Albert E. Cowdrey is known for his ghost stories. The Novelet, Falling Angel (published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Jan/Feb 2020) adds to Cowdrey’s portfolio.
The premise is somewhat Noir, in the sense that the murder in question took place back in the 1940s. Think The Black Dahlia type of case, but an echo or the ghost of the murdered woman’s scream haunts the hotel in which she perished. That’s what Butch and Roma are here to investigate. What happened to a struggling actress back in the 40s, how she died, and how to finally put her rest.
This piece is filled with the occult and the dark underworld of things that go bump in the night. It’s urban fantasy, well told, and well written. However, I didn’t see the ending coming–and not in a good way. It left me feeling a bit bemused since it hinged on some political/social commentary that was completely absent in the piece up until that moment. If there had been an inkling of politics in this piece beforehand, I think I would have found this ending more fulfilling. Still, up until that last page or so I found this an enjoyable read.
I have not been so diligent lately in my reading. Luckily, I should have more time starting late next week, as a job I have been work is coming to a close.
Today (and yesterday, actually), I read The Barrens by Stephanie Feldman. It’s a longer piece (that’s why I took a couple days to read it) about a group of teens lost in the woods. Yes. That’s what it’s about on the surface. A group of teenagers wants to go to this party that this DJ throws. it’s a secret party and this DJ broadcasts on a pirate station, which is pretty badass. The only thing is, something is strange about the stories this DJ tells between sets.
As soon as the kids start talking about a girl, some years back, who fell in the lake while wearing her prom dress and her boyfriend’s dove in after her and she dragged him down with her in her panic, I knew this wasn’t going to be a happy story.
This story has the nebulous fright of a scary folklore tale, but that’s still not what’s special about it. What’s really interesting is the about this piece is the first person plural narration. Readers never get a clear sense of what the narrator is, but it commonly refers to itself as “we” or “I,” while at the same time the narration hops in and out of the teenager’s brains giving readers thoughts and emotions. This implies that the “we” or “I” narrator has some type of magical mind reading power. I think the writer pulls this interesting take on narration off really well. It’s certainly a unique piece that brings something out of the ordinary to the genre of folklore(ish) fantasy.