Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Portraits in the Dark


Portraits in the Dark by Nancy O. Greene (iUniverse / 0-595-39280-6 / August 2006 / 96 pages / $9.95)

Nancy O. Greene has released her first book, a collection of short stories mining the vein opened by Richard Matheson, Dean Koontz, and Stephen King. The cover has a classy design and the price won't break the bank, although the page count is skimpy, even at this price. Ms. Greene has assembled nine stories ranging in length from two to seventeen pages. Fortunately, the better stories are the longer ones. My favorites are A Guy Named Pierce and The Affair. Although The Descent of Man and Down the Rabbit Whole are the most original of the nine stories, I was somewhat left in a fog by the author's intent with these two; i.e., I am not sure that I got the point.

The author used a few big words that sent me to my dictionary, but she also used a few common words incorrectly, leaving me uncertain as to the real quality of Portraits in the Dark. A few of the characters displayed thoughts racing through their minds concerning crimes they may or may not have perpetrated, but they could have done so in sentences of normal length and structure. Even a long-distance swimmer could never take one breath deeply enough to read one of these marathons of racing rumination. Most of the technical discrepancies are displayed in the early parts of the book, so if you are tripping over one of these, take heart that the bumpy ride smooths out in the latter half of the journey. Perhaps the author has been just a bit too naive about story development and editing....

Portraits in the Dark is just the kind of book I liked to read back during my under-thirty years, when I was a little naive myself. I liked any sort of story of dark humor with a twist at the end. I have seen every episode of The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and The Night Stalker. I still have a paperback copy of Matheson's The Shrinking Man that cost fifty cents in 1962, and I have read numerous Hitchcock collections. Ms. Greene is seeking the high ground these classics inhabit. She just hasn't yet made it past the quicksand pit. If you are a fan of this genre, you will enjoy this book for the originality of some of the ideas. Maybe you are still young enough to get the point of each and every story.

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