A Long December
by Richard Chizmar
Cover Artist: Edward Miller
Review by Mario Guslandi
Subterranean Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781596067936
Date: 31 October 2016 List Price $40.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Richard Chizmar is such a famous and acclaimer publisher (Cemetery Dance) and editor (Shivers, etc) that one might even forget that, first of all, he is an excellent writer of horror and crime fiction. The fact that he's totally devoted to short stories and, as far as I know, until now has always resisted the common temptation to pen THE GREAT NOVEL, makes him a rare and precious bird.
A Long December, a hefty collection assembling thirty-four previously published tales plus an original novella is, in the author's words, like a personal photo album including persons and places Chizmar wanted to talk about. Since he's a superb storyteller, you can bet the book will entertain you, scare you, move you, and make you meditate about how weird and unpredictable life is and how fragile and sad is the human condition.
All the included stories, bar none, are well worth reading, wonderfully written and accomplished. I will mention the ones which struck me as the more interesting.
First of all I loved a group of stories set in the world of small town America, dealing with family issues: "Blood Brothers" is an excellent tale (with an unexpected ending) about brotherly love; "Family Ties" (also graced by a surprising twist in the tail) addresses the theme of sisterly love; "The Season of Giving" (co-authored with Norman Partridge) is a strong yet delicate tale where a Santa Claus makes things right for an abused little girl prisoner in a family hell; and the outstanding "Brothers" (written with Ed Gorman) is a bitter piece depicting the tragic results of the excessive, overprotective love of a cop for his young brother.
"The Box" is a creepy story featuring a tranquil housewife discovering a terrifying secret in her own house, while "After the Bombs" is a splendid, apocalyctic tale about survival but also about friendship and devotion.
I won't give out any spoiler about "Heroes", a fabulous, unusual take of the time honored vampire subject, and I'll praise "The Poetry of Life", a very short but deeply unsettling piece about loneliness and the true horror of it.
"Devil's Night", a strong story written in a very gripping narrative style, revolves around a high school tragedy hitting a small town community, while "A Season of Change" offers a sentimental, quite effective version of the standard subject of the cops's lonely life.
"Last Words" is an insightful short piece where a man, after his grandfather's death, is involved in a kind of treasure hunt with appalling results.
Finally "A Long December" is a suspenseful, enticing novella revisiting the theme of the serial killer from the point of view of his neighbor and best friend.
I cannot recommend enough this extraordinary collection. Rumors are that it's already going out of print. Hurry up and get a copy.