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Last Exit for the Lost / Tim Lebbon

Cemetery Dance Publications / April 2010
Reviewed by: Blu Gilliand

There’s an old piece of advice that’s often dispensed to writers at the beginning of their career: “Write what you know.” If, in writing the stories that make up Last Exit for the Lost, his massive new collection from Cemetery Dance, Tim Lebbon is writing what he knows, then his has been a rocky path indeed.

The characters in these stories are haunted, but not by the horror standbys like shapes under sheets or things going bump in the night. Instead, they are haunted by the depths of human despair, grief and loss. And while I’m sure Lebbon has endured his share of sorrow (who among us hasn’t?), his ability to bleed out pain on the page is due in no small part to his bottomless talent.

There’s not a weak link to be found in this collection, something very hard to pull off when you’re talking 19 stories (including two that have never seen print) spread over 500-plus pages. Each story manages to be both unique and uniquely Lebbon at the same time. The man is a prolific writer, and you really get a feel of his voice as it strengthens and solidifies with every turn of the page.

Among the standouts of Last Exit:

“Kissing at Shadows” is a post-apocalyptic tale following one man on his annual journey to honor the memory of his wife. We’re not the only one accompanying him, however – either memory, or something more substantial, is tagging along. Lebbon fills this tale with a disquieting dread that increases with every step of the man’s lonely trek.

“Black” contains one of the most disturbing descriptions of murder that I’ve ever read – not because of anything graphic, but because it cuts to the heart of what murder truly is. In Lebbon’s hands, murder is not a tool for the gross-out, but something far more chilling and real.

In “The Horror of Many Faces,” Lebbon takes on the legendary character of Sherlock Holmes. This melancholy bit of mystery begins with that most famous of sidekicks, Watson, witnessing his friend and mentor Holmes commit a gruesome murder. Soon, all of London is gripped by panic as a wave of murder washes over it, with every witness swearing that they saw a friend or loved on doing the killing. One of my favorites in the book, aided in no small part by the downbeat, ambiguous ending.

“In Perpetuity” brings us one of Lebbon’s creepiest creations, The Green Man, in a story about a father on a desperate quest to save his son.

I could write a little bit about every story here, but you get the idea. Last Exit for the Lost is bursting with great discoveries, and you should make some of them on your own, going in (as I did) with little knowledge of what the pages hold. Suffice to say this is a very strong collection by a very talented writer, and one whom I’m glad to say has a lot of books and stories lined up on the horizon. Jump in and enjoy.

Purchase Last Exit for the Lost by Tim Lebbon.

Posted on Sunday, February 21, 2010 at 05:45PM by Registered CommenterDark Scribe Magazine in | Comments Off

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