Dark Missives - by Dan Howarth
I was trying to think of a word that could summarize Dan Howarth’s collection of horror shorts, and that’s pretty much the best I could come up with. I don’t know if you’ve ever had that moment – possibly as a child when you fell off a swing, or a rope bridge, and managed to land in such a way that all of the air was suddenly pushed from your lungs – ejected from your body in one foul moment, or maybe you got gut-punched, and you found for an interminable amount of time, in a prolonged second of panic, that you could not physically force air into your body? That cell-deep ingrained feeling of utter helplessness and violation – when your body was out of your control and all you could do was experience the core of your being held in a vice-like grip. And the slow expansion of your chest as air painfully, slowly, pushed your lungs back open – as a deep resonating hum of pain escaped your mouth? A sound so terrible because it is exactly the tone and vibration one hears at the end of a life when your death rattle does the same journey yet in reverse (and I have heard both, so I can testify to that).
Well, that’s Dan Howarth’s Dark Missives.
I had intended to just read Dan’s short Dustin, a freebie thrown out into the wild, as a taster of what the man had to offer, but liked the writing so much that I decided there and then to read his collection, which was sitting on my kindle patiently waiting for me to get around to it. I can say of that short exactly what I liked – the exact thing I inject into my own stories that I believe is essential to any modern horror book – that the author trusts the reader- Dan presents a story and finishes it without explaining the ending – he trusts the reader to fill in the blanks, add the numbers together, collect the evidence and conclude their own interpretation. It’s a level of trust sadly lacking from most works. But Dan utilized it here, in Dustin, Perfectly.
Dustin happens to also be the first short in Dark Missives, so it seemed fate that I should read on. The overall quality of the shorts is high – Howarth writes with broad themes, and none of the pieces come close to each other, they are all dark, thought-provoking, and intelligent. Favorites were Anderson (A creepy creature feature in an Anderson Shelter during a bombing), The silent key (a sold-his-soul to the devil performer, and the lengths a stalker will go to), and my favorite, Collaboration, which was good and nasty. In the author's notes at the back of the collection, Dan mentions his disgust at the piece, and how other reviewers and readers have reacted, and perhaps it says a lot about me and my own appreciation of nastiness – but I do love nasty details unflinchingly presented. The clinical presentation of trauma makes it so much more devastating. Great work on the last piece, Dan. It was the jewel in the crown.
I don’t think there was a bad piece here, all of the shorts entertained whilst I read them, all of them fulfilled their premise, and each was unique. It’s definitely one of the stronger collections I’ve read this year, and Collaboration was worth the cover price alone.
This is getting a 5 out of 5 ⭐ ‘s from me, and I look forward to his new release, Territory, out on June 10th 🤜🤛
You can buy Dark Missives on Amazon, by clicking the appropriate link:
You can visit Dan's website, HERE.
You can find Dan on Twitter, HERE.
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You can find Dan on Facebook, HERE.