Philip Fracassi painted his name on the wall last year with a fistful of wonderfully horrific novellas, Mother, Altar and Fragile Dreams. He lets no moss grow under his feet, or fingers I guess we should say as he now graces us with his debut collection, Behold The Void.
There are 9 stories contained here. Some are more in the weird/cosmic horror end of the pool while others have an almost pulpy tone to them. All are wonderful. And I mean, really, if you can get Laird Barron to write your introduction, you must certainly have the goods, no?
On to the stories, We open with "Soft Construction Of A Sunset" a wildly bizarre Dali-esque tale of a lover scorned and the brutal and surreal revenge he exacts with his newly gained yet bizarre powers. This is followed by "Altar," where a simple afternoon trip to the community swimming pool turns into something monstrous and vicious. "The Horse Thief" is a razor-gash of a tale concerning a thief and his fight with the Yakuza over control of a horse god's soul.
"The Baby Farmer" is a hauntingly creepy tale about a priest who is researching the local history of a serial killer and opens up a very dark and damning chapter to the story. This one if superb. "Mother" gives us a heart-breaking tale of a marriage dying, slowly bloating and decaying into something horrible. Something that skitters and spins silk. The collection ends with "Mandala" a harrowing story of boys playing on the beach when the harmless game they play becomes anything but and the circumstances escalate into a custody battle that goes beyond death and the grave.
I skipped touching on a few of these, not because they are bad in any way, but I have to leave some surprises, right? Fracassi works in film and his style shows it. It's a lean prose but not simple. He gives you so much to pay attention to, rich and realistic characters, expansive settings and set-ups and plots that are as twisty as John Merrick's skeleton (I'm a terrible man...) He's definitely one to place your bets on.
Behold The Void is available from Journalstone.
BEHOLD THE VOID is nine stories of terror that huddle in the dark space between cosmic horror and the modern weird, between old-school hard-edged horror of the 1980’s and the stylistic prose of today’s literary giants.
Revenge takes a monstrous form when a scorned lover acquires bizarre, telekinetic powers; a community swimming pool on a bright summer day becomes the setting for a ghastly nightmare of sacrifice and loss; a thief does bloody battle with a Yakuza for the soul of a horse god; a priest must solve the mystery of a century-old serial killer or risk the apocalypse; a newly-married couple discover that relationships-gone-bad can be poisonous, and deadly; a child is forced to make an ultimate choice between letting his parents die or living with the monsters they may become; and when a boy is trapped on a beach at low tide, he must face death in many forms – that of the rising water coming to consume him and the ghost of his dead mother who wants him back, reaching for him with dark, longing arms…