“Surface” Redux

Scratching the SurfaceMore often than not, upon encountering an author who intrigues me, my first impulse is to hit the internet in search of their corpus. And, almost invariably, I encounter that certain book which has either slipped into obscurity or is available but at a cost well beyond my means.

Such was the case with Michael Kelly’s first collection, Scratching the Surface, which was originally published in 2007. Having recently read the author’s 2009 collection, Undertow and Other Laments, I quickly began pining after the first.

Thankfully, Mr. Kelly has answered the call, having recently republished the book under the auspices his own imprint, Undertow Publications. It contains twenty stories, all of which hold magic enough to linger in the mind long after they have been consumed.

The title story alone is worthy of the purchase of this book. It concerns a man known only as “Silva” and the young boy who first befriends and then learns his strange craft. The name Charles Beaumont (of Twilight Zone fame) is brought up in an illuminating introduction by John Pelan, and I must say that the tale is as wonderfully conceived as any by that past master.

Some of the other standouts include: “Thin Red Wire,” an excellent dystopian tale which brings to mind the work of Richard Paul Russo; “Warm Wet Circles”, which had the obsessive oddness of Michael McDowell’s Toplin; “Sea of Ash and Sorrow”, a beautifully horrific post-9/11 tale reminiscent of Ray Bradbury’s “The Lake”.

And while I could continue down the line through all twenty tales, I shall end by encouraging any and all who love carefully crafted works of horror to pick up a copy, for all the tales are brilliant in their own way.

Do visit Mr. Kelly’s website for ordering details, as well as information pertaining to his esteemed journal, Shadows & Tall Trees.

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