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Book Review: Demonic and Other Tales by Garon Cockrell

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Demonic and Other Tales is a collection of ten short stories of varying length, all centred around the supernatural, more specifically the battle between good and evil drawn in Christian imagery, though these are not specifically Christian tales. In these stories we find angels, demons, and other powerful beings engaged in apocalyptic battle for control of our world and the underworld. God and Satan have been dead for centuries and the universe has devolved into chaos. It is through this Armageddon that Cockrell’s human and half-human characters must move and survive.

The unity of the stories in this book leaves it reading almost like a novel with its chapters loosely connected by the flow of characters and action. It’s a dark book, reading like Edgar Allen Poe or Nathaniel Hawthorne on absinthe in a world where redemption, while always possible, is very unlikely. In many ways, the flow of the book is less like short stories and more like a television series or a movie. For some reason, the decades-old series The Outer Limits comes to mind. Like a script, these stories have scanty description of the surroundings where the action happens or at times of the characters, providing minimal detail and leaving the rest to the reader’s imagination. Surprisingly, this method serves the stories well. I suspect that before the era of horror movies it might not have.

Within a framework of Christian imagery and the ever-present antithetical battle between good and evil, these stories are preoccupied with guilt and passion, revenge, dismembered bodies, heads lopped off with unsettling regularity, omnipresent pools of blood, grotesque characters and scenes, and vast panoramas of heavenly (or perhaps hellish) battle across the face of our world.

Garon Cockrell is a very good writer and at times a powerful storyteller. His strength as a writer is in images, which he splashes in bright colours across his screen. His storylines sometimes slip toward cliche and stereotype, echoing perhaps too closely what has been done by others in books and in film, but he always manages to pull back just in time before he would fall into that trap. The result is stories that, sometimes in spite of themselves, are powerful and gripping, guaranteed to hold the reader’s attention from beginning to end. Cockrell has a masterful grasp of the underpinning themes of myth and morality that flow through his stories and this book as a whole.

Demonic and Other Tales could use the services of a professional proofreader. While Garon Cockrell writes very well, it is never wise for an author to be the only one who reads his manuscript for such things as inconsistent scene transitions, typographical errors, problems with tense (especially past and past-perfect), missing words, wrong words, inconsistent capitalization and so on. While reading this book, I noticed too many such errors. These may be small enough issues to not distract the average reader, but they should still be located and corrected. With an e-book such as this, it’s as easy as correcting the manuscript and replacing the published copy.

Oddly, and possibly because of the powerful, brightly painted images, rather than seeming to fall into the supernatural or horror genres these stories come across as surreal, less like horror movies and more like the livid religious paintings of renaissance Europe. The effect is startling, sometimes scary, and definitely dreamlike, tending toward nightmare.

Perhaps due to this dreamlike effect, the endings to several stories feel incomplete and unresolved, as though something else should have happened or is about to happen. The Epilogue of the final story, and so of the book itself, reads like the end of a TV Pilot setting up the proposed series to follow. There seems to be that sort of promise of more to come. Perhaps that’s not a bad thing.

At less than three dollars for the Kindle version, Demonic and Other Tales is a good read and an excellent value. Some books costing much more are not as well written or as gripping. I recommend giving it a look.

You can purchase Garon Cockrell’s Demonic and Other Tales for Kindle online at Amazon for the very reasonable price of just $2.99.

Demonic and other tales

Garon Cockrell
doorQ Publishing
Playa del Rey, California
103 pages

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