Epeolatry Book Review: The Misery King’s Closet: An Anthology of Hidden Horror by Kevin M. Folliard


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Title: The Misery King’s Closet: An Anthology of Hidden Horror
Author: Kevin M. Folliard
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Independent
Release Date: 3rd Sept, 2020

Synopsis: “You’ve been lured to a nightmare as real as a shameful secret. It is a realm of white noise and shuddery sensations, ruled by the Misery King.” In this collection of 24 horror stories by Kevin M. Folliard, hidden scares lurk in shadowy spaces. Cursed relics, paranormal parasites, and devious desires haunt these tales previously published by Sanitarium Magazine, The Horror Tree, Hinnom Magazine, The No Sleep Podcast, and more. In “Late Night Snack,” a devilish chef feeds his host’s malicious appetites. “Carnival Debt” portrays a cadre of clowns who rule a crooked Big Top. “The Bagman Cometh” depicts a too-perfect town with an annual sacrifice, where children fall prey to an unearthly boogeyman. From inner demons to outer monsters, this collection shows what happens when sinister secrets fester.

“Ghostly bourbon fumes swim in streetlamp vertigo.” (From Road Shadow, a drabble)

I came across American horror writer Kevin Folliard on the virtual pages of The Horror Tree site where his short fiction has appeared in the Trembling with Fear weekly fiction section. I also read his Short Sharp Shock! Book 25- Candy Corn last year which is excellent, and very scary, so I thought, yes—I’m up for reading this latest collection!

I read a lot of horror these days, both short stories and novels, and it takes a quite a lot to make an impression on my horror-saturated soul. So, first off, I have to say, Kevin Folliard can WRITE! And then some. He really grips an audience by the neck. Some of his prose reads like poetry (see the quote above which leapt off the page).

Folliard is adept at writing dialogue and spinning the story along using lengthy chains of colloquial chat which pack in an impressive amount of back story (and gives us, the readers, insight about the characters and their histories). Impressively executed.

Great title too – very original. Inside this closet are worlds within worlds of dark places, occupied by dark-stained souls.

Now it’s shout-out time! (i.e. kudos to the stories which really clicked with me, though there are no weak pieces in this collection.)

“Mirror Mirror”a new story for the collection. Something evil lurks in the ‘antique dresser mirror’ and Uncle Brian has to fight to protect his niece, Kayleigh, from its clutches. Atmospheric and chilling and taps into kiddies’ nightmares.

“Deep and Dark”—a story originally published in Triangle Magazine– wow -this one really hit me in the gut. Possibly because some of the action is set in a swimming pool and the two teen protagonists are both swimmers (as am I), and a pool is a place where you are both exposed and yet, supposedly, safe. I could smell the chlorine.

Lee and Sam have an intense, dedicated friendship until Sam drowns in the ‘baby blue bottom’ of the pool (brilliant phrase). Flashbacks portray the genesis of their relationship and how Lee begins to understand and glimpse something evil and demonic living inside his friend, an outwardly all-American blonde-haired sports boy. (Metaphors here?) In the deserted, drained-out pool Lee has a terrifying encounter with the entity, which made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

“Ink”—a tale originally published in Bumps in the Road- A Horror Anthology—is another one that creeped me out. It’s a deceptively simple set-up; a lone male driver at night parks to rest in an isolated ‘rest spot’. So far so normal. Then two teens turn up asking for a lift. Does he let them in? And why wouldn’t he? Folliard ramps up the tension. Even the words ‘Take us home,’ carry menace. Brilliantly done.

“Rocking Horse”—a drabble published in Trembling with Fear—demonstrates what he can do with only one hundred words. It also shows how family history and webs of evil can be revealed through a child’s rocking horse and a few lines of dialogue. Clever and shiver-inducing.

The collection ends with a début novella, The Bagman Cometh. The titular bagman is a creature concocted from nightmares, preceded by ‘the horrible-fishy stench’ with a ‘serrated smile’ and a tongue like an eel and a coat like ‘an ocean of shadows’. Get the picture? Not someone you’d want to cosy up with. The ending one-ups the terror of what has gone before, so wait for the last few lines before you draw breath.

Folliard’s writing is impressively solid and professional through to its DNA. Definitely worth buying and reading. This is Folliard at the top of his writing game!

5/5 stars

Available from Amazon and Bookshop.

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