The latest review of Paul Kane’s Spectral chapbook has just arrived – it’s from Sanatarium magazine, written by Casey Chaplin, and I reproduce it in full here, with the kind permission of the editor:
“Creakers: They called them that in this trade, or at least he did, is the very sentence that opens this short story by Paul Kane. It’s a line that says a lot about what’s to follow, without giving too much away. It’s a simple phrase that allows the read to draw a small conclusion and have an expectation or two, only for that expectation to be nixed on the very same page – but in a good way. If you’re at all like me, you probably instantly thought that this was going to be a story about a ghost hunter, or some kind of spiritual cleansing; it’s not, not entirely anyway.
Ray Johnson is a house flipper. He buys properties, fixes them up and resells them – if you’ve ever spent five minutes watching a home improvement television channel, you know what a house flipper is all about. Nevertheless, the house Ray is working on is particularly special to him for it’s his childhood home. Most memories that stem from a childhood home are sweet and filled with many firsts, parties, and celebrations; but not Ray’s.
Growing up under the strict sternness of his mother, and only his mother, Ray never dreamt of returning to the house he grew up in. Not a friendly or cherished memory could be recalled to the forefront, but he also couldn’t let anybody else flip this house after his mother died. He had to man up, something that this story centers a lot on, and get through this.
Along the way, Ray meets his mother’s neighbor, where he finds out a lot of interesting, and new information regarding his mother and the relationship she had with her one and only son. Shortly after events within the house become stranger and stranger, and eventually lead to a pretty satisfying ending.
Kane’s style of writing is intriguing, and not one I’m accustom to seeing. He seems rushed and frantic, but I feel it adds to the story. There’s not a lot of unneeded fluff added to lend length to the story, which is something a lot of writers do in order to hit a specific word count, but not Paul Kane. Everything that he needs said is indeed said, and he’s still able to tell a compelling narrative.
The story itself isn’t anything ground breaking or earth shattering in anyway; it’s a simple tale of one man who’s troubled childhood comes back to him. But it doesn’t have to be more than that. We learn enough about Ray to want him to beat his adversary. We know enough about the house that we want to know how the next chapter in its life will begin. There’s a lot going on in this finely crafted short story, and I would be hard pressed to find something this enjoyable in such a small package any time soon.
Using great language and description to create a spooky atmosphere, Paul Kane’s Creakers is a must read for anybody, not just fans of horror.
The Sanatarium website can be found here. More reviews soon!