Horror fiction, regardless of how well it is written, often goes exactly where seasoned reader expect it to go. It’s rare that a writer in the horror genre hits us with a perspective or idea that we didn’t see coming. Nor is it unusual for a story or novel to haunt us with creepy images, vivid descriptions of gore, or a heartbreaking death. How often, though, does an author pull this off with superior literary quality?
This is the territory the reader will find themselves in with Mike Thorn’s Darkest Hours. It’s apparent from the opening tale of this 16-story collection, “Hair,” that Thorn has aspirations beyond a simple spooky yarn. When you open with body horror hair fetish, it’s safe to assume you’re in not in Kansas anymore.
There are times in Thorn’s prose where I’m reminded not only of some of the best Stephen King from Skeleton Crew or Night Shift, but also of some of the more bizarre stories from Clive Barker’s Books Of Blood.
One of Thorn’s strengths is character building. Even in a story like “Fear And Grace,” which I admit, I’m not sure where Thorn was going or why we wound up there, I still knew the character Justine and felt her fear.
I hope I can describe the experience and do it justice. Think about hearing a person’s nightmare: it may not be scary for you, but clearly it was for them. Now, imagine you had to empathically feel some of the fear the other person experienced. These aren’t surface scares; these run deeper.
The back to back tales “The Auteur” and “Choo Choo” are perfect examples of this. If I told you what they were about or what happened in them, I don’t think they’d be very scary, but Thorn has a way with words that help these stories get under the skin. This is subversive literary horror.
Darkest Hours will be released on November 21, 2017 in physical and e-formats through Unnerving. In the mean time you can find Thorn over at Vague Visages. His “Devious Dialogues” with A.M. Novak are excellent.