The Horror Zine Review
Of Night and Light
by Michael Keith
|Paperback: 286 pages
Publisher: Blue Mustang Press (June 8, 2012)
ISBN-13: 9 x 6 x 0.6 inches
Size: 9 x 6 x 0.6 inches
Of Night and Light
by Michael Keith
Review by Christopher Nadeau
Every so many years, lovers of short stories start moaning about how it’s a dying art form and there’s no market for it. Yet it’s difficult to point to a time other than the Pulp Era where there were more anthologies and short story collections on the shelves. Sadly, not all of them are of high quality. Not so sadly, Michael C. Keith’s “Of Night and Light” is not one of the disappointments.
Keith’s short story collection of dark fiction is a delight to read, mainly because it comes from someone with a natural storytelling talent. What is often missing from such collections is a distinctive, story spinning voice. What works in novels does not always work in shorter form.
Keith’s style harkens back to an older time, when parables and messages were often fleshed out into tales of the human condition and few readers looked down their noses. It’s a refreshing approach in its earnestness and pays off rather well.
The best stories in this collection are tales of internal conflict, and nowhere is that better dealt with than in “Little Conversations,” a tale that takes place mostly in the protagonist’s twisted brain.
Some of Keith’s work harkens back to the days of Rod Serling’s “Twilight Zone” in their morality plays and bitter ironies. “People of Color” regarding a future where humans can dye themselves in different unnatural pigments is a wonderful example. The final page will literally leave you stunned.
Not every story is as successful, however. “A Sticky Yellow Place” promises to be a reworking of the classic monster-in-my-closet story but winds up descending into gimmicky cheesiness. “My Secret Tanzania” is a mixed bag focusing on a doctor’s love for a native woman and a voodoo spell. The story is well-written but sadly predictable and unsatisfying.
Those stories are exceptions, however. “Take the Second left on Your Right” features a compelling narrative and a wonderful conceit in the guise of a GPS. Then there’s “Dan the Man,” a non-genre piece about that quiet desperation intelligent people stuck in low-end careers struggle with on a daily basis and the desire to be heard. Keith’s true talent for storytelling comes through here and is only eclipsed by one other story:
“Wanda Love Bobby” is perhaps the most heartfelt and effective story in this collection. Featuring an immediately sympathetic Wanda Howell as the protagonist, this is a story that must be experienced to be enjoyed. Without giving away too much, Wanda was born oxygen deprived and has fixated on Fifties singer Bobby Rydell. At first, given the nature and title of this collection, it seemed as if Keith was setting up a stalker or black magic story. Instead, we’re treated to a sweet and tragic story of childlike love and the passage of time.
Filled with little gems like the ones mentioned above as well as quality poetry which serves to break up any risk of monotony, “Of Night and Light” is a worthy addition to anyone’s bookshelf.
You can buy the book HERE.
About the Author
Michael C. Keith is an award winning scholar and professor of communication at Boston College. He is the author of over twenty books including a critically acclaimed memoir, The Next Better Place, (Algonquin Books, 2003) and dozens of articles and short stories. He recently co-edited a book on the legendary radio writer Norman Corwin titled One World Flight (Continuum Books, 2009) and authored a young adult novel Life is Falling Sideways (Parlance, 2009).
About the Reviewer
Christopher Nadeau is the author of the novel Dreamers at Infinity's Core available through COM Publishing's Sword & Science imprint and Amazon as well as the short story, "Rosa, Rosa Come out of Your Room" in the horror anthology, Saturday Evening Ghost. His latest book titled Not in the Brochure is available on Kindle.
He was recently interviewed on Suspense Radio as part of its up and coming authors program and has collaborated on a “machinima” film with UK animator Celestial Elf called The Gift, which can be viewed on YouTube. He has also written and published over a hundred print and online articles ranging in subject matter from local politics to pop culture and New Age cults, the latter providing inspiration for a novel currently in the works.
Christopher lives and works in Southeastern Michigan and is an active member of the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers.