Skull Full of Kisses by Michael West: A Short Story Stradivarius

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Skull Full of Kisses is a ten story collection of Michael West’s short fiction. I can tell you know, that if you go to read this collection, you will find no two stories alike. Each and every one is different, unique and damned scary.

There is a short story in there for everyone.

Interested in Japanese culture? Fascinated by the Yakuza and Japanese Demons? Well Jiki will be right up your alley or basement, in this case.

West gives us glimpses of the horrific haven of Harmony, Indiana and a look at the Lovecraftian village of Colonial Bay; where you definitely don’t want to ask the question – What’s a nice girl like you, doing in a place like this?

There’s a great little place that’s just out of reach in the desert unless you take Einstein’s Slingshot; a one-way ride into the realm of nightmares and things that like human flesh.

If you ever dreamed of being an astronaut, you’ll want to avoid the story To Know How To See, which feels like a Twilight Zone episode with tinges of The Outer Limits.

While I’d love to set here and give little “teasing” clues about what is in the book and the themes of each story, I won’t.

What I will do is urge you to read these…quickly…while with friends…and in the daylight. If you attempt to read these alone, slowly, or at night, you might just have bad dreams. Or more correctly nightmares.

When Michael West tells a scary storynothing can be considered safe. Not even your loving girlfriend who never wants to let you go (For Her).

At the beginning of this post, I said that all the stories were scary. I will hold my hand up and  admit that this is a lie. I will not divulge the title of this particular tale. I’ll let you stumble upon as I did, by reading this collection. It is, I think, my favourite and no, it is not scary in the traditional sense, but is it very good.

West has a little “afterward” in his collection where he talks about what gave him the idea for each story and when it was originally published. It is a fascinating look into the mind of a horror writer. He warns about not reading this section before you read the stories as there could be spoilers hidden there.

I would listen to him. If you skip to the back, he might find out. And, I don’t know, you could wind up in one of his stories.

Now where I might find that entertaining (there’s nothing worse than one of those people who jump to the back of the book) if you are one of those people, I cannot think of a better punishment. Because as much as I love being scared by West’s scary denizens in his stories, I’d hate to have to deal with them.

Another great addition to the Michael West collection I already own and I will now wait (not so) patiently for his next offering of terror.

A real 5 out of 5 for creative and non-repetitive horror. If this collection was a musical instrument, it would be the Stradivarius of its peers; playing with a deeper and more resonant sound than other stories in the genre.

Read it.

Author Michael West and a fan.
Author Michael West and a fan.

The Wind through the Keyhole by Stephen King

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I read my first electronic book yesterday after downloading the iBook app on my new iPad. Not being a huge fan of this whole eBook trend I was dubious to say the least. After buying the book and downloading it, I found to my delight that the “book” was displayed like…well, a book. It had the edges of the cover surrounding the “page” and I could even “flip” the pages. The book itself was only £4.99 and in a very, very short time, I was immersed in King’s latest addition to the Dark Tower verse.

As an eBook virgin till yesterday, I am now sold on this new “style” of reading and have already downloaded and started reading my next electronic book, Life of Pi. (This book, via the iKindle app cost me, twenty pence!) I am digressing terribly but I had to say what I thought of my first eBook reading. *This is not to say that I do not still prefer actual books over the electronic variety, but I am not dead set against them any longer. I think that I can now be referred to as a convert.*

I could not tell you when I first read the first book in King’s epic fantasy tale. The Gunslinger was published in 1982, I don’t remember when I bought it, probably not too late after it hit bookstalls. I do remember waiting for what seemed like forever for the second book in the series to come out. I did buy that one immediately as I was frantic to know what came next.

I feel like I know how those fans felt that thronged the docks in New York waiting to find out what happened to Little Nell in Dickens’s serial The Old Curiosity Shop. The arrival of each new tale in the Dark Tower series felt as though they took forever to be published and I read and re-read the books I already owned while waiting for the next “instalment.”

I fell in love with Roland Deschain the Gunslinger from Gilead. I also fell in love with all the members of his Ka-tet. Ex-drug user and drug mule, Eddie Dean; with his wise-ass way of viewing the world and his razor-sharp humour. Susannah Dean, Jake Chambers, and the billy bumbler Oy all have a place in my heart. I had not realised how much I missed them until I picked up my iPad and started reading King’s last contribution to the Gunslinger’s tale.

Even though this epic long tale has always been called the Dark Tower series, I’ve always thought of it as The Gunslinger series. In my mind King’s verse was (and still is in my mind) the world’s first Western Fantasy. A world that leaps between other worlds and modern times effortlessly as the story moved forward.

The Wind through the Keyhole is a sort of “bridge” story. King himself has said that it filled the gap between Wizard and Glass and The Wolves of Calla. This book is really a story within a story. Related to the others by Roland as they wait for the mother of all ice storms to pass.

In his story, Roland tells of another mission that he went on before the fall of Gilead. This time he went with his friend Jaime De Curry and they are going to find and dispatch a “skin-man” who is terrorising and killing a number of citizens in the town of Debaria. Roland also learns more things about himself in the process.

The very instant my eyes read the first paragraph, I felt I was at home again. I realised that I had really, really missed this small group of gunslingers and their interaction with one another and I missed their world (or worlds to be more accurate). It was nice to be back with the “gang” once more.

The cover on my copy of the first in the Dark Tower seres.
The cover on my copy of the first in the Dark Tower seres.

The book itself came out Spring last year. My life was a bit hectic at that time and I never got a chance to buy or even borrow it from the Library. Time marched on and my life became even more hectic, so much so that I forgot all about King’s newest Dark Tower entry. I only remembered yesterday, when I was looking at the iTunes iBooks listing and I typed in Stephen King on the search bar.

The title appeared and I did not hesitate to purchase and download it. At 601 pages it is a good-sized book, but like most of King’s books, it is a fast read, I was able to finish it in a single reading. I would have written my review immediately upon finishing it (I was that excited about it) but it was after three in the morning and my eyes felt like they’d been dipped in Kerosene.

It’s a  brilliant book, if you’ve not read it for what ever reason, do so now. It’s worth the time you spend and if you are like me, it’s even worth the painful eyes you’ll have when you finish.

5 stars out of 5 for atypical Stephen King entertainment.

Stephen King.
Stephen King.