Ginger Nuts of Horror
Colors in Darkness is an online site that publishes dark fiction from authors of colour. They’ve put together their first anthology and it does not disappoint. This is a varied and entertaining read.
The concept is that every story is by a different author but centres around the Kretcher Motel in the 1960s. There are certain lynchpin features - such as the fountain in the lobby which doesn’t work any more and, of course, the bewitching Sybline Kretcher, the manager who runs the motel on behalf of the Devil.
The risk with an anthology that demands its stories all contain common elements is that the tales could end up seeming too similar, or the features necessary to give it cohesion could be shoehorned in at the expense of the story. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen here and each author’s interpretation of the commonalities is unique enough that you really do get the impression of looking at the same thing but through different eyes each time and the common elements draw the stories together so that they truly appear as parts of a whole rather than disparate and unconnected narratives.
For me, Sybline was a mesmerising addition each time. Her character alters depending on the situation; she welcomes some guests with warmth, others with hostility, so each author has the leeway to portray the manager in their own unique way. The introduction by Mya Lairis, in which we learn about Sybline’s character and her background, is as much a work of seamless fiction in itself as it is an idea of what is to come.
The Thing in Room 204 - CW Blackwell
This tale was very bold, very concise and nicely self-contained making it a good first story. However, I felt it had a random ending which rather spoilt it for me.
Karma Suture - Tawanna Sullivan
This story was a nice contrast to the first one, showing off the ability of the anthology to deliver diverse tales while maintaining a consistent setting. Whereas the first story was set mostly in the hotel itself, this one has a lot of detail of the world surrounding the hotel, making it an ideal second story to expand our knowledge of the hotel. I thought the ending worked well with its sense of poetic justice, however I didn’t feel there was enough back story for me to really invest in it whole-heartedly.
The Last Days of Jerome Brown - Jordan King-Lacroix
A nightmarish short story and, although it felt a little predictable, it was still nicely written.
Roost - Kenya Moss Dyme
The previous stories had been focussed with just one point of view character which had worked very well in giving the reader plenty of different perspectives of the hotel. However, this short story had four POV characters, and I felt that was just too much. The end result was rather confusing. In one instance, I couldn’t figure out who had actually killed one of the other characters. Luckily with the solid preceding stories, I was invested in the concept by now and happy to read on.
Salvation - Ross Baxter
In the same way that Roost tries to change the pace by packing in more POV characters, Salvation is a story jam-packed with extra information. The premise was interesting, the middle was solid (if a little heavy on information at the expense of atmosphere), and the ending was a lovely twist. However, I felt the final scenes in this tale really spoiled it: they were clichéd and felt crass after what had been a very thoughtful story beforehand. If I read it again, I might stop before I reach the very end!
The Honeymoon Suite: Jacob’s Reunion - Sumiko Saulson
If this story was standalone, I feel it would have been rather weak, but as part of this collection it was well-chosen. I liked the reference to real world events because it made both the story and the hotel feel more grounded.
A Long Way from the Ritz - Eden Royce
I really liked this story. It was subtle and kept you guessing without ever confusing you. It was nicely sinister and well-paced.
A Devil of a Deal - David O’Hanlon
A conversational tone in a story can either work well or entirely ruin the story: I’m pleased to say that it works brilliantly here. This is another story that manages to pack a load of back story into a few thousand words, but it is adeptly done and is directly relevant to the background of the hotel itself. I could have done without the final Lucifer-Scratch showdown but the tale ends on a note of wonderfully dark justice: whatever the outcome, the Devil always wins.
Hollygraham - Sy Shanti
An interesting choice of story where the use of technology contrasts well with the previous stories which are heavy on the supernatural. This had a nice build up and a fun twist, but I felt the ending was a bit of a mess.
Fleshtrap - Querrus Abuttu
Unfortunately for me the inconsistencies in this story ruined it for me. Sometimes it was plot issues - such as how does he know that Gordo needs reminding if he’s never worked with him before? - and sometimes it was editorial issues - such as how can you stare into someone’s eyes and take note of their nails at the same time?
Mister Mackintosh - David Turnbull
After the blood, gore and despair of the previous stories it was refreshing to come across a story that was vaguely happy! I thought it was well crafted and that not one scene was wasted in taking the story forward.
The Adjustors - Dahlia DeWinters
The dramatic irony in this is highly enjoyable. You know what is coming, but the author keeps the tension going so you’re keen to see just how it shakes down. The final scene adds an unexpected depth and poignancy to the rest of the story.
Need - Zin E. Rocklyn
I felt this was an odd choice to end on. It was confusing, with a character called Albert and his friend Albus, meaning you had to really concentrate on what was happening to which character. I also felt that the ending wasn’t explained well enough and I would much have preferred to end on The Adjustors as I felt that was the stronger story.
This anthology would make an excellent holiday read, or perhaps perfect for a commute. The descriptive links mean that it’s easy to sink into each story with familiarity, but the tales are sufficiently diverse that each one is a new experience. Overall, a very impressive collection that is sure to appeal to fans of The Hyde Hotel or The Devil’s Guests.
Colors in Darkness, the premiere online site for dark fiction authors of color presents its first anthology! Amid the upheaval of the 1960s, the Kretcher Motel opened in a poor, desolate part of Atlanta. It still serves its original purpose: to lure those souls who are lost, who are troubled, who are evil…to itself. Check in to view these thirteen dark tales of horror, betrayal, fear, and wickedness, all featuring characters of color. You may never want to leave. The Thing in Room 204 – C.W. Blackwell Karma Suture – Tawanna Sullivan The Last Day of Jerome Brown – Jordan King-Lacroix Roost – Kenya Moss-Dyme Salvation – Ross Baxter The Honeymoon Suite: Jacob’s Reunion – Sumiko Saulson A Long Way From the Ritz – Eden Royce Mister Mackintosh – David Turnbull Flesh Trap – Querus Abuttu A Devil of a Deal – David O’Hanlon Hollygraham – Sy Shanti The Adjusters – Dahlia DeWinters Need – Zin E. Rocklyn With an introduction to the stories by Mya Lairis.