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Howling Hounds
Phil Locascio
Sarob hardcover £25 / $45

review by Mario Guslandi

Should we believe the blurbs reported on the back or inside covers of today's books, claiming that every work of fiction is a masterpiece, and every writer a genius? For once though, in Phil Locascio's case, the blurbs prove to be reliable. Commenting upon his work, Brian A. Hopkins says: "In a time when new horror authors seem obsessed with carnage... Locascio is quietly building an oeuvre of top notch stories focused on character and plot." And Dennis Kirk adds: "Locascio is more than a writer, he's a storyteller."

I wholeheartedly subscribe to their points of view. Thank god there are still writers able to tell stories with a beginning and an end, to disquiet and gently scare without making us shrink in disgust. Locascio is one of them, a hell of a storyteller, whose yarns are full of truth, emotions, and credible characters. He reminds me a lot of Robert Bloch, the lamented horror writer nowadays unfairly remembered only for being the author of Psycho, but who actually wrote hundreds of delightful, witty, yet extremely dark short stories.

Howling Hounds is the first collection by Locascio, and it features 13 tales, most of which previously appeared in small press magazines or anthologies. The themes are various, the quality consistently good. The Sins Of Orville Sand is a story told in a kind of low-key manner dealing with life's unsolved mysteries, like the simple fact that "There's the bad that happens to good people."

Quietus is a compelling tale of exotic horror in which an Ethiopian endowed with the singular ability of 'tricking death' becomes the involuntary agent of a lethal disease. In The Hand Of Fate an accidental exchange of suitcases at Chicago's O'Hare Airport is the beginning of a dark sequence of events. Not A Nickel More is a predictable but enjoyable story about a young boy's conscience and a grumpy old man's corpse.

Bendable Rulers is a nasty piece of fiction hinting at sordid deeds, describing very little and just because of that being more terrifying than many, more explicit horror stories. In The Buried Past horror and humour mix up in a tale concerning an unusual inheritance left to the family's black sheep, while in The Midnight Pact a sinister pact between two former friends is fulfilled many years later.

The Harbor Of Ill Will presents us with a magic crystal globe leading both men and animals to perform violent acts and Side Effects describes the devastating untoward effects of an experimental antidepressant drug making the act of sleeping the most terrifying menace. Unpleasant memories of their youth haunt the main characters of That Which Lies Submerged and The Sorcerer Of Hooterville, two great stories where the loneliness and cruelty of life is the actual protagonist. Enjoy.
Howling Hounds

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