ‘Or, I should say, our wife.’”
Believe me, it starts to get weird from there.
McKenna doesn’t sleep well, or at least his characters don’t. The line between nightmares and fully awake terror is always blurry.
And he balances his text evenly between descriptive passages and dialogue that scrolls like a movie script.
“The hitchhiker called from behind. ‘How far you going?’ He turned, looking into the night.
“‘Don’t exactly know. Maybe as far as the Quebec border. Going that way?’”
“‘It’ll do,’ the hitchhiker answered, his boots grinding on the gravel underfoot.
“He opened the passenger door and the interior lights flashed on. He saw a man not unlike himself. ‘Nice car,’ he said, tossing his backpack into the rear seat.
“‘Yeah, it is,’ The driver stared through the windshield into the darkness ahead.
“‘This is an isolated stretch of road. How long have you been waiting for a ride?’
“‘Since sundown. Thanks for stopping.’
“‘Maybe you can do me a good turn sooner than you expect.’ The small but bright lights winked off as the car door closed, plunging both into momentary night blindness.
“‘I really don’t think so.’
“‘I’d like your wallet, please.” The hitchhiker’s words came matter-of-factly. Polite.
“The driver was distantly aware of a metallic click and the glint of moonlight on a polished blade.”
Review by Bradley Brian Drain
Evil Little Stories
This collection of eight gems from author Neal McKenna really does hit the spot for connoisseurs of the frightening, the surreal, and the strange. Encounters with vampires, deals with demons, flirtations with a parallel universe, murder, mystery, eroticism, life, death, voodoo, and the hereafter - the gang's all here! Catch your breath and turn the page! Sweetly crafted little masterpieces, all very different, but each comes with the same sobering reminder - nothing is as it seems. Rod Serling would have been proud to put his name to these tales; they're more twisted than a pretzel, and just as tasty. One tip though - read it in daylight if your nerves are weak; only read it at night - if you've got the guts. A winning release from Neal McKenna and SynergEbooks, but trust me, you'll need therapy after this one...
Bradley Brian Drain
Comments on Evil Little Stories
Neal McKenna begins his stories in a most innocuous way. His narratives stray just enough from reality, to make us question what is happening. Then, like plunging through the ice on a frozen lake, he takes us into worlds where almost anything can happen. These stories always remain close enough to the odd events that happen in everyday life to make them possible and scary as hell! Verna Relkoff, Nelson, BC, Canada
Neal McKenna is an excellent story teller. His short stories are not just interesting but always spellbinding. They keep you wondering what is coming around the next corner. He has a gift with words, and they dance off the paper to intrigue his reading audience. Sandra Ludlow, South Slocan, BC, Canada
I find Neal McKenna's writing to be out of the ordinary. He has a subtle way of introducing slight twists to his work that keeps it interesting and fun. His writing style is relaxed and caters to a wide range of readers of all ages. I would recommend his work to anyone. Leagh Edwards, Kelowna, BC, Canada
When I read Neal McKenna's stories, I cannot stop. The suspense is too relentless. His characters are often sweet but sad and shockingly real. Fascinating! Many of his stories occur in places I know. Years ago, I lived in Toronto and regularly traveled about Northern Ontario. Familiar locations make his stories all the more interesting. Christian Brix - Vancouver, BC, Canada
Image via Donnalethal