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The Universal and Other Terrors by Tony Richards
Cover Artist: M Wayne Miller
Review by Mario Guslandi
Dark Renaissance Books Trade Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781937128890
Date: 01 December 2013

Links: Author's Website / Publisher's Book Page / Show Official Info /

By all means one of the modern masters of dark fiction, Tony Richards is back with a new collection featuring eleven short stories and a novella. Most of the stories are either new or recently published and the novella "A Town Called Youngesville" is a slightly revised version of "Yuppieville" which appeared in 2010.

I will start by mentioning "Youngesville" (or "Yuppieville") because it is a magnificent example of Richards' superb ability as an author of horror fiction. Thrilling and enticing in the extreme, the novella describes how a Los Angeles couple relocated in an apparently perfect small town in Nevada discovers, behind the pristine facade of a young and happy population, lies an unexpected and unsettling reality.

Among the tales included in the volume, my favorite are the following.

"Beneath the Shroud" is a compelling, atmospheric piece about a man taking a long and distressing car drive into the fog to pay his last respects to his dying father.

"Mr Smyth" is a disturbing, unusual story revealing how an old man manages to fight his cancer.

In the gloomy "The Crows" the gathering of menacing crows heralds grim events leading to loss and death.

In "Covered Mirrors", a dark, supernatural story, we remain in awe of the disturbing unknown properties of those simple objects we call mirrors.

Another outstanding tale is "The In-Betweeners" an offbeat example of urban horror where the city becomes the venue of strange encounters with threatening teenagers lurking at the street corners.

Although not every story is quite top-notch (even Richards is human, after all) the book is a fascinating and disquieting journey into the darker side of human existence with its inner and external horrors ready to menace our safety and our peace of mind.

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