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Title: Stories of High Strangeness
By: Marc Shapiro
Publisher: Copypasta Publishing
Synopsis: A zombie goes looking for something more important than his next meal. A one hit wonder faces certain death or worse because he refuses to play ‘Free Bird’. An X rated ghost story plays out on the floor of a porno film dubbing stage. A low-level drug dealer comes up with the perfect plan to wipe out the competition. A stud in a post- Apocalyptic world has one small problem.
What is it that I do? I’ll take the fifth on that one. Suffice it to say my stories are weird, bizarre and occasionally unclassifiable. If you’re brave enough, this is the ticket to ride the dark skies of Stories Of High Strangeness.
There’s some squishy stuff, some Merchant Ivory stuff, some extreme, some subtle. If there’s a master plan it’s to mix pathos, hope, melancholy, humor and real characters into a stew of shadows, light, carnage and feelings of ‘What the fuck!’.
The Gods I bow down to? Rod Serling, Charles Bukowski, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert Bloch, Harlan Ellison and Ray Bradbury. I live and die by the vibe of Black Sabbath, Dio, the soundtracks from The Exorcist and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and the more manic strains of 60’s psychedelia.
He stepped up and back into the frozen tableau. One arm reached out toward Ann. She was transfixed, a look of fear, confusion, and that deadliest of emotions, curiosity, playing out across her face. She looked at Bob, whose own face offered no answer. Her jeans once again fell to her ankles. She kicked them away. Ann took a hesitant step forward, then another. A third brought her to the Ninja’s outstretched hand. She looked at Bob.
There was nothing to keep her in this world.
Short story collections provide an excellent means of getting a solid feel for an author’s style in a way that doesn’t always happen when reading a novel.
Stories of High Strangeness by Marc Shapiro indeed offers a thorough sampling of Shapiro’s style and body of work. With many stories falling under the flash fiction umbrella, the collection is a cornucopia of both horror and weird fiction. If one story fails to appeal, another, quite-different tale awaits.
The spectrum is bloody and broad: from a father-son machete-wielding duo to a south-of-the-border madman collecting heads.
The stories pull few punches in terms of gratifying sex and gore, and—in that vein—Shapiro also seems to offer up a good variety of tales without a sense of reservation or repetition. That is: his heart is clearly in the work no matter what else.
However, the stories tend to be telly, leaving little room for inference. Likewise, most are rife with narrative summary where perhaps more description, action, and dialog would have done the excellent plots a higher service. The language is accessible, with several clever turns of phrase, but can bog down a bit in cliché, as well.
A few errors pepper the collection, though most cosmetic and forgivable.
Reminiscent of Tales from the Crypt or Creepshow, Stories of High Strangeness’ appeal lay largely in the plots and ideas Shapiro creates, if lacking somewhat in grace.
You can pick up a copy of Stories of High Strangeness on Amazon!