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Rating: 3 of 5 stars
From the author of Tamed and The Light of Epertase trilogy come Douglas R. Brown’s twisted tales of the macabre. In this three-story collection, Douglas explores the devastating depths of mental illness, the evil that burns within men who kill, and angels who aren’t always what they seem.
In the title story, Death Alarm, Douglas uses his real-life experiences as a career firefighter to explore the consequences when those who go to the rescue become those most at risk. When pure evil battles the noblest of professions, the blood will flow like water from the very hydrants that firemen use every day.
Following the title story is a psychological tale entitled Janitor. Working the nightshift in a run-down factory, Jeb quickly realizes he may not be alone. What does the man dressed in black want with him? And can Jeb keep his sanity long enough to find out?
Closing out the collection is a brutal story titled Skelwaller Lane where sometimes even the most horrible behavior can be justified if only you listen to how the true story begins.
In addition, Douglas, by way of Rhemalda Publishing, has included an exclusive 2-chapter preview of his newest break-through novel, Tamed, where werewolves are sold as pets. Recently called, “the Jurassic Park of werewolf stories,” Douglas is excited to give you a peek with this free preview.
In the Death Alarm short stories, Douglas grabs you by your arms.
And then he chops them off. Sensitive stomachs need not continue.
Douglas R. Brown has put together a brief, easy-to-read collection of three horror short stories in “Death Alarm.” It starts off slow, but it eventually redeems itself with its exploration in the vast field of horror.
The eponymous first installment recounts the tales of an old house with a captivating stranger (literally), a murderous old hillbilly and a knack for basement fires; a few firehouse rookies and even vets fall victim. If you think ghosts stories aren’t real…
Okay, so “Death Alarm,” as a short story, wasn’t worth much. I was new to short stories in the horror genre, so I walked into it with an open mind and few expectations. I still found it cheesy. The hillbilly slasher guy didn’t seem scary at all and he actually apologized to one of the guys he kills! And the other threat, the ethereal woman who traps men with her beauty, actually says, “Help usss” and says her name is “Angelaaa.” The combination of these elements—in conjunction with (1) confusing firefighter equipment jargon and (2) rookie thoughts of “back in drill school”—really drove off any and every chance this story had of scaring me. I wouldn’t call this viable horror, just bad luck and a silly ghost lady.
Next was “Janitor,” which follows a night janitor named Jeb through a maze of psychological torment.
After “Death Alarm,” I didn’t know what to expect from a story prefaced by the quote “If you are physically sick, you can elicit the interest of a battery of physicians; but if you are mentally sick, you are lucky if the janitor comes around.” ~Martin H. Fischer. Sounded like a good premise, and was executed much more tactfully than its predecessor. The inclusion of Jeb’s somewhat OCD nature (i.e. nicknames like Duck Bill, the number of songs on his iPod) gave me early clues that this man had a wackiness about him. The only part I found cheesy was the sign the big man held spelling out BECKY. Then again, it lent to the creepiness overall, especially the ending. Probably would’ve been better off if the “And then he died” was omitted, though. This marked the beginning of a pleasant reading experience.
Last but best of all, “Skelwaller Lane” left me buzzing with guilty pleasure. From its Freudian influence to its switchbacking perspectives and surprises, “Skelwaller Lane” took the cake. The longest and most developed of this collection tells of a man terrified for his life running from a big, evil man, and only when he is captured and close to death—the word PEDOPHILE carved into his chest—does the story really get interesting.
When I thought it was supposed to feel for Billy, the tables turned on me, and I really got involved then. While I don’t see why Brown didn’t just give us the “two hours earlier” up-front, from Thomas’ point of view (the father of the kidnapped girl), it still involved me in a way that I won’t fight. So Billy, who we don’t know yet is a monster, is running for his life. Why? And we are on his side, right? No. Soon we are glad to know he is dying and cheer Thomas on as he tracks down his daughter from Billy’s sadistic brother. I smiled when those seven shots rang out behind the house too.
So what started out as a butchered mishmash quickly rollercoastered into an unconventional look at human horror at its worst—fear of oneself and fear for a child’s safety. Brown created a fast-paced page-turner with these short stories and if you have an hour free why not give it a shot? Can’t hurt. A quick, enjoyable ride.