Tuesday 9 June 2020

Book Review: Ghost Stories for Starless Nights

Book Review: Ghost Stories for Starless Nights

Review by Casey Douglass

Ghost Stories for Starless Nights

Ghost Stories for Starless Nights is a new horror anthology from DBND Publishing. It features 22 ghostly tales and, upon reaching the final page, you realise how varied and inventive this collection of stories really is. Some are more gory than others, others are simply strange, yet others are humorous and a bit whimsical. You are unlikely to get tired of the ghostly theme either, as the interesting twists adopted by each author always seem to refresh your literary palate ahead of the next tale.

The book begins with a mood-setting poem by Baylee Friday, one that opens the reader up to the idea that hauntings can arise in more than one form. After this tasty appetiser, the stories begin, each throwing up something different to the previous one. There is a haunted mirror, a death-race for bikers, a time and geography-looping brush with a demon, a possessed writer, even some strange cursed windows. I find myself wanting to talk about so many of the stories, but I'll limit myself to the three or four that really stood out for me.

After Life by Clark Boyd is a tale about a rich and spoiled man who finds himself unexpectedly struggling in the after life. The tale has a Beetlejuice-esque feel to things, especially in the way that newly dead people are assigned places to haunt by a kind of afterlife job centre. The humour made me chuckle too. There is a certain exchange between the dead man and his undead job advisor, which sees him consigned to haunting a stall in a mens toilet, giving rise to the line: “It’s kind of hard to scare the shit out of someone when they’re already shitting!”

The Inheritance by Marc Joan follows a guy who has to clear out his departed, reclusive uncle’s old rural cottage. Reading this story actually made me feel a little cold and miserable, as the bleakness of the scenery and the chill of the old cottage is wonderfully described. It also likely helps that it’s based in Norfolk and The Fens, which was a pleasant surprise as it’s rare to come across a story set in a landscape that isn’t too far from me. The uncle’s cottage contains very little, except bizarrely, a digital photo frame that only contains one picture. Spoiler alert: It’s not porn. There is also a creepy scarecrow in the field behind the cottage. Strangeness then transpires...

One of the strangest tales for me was Brown Cat Blues by Vaughan Stanger. It’s a story about someone going away for a long trip and worrying about how their neighbour’s cat very possibly could’ve sneaked inside their home before they closed the door, as is its habit. This creates a ghost-projection of cat anxiety, and it makes this tale feel a little like Casper the Friendly Ghost meets Schrödinger's cat. It’s very well written, and it stands out to me as one of the more curious tales in the book.

I mentioned cursed windows in my summary above so I’d better mention the tale they originate from: Beyond the Glass by Phil Stressman. A couple are in the process of building their new house. One night, the husband arrives home with some strange windows that he found near an abandoned property in the area. The glass is odd, distorted, but they take a liking to the windows and use them as their own. It isn’t until the neighbours find out where the windows came from, and more importantly, the wife realises that the view through them isn’t quite as it should be, that she begins to fear that the windows are cursed.

The final story I want to mention is Dominic by Sam Hicks. It’s set in a student house in London. One day, a strange pinkish plate is discovered, one that keeps being set at an extra place at the table. The women living there joke about it, they start to say that it’s for “Dominic”, and begin coming up with light-hearted conversations about him. Things take a strange turn when these exchanges start to bring up jealousy and rivalry, and events in the house go downhill from there. I really enjoyed the inventiveness of this story, the way a joke evolved into something quite horrible. It was a very satisfying tale.

Ghost Stories for Starless Nights is an easy anthology to read. While some stories are longer than others, it didn’t feel like any of them outstayed their welcome. The change in setting and tone of each story makes it a great book to dip into as well, reading a few tales in a sitting rather than reading it from cover to cover in one or two sessions. There will be stories you like better than others, but for me, there were no bad stories, just ones that I found less interesting than others. I could have written about another four or five stories above, which means at least half the book spoke to me, which is revealing in and of itself. If you fancy reading some inventive, bleak, strange and funny ghost stories, you’d do well to check out Ghost Stories for Starless Nights.

I was given a review copy of this book. Thanks to Promote Horror for arranging it.

Book Title: Ghost Stories for Starless Nights
Book Author: Anthology
Publisher: DBND Publishing
Released: May 2020
ISBN: 979-8636973249
Current Price: $6.13 (Kindle) / $14.99 (Paperback)