Manuscripts of the Macabre
McKiernan’s Manuscripts of the Macabre is a quaint collection of tales to lure you just beyond the veil. The first story is the longest, focusing on Karl Quinn, a prison guard attending an execution that goes terribly wrong, and this is just the beginning of his misery. Aspects of this story reminded me a good deal of the movie Session 9 in the apparent transference of the Wolf. This was one of my favorite stories because of those links.
The next story is about a storm quite unlike any other, witnessed by two orphaned mountain children. I have to admit, they were far braver than I’d have been. I’d have hidden in the basement from the start. “Bison on the Range” takes us away from the supernatural, yet it’s just as harrowing. There are echoes of Hannibal Lecter in this story, which I enjoyed.
“Lady Elusion” played on themes that struck home for me. It’s certainly open to interpretation, but what I garnered from it was the theme is schizophrenia. I had an uncle who had mild schizophrenia and talked to people we couldn’t see. He was never violent, though.
“Red Lights” was horrifying on more than one level. Two boys exploring an abandoned house stumble on terrible evidence suggesting this abode has become a haven for a sexual predator. When the potential predator returns, things take a turn into the truly bizarre. Geez, this story reminded me of all the creepy urban explorer videos my roommates love to watch. “John Doe” was quite ghoulish, but in a humorous way. C’mon, people high on weed trying to deal with a dead body? Priceless.
I really enjoyed all of these stories. I tend to focus on story over mechanics, and I would highly recommend this book. The stories are wonderfully wrought. But there are a few technical aspects I would be remiss in omitting. There are occasionally misspelled words. Most are homophone issues. A few seem to be an auto-correct issue, that bane of modern writing tools.
A second issue lay in the dialogue tags, and this issue did, on occasion, pull me from the story. It is a good thing to use a scattering of different tags, just for variety, but when the majority of dialogue tags are words other than “ask” or “said,” it’s very jolting.
Recommended for those who enjoy the more elegantly wrought stories of the macabre, of horror, and of the darkness that lies within men.
Maurice M. McKiernan