by Norman Partridge
Review by Drew Bittner
Subterranean Press Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781596062948
Date: 30 April 2010 List Price $25.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Norman Partridge delivers hard-hitting, visceral horror like a flurry of gut punches in Lesser Demons, a collection of dynamite short stories. Like Joe R. Lansdale and Howard Waldrop, the man has a knack for delivering powerhouse chills with an economy of language and a surgical precision.
In "Second Chance", a small-time criminal named Keyes plays a deadly game of cat-and-mouse at a remote cabin. "The Big Man" is Partridge's poignant homage to the B-movies of the '50s, as a boy encounters a monstrous mutated freak with bittersweet results.
In the titular "Lesser Demons", a lawman struggles to survive as everyone in town has turned into gravedigging ghouls. With only his deputy for company, the sheriff of this town has to torch or shoot people he used to protect, sacrificing chunks of his humanity with every kill. Like the best zombie movies, this is a story of enduring the end of the world and hoping for something, anything, to make it better.
"The House Inside" follows the doings of a batch of toys after their owner, a child, dies and leaves them adrift, while in "The Iron Dead", Prohibition-era bootleggers in Denver run afoul of a manlike hell machine with a plan; when that plan puts the machine on a collision course with crimelord Eddie Bartlett, Sheriff Gans and others, all hell truly is going to break loose.
With ten stories and an afterword by Partridge, the reader is getting more than his money's worth here. Partridge has a strong style, rarely going for a cheap gross-out when a more sophisticated terror is possible, but his images will certainly stick with the reader long after the book is closed.
For horror, you can't beat it.