Book Review: Shades – Eight Tales of Terror by D. Nathan Hilliard

shades d nathan hilliard antho cover

Shades: Eight Tales of Terror
by D. Nathan Hilliard
$8.99 (paperback)
$2.99 (Kindle)
Paperback, 234 pages
February 8, 2012
Review copy received from the author in exchange for an honest review

Plot Description

Within these pages lurks a cast of phantoms who have returned from the grave with a vengeance. You will find no friendly ghosts here, just eight deathly horrors with their own personal bones to pick with the living. These are the ghosts of our nightmares. Whether driven by madness, vengeance, pain, bloody evil, or primordial rage…they are all specters that are as dangerous as they are frightening. So get comfortable, get that night light ready, and find out who survives and who doesn’t in this anthology of the baleful dead.

Stories within include…
Death and White Satin – A young bride-to-be unearths the wrong wedding dress and discovers that horror and madness can echo down through the decades.
An Echo of Blood and Mirrors – A young man is surprised in the boy’s bathroom by the head cheerleader. But things quickly take a turn for the worse as he discovers she’s on the run from a triple murderer who has been dead for over a century.
Dance of the Ancients – Three lawmen search for a missing state trooper on a hill doomed to disappear under the rising waters of a new lake. Fearing the worst, they find something even worse than they feared.
A Memory of Me – A night spent in a forgotten graveyard lands three college boys in a situation that none of their classes have prepared them for.
Legacy of Flies – A young woman discovers she is the heir of a vast family fortune. But she also finds her inheritance comes with a ghoulish legacy that may very well be the death of her.
Storm Chase – A hurricane approaches and Bernie March’s wife is standing down the hill beside the tractor he needs to bring in ahead of the storm…exactly where he buried her three years earlier.
A Singularity of Purpose – A callous young punk discovers that returning from the dead isn’t just the prerogative of humans when he finds himself in one last desperate race with the dog he tormented in life.
A Long, Cold Forever of a Night – On a humid July night, a middle-aged couple find themselves alone in a deserted rural intersection…with the deadly phantom of a high school classmate who died in an ice storm decades earlier.

Review
D. Nathan Hilliard, author of the collection Shades put it out in response to many modern ghost stories, in which he feels ghosts are not frightening. There are few horror anthologies and collections dedicated to ghosts. He found many older reprints. He wanted the old-fashioned “horror from beyond the grave” genre but with a modern voice for the sensibilities of today’s reader. He also insisted on a novelette form of 7k to 17k, and feels ghosts require backstory (rightly so).

We start off with arguably the strongest story in the collection, and definitely the one that I would call my favourite of the bunch, “Death and White Satin” in which a woman, Jessica, is looking at a wedding dress she pulls out of the attic with her future mother-in-law, Marge, looking on. Marge is afraid of the dress, as it belonged to a truly vile woman, Priscilla, who was about to marry Marge’s older brother, Robert. The women in town saw straight through her but the men weren’t so quick to wise up. It took Robert’s old high school flame, Emma, to come back to town to persuade Robert to see that Priscilla wasn’t right for him. But she wasn’t going down without a fight, and suffice it to say, things didn’t end well for the happy couple after they got married, nor did they end well for Priscilla. A common theme of ghost stories is that they’re tethered to our world via an object, in this case the wedding dress, which Jessica soon learns the hard way she should never have messed with. Definitely a good ending with an impact to this tale.

In “An Echo of Blood and Mirrors,” the police are interrogating a high school kid, Corvin, about the death of his classmate, Laura. He claims the ghost of an old murderer, Lamar, is responsible and we learn the killer’s gruesome backstory. This ghost also unfortunately finds a way to continue his dastardly deeds from beyond the grave.

“Legacy of Flies” deals with Jamie, a young woman who finds out that she’s the illegitimate granddaughter of Ronald Danford, one of the wealthiest men ever to have lived, but his wealth came at a great cost to himself and to his family as she soon learns. Only two blood descendents remain, and one of them lives in Russia, wanting to have nothing to do with the family fortune or estate—and for good reason. There’s a family curse involved in this story that while not the most inventive or original device, definitely presents a terrifying ghoul that can do horrendous damage.

The other standout of the collection for me was the last story, “A Long Cold Forever of a Night,” which sees a couple walking together after a car mishap and stumbling across The Ghost of Junction 402, a girl who the couple went to high school with ages ago, Melissa. This tale, although just as tragic as the others, is a bit less morbid, and gives a note of hope, which was a nice change and a good way to cap off the collection.

All the stories feel like a throwback to Theater of the Mind or the Golden Age of Radio plays, but told in modern language, which makes them more accessible and entertaining to today’s reader. If like the editor ou’re longing for more from a ghost anthology than just reprints of stories from the old masters like M.R. James and Algernon Blackwood whose styles can get a bit stuffy, definitely check out the Shades collection.

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