It is just a short blog entry this week (whoever cheered there at the back, you're for it!), which in truth is rather apt, because it concerns a short story which was sent to me from author a little while ago for my considered opinion. Now, I've made it no secret in my past musings and scribblings here regarding my lack of enjoyment for the short story format, so I'm not going to recycle all that again. You may ask then 'why bother to spend time reviewing a format that you don't enjoy?' I would reply to that person that's a relevant and valid point - well I would if this was an actual conversation and not in fact a made up one.....
The fact is that the author, Gary Cecil asked me so nicely to read his short story Buried Secrets that I could hardly refuse. There is also a rumour that I also agreed to do it was because the story was only approximately 2800 words (no, I haven't counted them) and therefore meant;
a) It wouldn't take me too long to read.
And b) wouldn't take me too long to write a review.
These are both scurrilous rumours that I wouldn't bother to fight probably because they have more than a semblance of truth in them. I am lazy, that's a fact.
So, just what is this short, short story about? Well if you're sat comfortably, I'll give you a wee glimpse of the books introduction......
"Max and his wife, Megan, just moved into their new home: a charming Victorian that did not come with the typical Victorian price tag. Sure, it needed some paint thrown on here and there, but soon--with a baby on the way--it would be the perfect home for their family.
Things quickly begin to change, though. They hear strange noises at night, and even feel things crawling in their sheets. But that's not the worst of it. There's a foul smell in the air sometimes and something even fouler in the basement.
Something—or someone—smells and licks and lingers in the walls and down in the basement. When the power goes out, Max goes down there to find the breaker, and what he finds, is something much worse. Can the young couple survive this horrible fate? Or... are some secrets just too-damned-evil to be kept buried alive?"
So essentially, there were now two things that by rights should have negatively affected my enjoyment of the story beyond all reasonable hope of a decent review. Firstly, its length and secondly, the main characters and plot premise within it - namely number 7 in the all time list of horror movie cliche's, namely, the young couple (mother expecting) who's move into what they think is their dream home soon thereafter becomes the house from hell. Yes, the particular theme has appeared once or twice down the years.
And yet, and yet. I still liked the story. It is obvious that Cecil has been influenced, either consciously or unconsciously, by a certain Mr S King in terms of some of the phrasing and structuring of his writing. I don't mean that as a criticism at all, after all, if one is going to have inspirations, then one may as well choose the very best. Please don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying he's copied or plagiarised King, in terms of story or plot. Indeed, nor am I likening his writing talent to anywhere near the stratospheric level of King's. The statement is simply meant as a compliment.
As you would imagine, at just 2800 words there is little chance for much detailed characterisation of the couple, or indeed for a slow measured build up of layered plot and atmosphere. However, the finale is still incredibly affective in its chill factor as it sneaks up on you suddenly to hit you in the gut with a surprising intensity that has been perfectly hidden thus far, despite the story's length.
Reading Buried Secrets only slightly leaves one feeling just a little unfulfilled. At times the dialogue between Max and Megan is a little jarring and stilted, but not overly enough to detract from the reading enjoyment. In addition I couldn't help thinking that the story would have been far better used as part of a wider narrative - perhaps as a some flashback to previous owners of the house perhaps? It could be my in-built lack of enthusiasm for the short story format that led to this lack of fulfilment, but I don't think so.
This is a more than reasonable start to a writing career and there is certainly more than enough in Buried Secrets that suggests Gary Cecil has something of a future as a horror novelist.
So who is this Gary Cecil chap?
He is currently in the revision process of his first novel, and is also hard at work on his second. As soon as I can get some word from Gary regarding a synopsis or two then I'll pass the details on.
Again, according to his bio, Gary has worked as a 911 Operator, and has held other various jobs. His greatest memory taking 911 calls was when a man on a back-country road, at one in the morning, called 911 and said, "The baby came out." It was a heart-wrenching experience, which ended in a man becoming a father, and Gary becoming a seasoned 911 Operator.
Hmm, that's nothing mate. A student of mine once went into labour at college during (no, not because of) one of my lectures..... Now THAT'S pressure. Once again, the rumours that I tried to finish my lecture before the baby's head breached are simply scurrilous......
Gary Cecil can be contacted by numerous online methods;
The Amazon links to his books can be found at;
His blog can be found RIGHT HERE
Gary's Facebook page is JUST A CLICK AWAY HERE