"Magnificent Compilation of Stories Explores Dark Corners of Human Heart"
Havoc After Dark: Tales of Terror
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Reviewed by Thumper
The short story collection Havoc After Dark: Tales of Terror, the fiction debut
of Robert Fleming, is nothing short of brilliant. Last year Fleming edited the
excellent short story compilation, After Hours. Havoc After Dark became
important to me because I wanted to know if Fleming was capable of producing the
same quality of literature he edited in After Hours. Just because a person can
recognize good art, doesn't mean he can create it.
Havoc After Dark consists of 14 short stories that explore the supernatural and the dark corners of the human psyche that spawn the evil we are capable of inflicting upon each other. After reading Havoc After Dark, with its echoes of Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Franz Kafka and Flannery O'Connor, I concluded that Robert Fleming is an artist of the highest order. Havoc After Dark will stand as his first masterpiece. Allow me to highlight a few of my favorite stories.
The first story, Life After Bas, features a woman who is locked away in a mental hospital. It's off the hook! Fleming skillfully combines the supernatural with the sensual -- producing a result that left me speechless and twisted in knots.
Fleming used actual historical events and social conditions in Arbeit Macht Fei, (a story that takes place during World War II), and in The Ultimate Bad Luck, (which takes place in the South in the 50s and early 60s), that raised the small hairs on the back of my neck. Arbeit Macht Fei shook me up, and for the life of me I don't know why. A portion of the story focuses on a Nazi concentration camp. I am familiar with horror of the Holocaust and I shouldn't have been disturbed by Fleming's story, but I was. Fleming described how easy it is for people to loose their humanity. The Nazis were inhumane in that they were able to kill with glee. Their supporters and sympathizers lacked humanity when they used their silence as approval to the horrific events, and couldn't muster up courage to act on their own beliefs -- permitting others to do the dirty work. But it was the victims that knocked me for a loop. I had never considered the victims losing their humanity but in this story Fleming brought it front and center. Their loss was understandable and justifiable. The three groups created a vicious circle indeed, where the snake feeds on its own tail.
The Ultimate Bad Luck had a strange little twist of an ending. I ain't telling what it is. *big smile * It's not the typical lynching story -- where a black man is lynched because a white woman said he raped her. After reading this story, I realize how desensitized I had become to the plight of a good looking black man in the American South, for not every case of this black man-white woman coupling happened because the black man wanted it. In this story the black male protagonist has a gun to his head and is forced to comply. In today's society, wouldn't we call this rape? What is that Shakespeare line about a rose by any other name? *eyebrow raised*
Punish The Young Seed of Satan -- a tale, which centers on a young black boy, who after being bullied by a few white students, shot and killed his school principal and is now facing sentencing for the murder -- is the most poignant story in the collection. Stunning. I was hit on an emotional and social level. Punish the Young Seed of Satan stayed with me, taking a minute to shake loose.
The short story, The Garden of Evil is an account that reads like an old Twilight Zone episode and left me speechless and at the same moment wanting to applaud the author. In another story, The Inhuman Condition, The Tenderness of Monsieur Blanc, we got zombies in the house! The title story, Havoc After Dark, falls in the Anne Rice vein of vampire tales, except Fleming examines the position of the victim. The story Bordering On The Divine is an unsettling tale of a young survivor of murderous cult.
Havoc After Dark: Tales of Terror, is literature at its best. The stories are packed with old-world wisdom, and an expert's knowledge of human nature, written by the hand of an enchanted poet. Havoc After Dark belongs in the company of Langston Hughes' magnificent The Ways of White Folks. Havoc After Dark is a calling card to introduce our next remarkable author, Robert Fleming.