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Daniel I Russell - Writer of Horror Fiction

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Ghosts in a Desert World review

One of the attractions of a themed anthology is discovering the many faceted takes on a given topic or idea, and how each author, in their own style and voice, approach that idea. Then again, the reader may become stoic should approaches reveal to be similar, plots becoming stagnant when read in close proximity. What of single author collections? While siblings in voice, stories tend to have a more stand alone feel, with perhaps a single story being the titular piece of the collection.

With Ghosts in a Desert World by Matthew Tait, you won’t find a story taking centre stage. Rather, this reads more like a themed anthology but with all the benefits of a single story collection.

The more you read, and indeed in the business of oneself being a writer, you tend to develop an eye for style and composition; to break down the prose , to take the engine to pieces and see what makes it tick. Here, Tait has a basic, but admirably pure, approach: take a simple idea and layer it with the meat of character driven story telling.

For example, in the opener Car Crash Weather, a writer is disturbed from his daily grind by blood dripping from his ceiling, which gets steadily worse. A simple premise, but add to this the inner demons of the protagonist, his haunted past and his current circumstances, the mystery shifts from the cause of the blood to what is going on in the character’s head and what is fuelling his action or lack of.

Broken Highway on first appearances is the most unoriginal pieces in the book. A couple driving through the Australian desert are preyed upon by a rapist/murderer and his dog. Very Wolf Creek/Laymon’s The Glory Bus. But even as the inevitable cat and mouse game becomes a violent battle for survival, the depth is there, the atmosphere is there, making this one of the best examples of this genre I’ve had the pleasure to read.

My personal favourite, Doll Steak, is beautiful in its simplicity, subtle threat and human emotion. I also believe this to be a more intimate piece from the author, as I hear Mr. Tait’s voice  in this story in particular.

Some pieces were enjoyable, but not directly up my street. While Tait can show his talent with words as easily as a bodybuilder can flex his muscles, at times, I felt it was more style over story. Great to see a writer’s range, but I’m more traditional in my tastes. Still, I dip my hat to the skills on show.

In fact, while I enjoy a veritable feast of writers of varying styles and genre, very rarely do I wish I could mimic a style. This happened last year with the uber-talented Autumn Christian, and very early this year, it has happened with a certain Matthew Tait. I have read many collections in my time, and this rates up there as one of my favourites. Top quality writing is on show from start to finish.

My gripe (which I’ve had a few times with this writer!) is that of length. I could have enjoyed a few more stories in this one, even as far as a novella at the end to really end on a high note. In fact some stories, and I’m thinking of the deliciously dark The Chronicles of Trent Randell, are too short for my liking. This story reads like an introduction to a larger work, one that the author hints at towards the end. On the strength of this, I would snatch it up in an instant.

Ghosts in a Desert World has been a book that disappointed me; disappointed me in that Tait is not more established in not just the Australian Horror scene, but the global one. This collection not only shows that the writer has the chops to go places, but that he should be there already. Someone give this man a big fat publishing deal before someone else does.


I'm not religious, but I'm religious enough to recognise the most important and meaningful of sacred days. So without further ado...


Posted by Daniel I. Russell :: 8:02 am :: 0 comments

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