Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Somewhere in the Night

Jeffrey N McMahan
Completed 3/18/2020, Reviewed 3/18/2020
4 stars

Subtitled “Eight Gay Tales of the Supernatural”, this collection of short stories was very entertaining.  Some stories were tense thrillers, some fun, and some hard on the soul.  The writing was really good, not prosy, but tight, mostly first-person narratives.  I think in every story, I quickly identified with the main characters, even stand-offish, cynical Andrew the vampire, who was the subject of two of the stories.  It was a fast, enjoyable read.  It won the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Men’s Fantasy and Sci Fi in 1990, back before they combined it into the LGBT catergory for Fantasy, Sci Fi, and Horror. 

My favorite stories were the Andrew the Vampire stories.  Brooding and cynical, he stalks the gay nightlife of a college town looking for his next victim.  The first story is short, where we get to meet him and follow him a long a little while he is on the prowl.  We learn that he cuts the heads off his victims after drinking their blood and that he’s real choosy about who he kills and who he turns into a vampire like himself.  In the second story, there’s a mystery involved as well.  Someone is stealing the heads from the scenes of his attacks, leaving the bodies to be found by the police.  So the hunt is on for the head-stealing murderer.  At the same time, Andrew’s eighteen-year-old coworker has a mad crush on him, while Andrew himself is not that interested.  The story involves him trying to navigate the young man, finding victims, and figuring out who the head-thief is.  Both were well written and very intriguing. 

Two stories that were also good and kind of closely related have to do with bashing incidents.  In one story, “The Dark Red Day”, a successful gay man comes back to his small, dirt poor hometown to seek out the love he left behind.  His idea is to bring him back to the big city with him, but the townspeople, including his redneck homophobic brother, have other ideas.  In “Fantasyland”, a gay teen who was bashed a few years ago lives his life in a near constant dream state.  His fantasies are nearly like disassociation.  Then he meets another gay teen, but it takes another bashing for him to come out of fantasyland and deal with his past.  Both of these stories really tugged at my heartstrings. 

The other stories were good too.  They included a possessed apartment unit, a cannibal party on Halloween night, a struggling writer’s characters coming to life, and an ancient evil coming out of hole in a man’s backyard.  All the stories were quite imaginative, even though some were common tropes.  The last of the four other stories was kind of a cross between Stephen King and HP Lovecraft.  But the beauty of the stories is that the author takes these tropes and turns them on their head and puts them in a gay setting. 

I give the book four stars out of five.  None of the stories were throw-away.  In fact, after finishing one, I looked forward to starting the next one.  The author only wrote one other book, a full novel about Andrew the Vampire.  I couldn’t find any other information about the author.  A Google search only brings up the books, no bio, no pics.  I’d speculate that he was another talented person whose life was cut short by AIDS.  Regardless of how he died, he left us wonderfully entertaining stories that I’m glad I discovered.

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