Short story collections are tricky things. For the most part, only about half of the stories included in anthologies and collections are ever any good. Or maybe it’s just that I favor novellas and novels over short stories. I’m a picky reader when it comes to short story books. I’ll pick up a collection only if it falls under one of the three following categories: 1) The stories are all gathered under a specific theme (ghost stories, werewolves, witches, etc) 2) The stories are all linked together by an element or a character or a locale 3) The stories are from an author I enjoy reading.
Brandon Ford falls in the third category. Having thoroughly enjoyed his three novels and everything else I’ve read from him, I figured it was a safe bet to assume that his short story collection would be a good read as well. I’m here to tell you that he delivers the goods once more.
The only real misfire of the book is the opening story, in my opinion, and out of the eighteen all previously unpublished stories (a rare thing these days), only a handful of them don’t quite hit the mark. The thing is, Ford has such an engaging writing style that even in the case of an average story, it’s still a good read because of the sharp dialogue and easy flow of the tales. None of the stories in this book drag at any time. The longest runs 22 pages long and the shortest at about 6 pages. As with most of Ford’s stories and novels, he prefers to focus on non-supernatural horror, exploring instead the scariest monster of all: Man. There are however two stories containing a certain unnatural element.
My favorite of the bunch has to be “A Walk in the Park” about the dangers of sleepwalking. The longest of the book, I would’ve wanted it to keep going. Apart from this one, highlights for me were “Trippity-Do-Da”, a story about an acid trip that would’ve been right at home in the cult classic “Heavy Metal” movie from 1981; “Cat Call” about a day in the life of a policeman; “Bookends” about a writer’s number one fan; and last but not least, the closing story, “Famous Last Words” about a man who says everything he really thinks (don’t we all wish we could have a day like that).
In a nutshell, Brandon Ford’s first collection is a strong one that will make you smile, laugh, look over your shoulder on the street, fear strange noises at night, but most of all, it will entertain you. Decayed Etchings is a quick read that anyone who enjoys suspense and horror will delight in reading.