Giallo Fantastique is Dark, Lush, and Irresistable

Cover of Giallo Fantastique One of my favorite film genres is, without a doubt, the giallo. The giants in this area – Argento, Bava, Lucio – provide such an interesting mix of mystery, murder, noir, and always just a touch of something a little more. Usually it’s something twisted or paranormal or just outright frightening. So, when I saw that Word Horde was going to be putting out Giallo Fantastique, a collection of stories in the giallo genre, I was definitely excited!

Ross E. Lockhart has edited directed a collection of twelve stories by some of the best names around. In his introduction he discusses his choice for the title, as well as the use of the color yellow, which he explains became connected to the idea of decadence in the early 19th century. Decadence, weird crime, and fantastic horror weave through each of the stories, and there is something here for everyone.

I found “Minerva” by Michael Kazepis and “In the Flat Light” by Adam Cesare to be the most closely related to the feel of giallo that I am used to seeing on the screen. Twisted murders and protagonists who are faced with nightmare-like circumstances play a part in both of these stories, and leave the reader with a sense that the world has been moved bit by bit out of the norm until it careens disturbingly out of control.

Orrin Grey’s “The Red Church” was also one of my favorites. There is a nice mixture of horror elements in this story. Grey’s protagonist is a reporter on a quest to interview an elusive artist, and several of the stories in this collection involve individuals who are interviewing or writing biographies, a plot device that works well and differently in each situation. I enjoyed seeing how each of the authors using this technique went about creating their story.

Possibly the most original take on the genre was “Hello, Handsome” by Garrett Cook, which introduces us to both an unusual protagonist and killer. I also enjoyed Anya Martin’s “Sensoria”, which brought in a bit of the gothic and used fantasy and suspense to weave a darkly beautiful tale that will haunt me for some time to come.

John Langan’s “The Communion of Saints” works from the point of view of a detective who is plagued with a series of murders by some extremely interesting criminals, a case which ends up taking him somewhere completely unexpected. I loved the various elements that he brought into this story – horror, weird, giallo, mystery – they are all combined and melded together in a really ingenious way.

I don’t want to say too much about these stories and give all the goodness away. I will say that there are also stories that pull in some science fiction, move more into the dusky recesses of the erotic, dip their toes into true-crime, and test the borders of a variety of different genres and worlds. In short, Giallo Fantastique is special, original, and impossible to put down. You’re going to want to curl up on a rainy evening with your glass of bourbon, turn the lights down low, throw something from Goblin on repeat, and just dive right in.

Savage and Beautiful: Laird Barron’s The Light Is the Darkness

Cover of The Light Is the DarknessI absolutely love Laird Barron‘s work, and have previously written on him. Recently I read The Light Is the Darkness and was completely blown away again.

Conrad Navarro is a trained fighter for the Pageant, a series of brutal events staged in secret for an elite group of rich creeps. Conrad is also searching for his sister, Imogene, who disappeared during her own search for the mysterious, and nefarious, Dr. Drake, whose unorthodox scientific experiments are believed by both siblings to have caused the death of their brother when they were children. The book is set in the weird version of a noir underground. Power plays pull Conrad back and forth between warring factions, and the characters spend most of their time entrenched within corruptive practices of one type or another. The weird infringes throughout, whether it is the odd set of physical attributes that Conrad seems to have been born with, or, in a more overt appearance, an otherworldly erotic close encounter with something in the other room.

Barron’s writing is sparse and minimalist when needed, both capturing the brutal feel of this character and his world, and then expanding just enough when needed to bring in a dark beauty for the descriptions. This work has some extremely beautiful dark prose that hits hard whether it describes a nightmarish landscape just the other side of this dimension

The moon shrieked below the threshold of human perception, reverberated in vast stygian chambers of rock and bone.

or the dream land someone like Conrad visits in his sleep

This bestial presence hunched until its crown of antlers scraped rock, and it chuckled and growled and reached for him, clutched him and drew him into the light.

or the beginning of one of the many, bloody and gruesome fights

The slow waltz in Hell began without music.

This book unfolds almost like a classic detective story, with Conrad continuing to search for his sister while being continually sidetracked by the competing factions in his world. However, his search for her, for answers, and for the man that may have ruined his life comes to a much more dramatic conclusion, as dark unimaginable forces begin to come into play, and Conrad himself begins to change.

If for some reason you have not yet read any of Barron’s work, you absolutely should stop whatever you are doing right now and go find some.