Just finished reading this anthology of short stories from author Brandon Ford. Ford already has three novels under his belt (CRYSTAL BAY, SPLATTERED BEAUTY, and PAY PHONE) and also has short stories in seven different anthology collections. But with DECAYED ETCHINGS Ford showcases 18 of his own stories collected in one anthology. This is the first work I've read from Brandon Ford and in many ways he hits the mark by giving us some interesting, well-developed characters and, in some cases, puts them in some very interesting situations. What surprised me the most, though, is that the majority of stories here really aren't "horror" stories. To be fair, Ford never claims that they are, but the description of the book does say that Ford "delivers 18 brand new, never before published tales of the dark, twisted, and macabre." This kind of implies that we're dealing with the horror genre. The stories are good, have you, and some of them are excellent, but at most I'd call them "thrillers" or "suspense stories" more so than horror. Let's look at some of them.
The first story, "Goodbye, Elsie," is about a man, Victor, who isn't taking the break up with his wife very well. He snaps and starts trashing his apartment and anything that was Elsie's. As the story progresses we learn a few things about Victor that paints a different story of what caused the break up and there's even an interesting element that Ford throws in but never fully explores. "Goodbye, Elsie" has interesting and well developed characters, but it falters a little with the ending. These are elements I see over and again in Ford's writings.
"Band of Gold" is by far Ford's goriest story as Bill frantically searches for his wedding band that he lost when he was cheating on his wife with a prostitute. He thinks he knows where he lost his ring and he'll do anything to get it back ... and he does indeed do anything!! We again get some fantastic character development as Bill goes from a rather meek guy to one determined to find his ring. The motivation for Bill turning as dark as he did was there and I totally bought into this dark turn. The gore comes at you suddenly in this one and it was very well done. But, as mentioned above, the ending isn't all that strong. We get such a solid build up, great character arc, and gore, that it's a shame he ends the story on such a rather bland note. Ending aside, though, this is a story worth checking out.
Other strong stories include "A Walk in the Park," "My Sacred Slumber" (which has a really dark ending that stuck with me after reading it), "I'm Up Here," and "Famous Last Words." These stories are also the one's that have more of a horror-ish feel to them (except "Famous Last Words." Not very horrific, but it's a great story). Most of the stories in DECAYED ETCHINGS would make great TWILIGHT ZONE episodes (as long as the endings were re-worked). Most aren't gory, but they all seem to have a rather ironic edge to them (like many TWILIGHT ZONE eps have). Ford's strength is no doubt in the characters he builds in each story. I found myself able to relate to many of them and I cared what happened to them. I'm definitely going to check out one, if not all, of his novels. If he can create such rich, detailed characters in 10-12 pages, I definitely gotta see what he can do with a few characters over a hundred pages.
DECAYED ETCHINGS is overall an enjoyable collection of Brandon Ford's short stories. His ability to create rich, textured characters and set up a creepy atmosphere is second to none. But I would like to see Ford work on the endings of his stories more in order to give each entry that "punch" readers will be looking for. Check out DECAYED ETCHINGS; you'll have a fun time with it. Check out the collection here.
Author: Brandon Ford
Plot: 3 out of 5 stars (for the overall anthology)
Gore: 3 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer for [...]