by Connie Corcoran Wilson
Published by Sam’s Dot Publishing, 2010.
I have to be upfront and say I was a little suspicious of this book. It appeared to have some great reviews on the back from the likes of William F. Nolan, Scott Eddleman and Gary Braunbeck (and if anyone knows good horror its Gary Braunbeck). These seemed slightly at odds with the homespun production values and I have to say the slightly garish cover. Was this a case of excessive hyperbole?
In Hellfire and Damnation Connie Corcoran Wilson takes us on a trip through the nine circles of hell by creating a series of stories (or in some cases a single story) to illustrate each. Many of the stories are also based on true life tales of crime and horror adding a little extra spice to the mix.
Standouts for me were –
Hotter Than Hell – where we hear the tragic tale of Big Jim Bingham as he awaits his fate on death row. A series of tragic letters to his son reveal some deep and powerful truths behind both his and his sons actions. It’s typical of the book, having a King like sense of down home characterisation where real life just touches the boundaries of something darker.
Amazing Andy, The Wonder Chicken – This surreal, if not in fact completely bonkers, tale concerns a chicken who loses his head but goes on to become a star bringing all the pressures of fame down on his owners. At times humorous and at others stomach wrenching but always inventive and well written.
The Ghost Girl of Howard “Pappy” Litch Park – features strange goings on in the eponymous park when a father threatens a fellow visitor and things get out of hand. It bears all the tragic hallmarks of a real world tale but is told in an interesting and thoughtful voice.
We also get to meet ghost children (Rachel and David), the zombie prostitutes of Pompeii (Love Never Dies), serial killers (Going Through Hell) and fantastically creepy clown Pogo (Living In Hell).
A couple of weaker stories exist among the fifteen ( Queen Bee, Effie We Hardly Knew Ye!) but otherwise we are taken on a roller coaster trip with laughs (Hell to Pay features an amish mobile phone owner) and tears (On Eagle’s Wing’s a tragic tale of child abuse). Even the weaker stories are well enough written though and given the variety of styles at play here your personal favourites are likely to differ.
All in all a thoroughly enjoyable, well written anthology. Gary A. Braunbeck’s blurb on the back claims that, “never have the 9 circles of hell been so much fun”. As I said Mr Braunbeck knows his stuff, this is a journey into hell that will intrigue, disgust and excite you, often at the same time, excellent stuff. Just shows, don’t judge a book by its cover!
You can find out more here.
Rating 4 out of 5