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Closing Time and Other Stories / Jack Ketchum

th51CAYN05TWL_AA240_.jpgGauntlet Press / January 2007
Reviewed by: Martel Sardina

Closing Time and Other Stories is Jack Ketchum’s latest collection of short fiction. The nineteen-piece collection contains hard-to-find recent stories, a new, previously unpublished story, “Hotline,” and the 2003 Bram Stoker Award Winner for Best Long Fiction, “Closing Time.” Also included are afterwords for each story in which Ketchum gives readers a glimpse into the story’s origin and a bonus chapbook of Ketchum’s tributes to the late Richard Laymon in those editions purchased directly from the publisher.

The collection opens with “Returns,” an emotionally wrought tale about the connection between a man and his beloved cat that transcends life. “Damned If You Do” follows a man seeking therapy who has secrets that he is not yet ready to reveal.

In “Elusive,” the main character, Kovelant, wants to see a fictional movie called Sleepdirt but fails with every attempt. There is an old wives’ tale about not being able to die in your dreams, and Ketchum wonders if the same is true about movies here. If your death were captured on film, would you be able to watch it?

The standout in the collection in terms of craft is “Snarl, Hiss, Spit, Stalk.” The story is told in present tense, in a minimalist style with limited use of adverbs and adjectives and many one-word sentences. It is a testament to Ketchum’s skill as a writer to be able to craft such a fun, fully developed tale in as few words as he used.

Ketchum’s novels contain moments of humor or joy juxtaposed by some of the most horrific events imaginable. The same can be said of his short fiction. Story selection and placement are key factors in the overall enjoyment of any anthology or short fiction collection, and it is tricky business getting that balance right. This collection features stories like “At Home With The VCR” that are downright funny. “Hotline” is filled with irony and dark humor. “Consensual” is a nice mix of humor and erotic horror. Ketchum then progresses to some thought-provoking, gut-wrenching pieces such as “The Fountain,” “Brave Girl,” “Do You Love Your Wife?” and “Closing Time.” Readers will be pleasantly surprised by the juxtapositions, the way the pieces ebb and flow.

Gauntlet Press released three versions of Closing Time and Other Stories, a 500-copy numbered edition for $40, a 500-copy numbered edition with a leather slipcase for $60, and also a 52-copy lettered traycased edition for $150. The lettered edition contains four poems that are not included in the numbered editions.

For readers wary that $40 is pricey for a short story collection, this reviewer felt she got her money’s worth. Fans looking for a more reasonably priced collection, however, may want to take a look at Ketchum’s Peaceable Kingdom, which was released in mass-market paperback from Leisure Books back in 2003.

Purchase Jack Ketchum's Closing Time and Other Stories

Posted on Thursday, October 18, 2007 at 07:12AM by Registered CommenterDark Scribe Magazine in | Comments Off

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