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Book Review: Detroit Macabre by Joseph Williams

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Detroit Macabre treats us to 13 short horror stories set in and around Detroit. Joseph Williams breaks from modern horror and takes the reader back to classic or gothic horror. No modern vampires in this book, instead plots consist of themes suitable for Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone. Readers will notice the influence of H.P. Lovecraft, Richard Matheson, Clive Barker, Stephen King and Neil Gaiman in Williams’ creations.

“The Elevator” takes Richard Matheson’s I am Legend a little bit further. The healthy protagonist, Tyler, looks in desperation for his infected zombie wife; she needs to breast feed their new-born baby girl.

In “Number Six”, loser Zach Meyer finally makes something of himself, but does he lose his soul in the process? Williams’ use of impaled, chained and distorted bodies representing tortured souls should appeal to Clive Barker fans. This story also has a touch of Stephen King’s Maine wilderness.

Williams in We, the Lonely Meadow visits some of the same questions raised in Gaiman’s American Gods. However, he does it in an H.P. Lovecraft manner with many twists and much pain. This story also demonstrates shades of Clive Barker.

Williams graduated from Wayne State University in the heart of the Motor City, and he uses this locale extensively in his stories. His characters cower in terror from fictional monsters along Woodward Avenue, and readers discover a stalker using the People Mover, Detroit’s public transportation system, as a killing zone. But lest you think he only concentrates on the seedier areas of Detroit, Williams also visits the suburbs with a trip Northville, and into the wilderness of the Upper Peninsula.

“Step in from the Rain” serves up a dirty 60-year-old bartender with the hots for the barely legal daughter of a deceased customer. The story takes place in Northville, but the names have been somewhat changed to protect the innocent. In this story of drunken debauchery, Williams asks the reader to reflect upon his or her morals, and judge the cast of characters. Are the morals of men and women different? Does society perceive them differently?

Writers often seek solitude to finish their masterpiece, and create the next best seller. Delaney’s Masterpiece speaks to writers and their aspirations. In the voice of Rod Serling, be careful of what you wish, especially if you venture into the wilderness of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Stephen King in his non-fiction work on horror, Danse Macabre, says horror affects the reader on two levels. The first level provides the gross-out. It’s the blood and the gore that makes the reader gag. On the second level, horror grates on the reader’s subconscious with things we really fear. These horrors, such as fear for our souls, our children, and unending pain, cause nightmares. Williams gives the reader these two levels of fear. People who enjoy reading horror and H.P. Lovecraft will enjoy Detroit Macabre.

Picture taken from Brockway Mountain, Michigan by Bruce G. Smith

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About Bruce G. Smith

I'm a part time writer with a few articles published here and there. In addition to writing, I'm into nature and architectural photography.