Cities of Night
by Philip Nutman
Cover Artist: Design: Erik Mohr
Review by Drew Bittner
ChiZine Publications Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780981297880
Date: 15 May 2010 List Price $16.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
It's a dark world out there.
In Cities of Night, author Phil Nutman shows you just how dark it can get...
Loosely connected by the character of Jamie Hurst, introduced in the prologue as an old writer on the verge of a momentous day, the stories range from the city of Bath, England, to Atlanta to Hollywood and beyond. Not all of them include supernatural elements--some are more prosaic tales of the horror arising from strange circumstances than weird intrusions from Beyond--but each one is very definitely horror...
In "Full Throttle", Jamie's older brother Alex heads out for a rendezvous with destiny. He's going along with his hot-headed friend Rivers, whose agenda for the night involves carrying out a bit of revenge. Unfortunately for both, there's another player in the mix, unaware of the role he's to play as two joyriding teens on a motorcycle crisscross the English countryside. It's a twisted tale of growing up, in a sense, and Nutman expertly builds the tension in the story (and reveals Jamie's nascent gift) with quick cuts from Alex and Rivers, to Jamie, to others with parts to play. For an opening story, it's a powerful one.
"Pavlov's Wristwatch" follows a man haunted by a particular storybook character. His fractured mind caroms among a set of self-imposed rules, with memories and sensations overwhelming him at every turn. The denouement is a neat bit of storytelling indeed.
"Memories of Lydia, Leaving" is perhaps the most bittersweet in the collection, as a man suffers the aftermath of a breakup (in which all is not as it seems). The emotions evoked here are poignant, with the true horror lying in what we do to ourselves when love is gone.
"Blackpool Rock" finds an Elvis impersonator forced to grant an astounding request, while "Ponce de Leon Avenue" finds a down-and-out screenwriter in Atlanta working with the movie star of his dreams in what seems an absolute paradise--only to find that landing the ultimate cushy gig can be a real nightmare.
In "Still Life with Peckerwood" (co-written with Anya Martin), a man's unique perspective on life is overturned by burglars and a most unusual sort of kidnapping.
These and more are Nutman's triptych of the damned, an excursion through familiar places made strange with characters who seem oh-so-normal until you peer at their inner workings. He's a craftsman unafraid to unleash his dark side, which should delight fans of horror and dark fantasy everywhere.