By: David Ellis
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: June 10, 2022
Reviewed by Diane Lunsford
Review Date: June 27, 2022
Author David Ellis takes his audience on a journey of memorable experiences in four delightfully intriguing tales in Dark Horse & Other Stories.
There is a distinct nuance of Poe that lurks across the pages of the first short story, The Soul Train. The story opens with an ordinary guy on an ordinary day in an ordinary time, but there is nothing ordinary surrounding what lies ahead once he accepts the challenge. This Brit loves his pub and covets that pint on the way home from a busy day at the office. While the narrator never divulges his name throughout the tale, it is clear he thinks of his wife Sarah often as he recounts his bizarre experience during his ‘stop off’ at the pub that fateful evening on the "...twentieth of August, that was the date, in the year nineteen hundred and twenty-two..."
Transitioning from The Soul Train into the next story, Everywhere, introduces the reader to Dougie Wipton. He’s married to Laura and without a doubt, he is a creature of habit. Imagine his frustration when he prepares for his day with his traditional breakfast only to learn they are out of his ‘go to’ shredded wheat! "...Dougie Wipton had to make do with just toast for breakfast, not a good start to the day, starting the day without cereal..." As the day continues, this will be the least of Dougie’s concerns.
The Devil in the Rainbow opens with Aiden Sweet. He is on Christmas holiday and looks forward to sleeping his days away while on his Christmas holiday. His ‘mum’ has other plans. She convinces him to rise and shine with a bribe of a surprise once he’s eaten his breakfast. Unable to contain his curiosity, the moment arrives. As the two head out the door and into the great wide open, Aiden is instantly perplexed. What’s with the distinct footprints leading away from their front door into the yonder? How is it possible that the cloven hoof, two-toed footprints begin immediately outside their front door and who or what are they from?
The last of the short stories, Dark Horse, introduces co-workers Adrian and Blake. They are vying for the same promotion. They are opposites in personality, yet each is convinced he is the perfect fit for the elevated position in life. They tolerate each other at best in their daily work lives. How is it that the unknown ‘Dark Horse Pub’ would be the place for the two to meet and raise a pint together?
Mr. Ellis’s preface to the four short stories is a terrific opening to what lies ahead. He explains how he crafted these stories over a period of years. While each story has a unique footprint, they play out as a collection meant to be read together. There is a distinct nuance of a "...journey into the unknown..." that provides the reader with the desire to jump in. Mr. Ellis has a unique flair with his ability to describe a scene in a tangible way: "...it was truly a superb feast, if not fit for a King, then at least adequate for a Prince, and all served by the girl. A vast joint of beef, dripping with promise, potatoes, and an array of vegetables of eye-watering attraction..." It’s difficult to single out one example of Mr. Ellis’s descriptive talents as passages such as this are bountiful in each story. The ebb and flow from present time to yesteryear and the nuance of nostalgia is equally superb in each story as well. I applaud Mr. Ellis for his brilliant delivery of the art of suspense and look forward to his next body of work.
Quill says: Dark Horse & Other Stories is a fantastic compilation of suspense and supernatural happenstances that will make it difficult to put the book down until the proverbial ‘the end.’