If you read horror, you'd have to have been in suspended animation not to have heard of Robert McCammon. A veritable writing machine, with bestsellers like They Thirst
, Night Boat
, and Swan Song
, the man has virtually rewritten the horror genre from whole cloth. (There are some who say he's rewritten Stephen King and done it better.) His new novel just hit the stands as I write this; called Mine
, it has no outlandish or fantastic events, just good old aberrant human psychology. The publisher is hoping that it will appeal to the same people who make Thomas Harris a rich man. I think it's a good bet. McCammon's novels are daunting, though, large and epic, what my buddy Tad Williams would term "Winnebagos of a book" (of course, that's the pot calling the kettle black). Luckily, for those interested in dipping their toes into the McCammon river there's a book that just fits the bill: Blue World
, a short story collection including "Nightcrawlers" (which was filmed for the revival of The Twilight Zone), "He'll Come Knocking at Your Door," "Night Calls the Green Falcon," the title novella and nine others. Stories like "Yellowjacket Summer," a cross between King's fog from "The Mist" and that Twilight Zone classic "It's a Good Life" by Jerome Bixby, in which a town is held captive by a lone boy and thousands of stinging insects; the life affirming "Yellachile's Cage," a heartfelt story about prison life and hope; and "The Red House," a story of escape from the small town--literally and figuratively. For those of you that missed the episode of The Twilight Zone in which "Nightcrawlers" aired, run! don't walk to your nearest bookstore and read this story. Instead of giving the story away, let me give you a list of elements diverse and weird, yet all fitting together in this one story: Vietnam, a small Florida diner, nightmares, tourists, ghosts, guilt, fear. And, for those that wonder what makes a good story even better, the best example is the story "Blue World" itself. A priest who learns that lust is something you never rise above, a porn star who discovers real friendship, and a gun-happy star-fucker out to blow away his every fantasy make a strange threesome in this tale of sex, God, and hope. Beginning with all the trappings of the most graphic splatter story ever, it twists in on itself until what you thought wouldn't happen does and what you were afraid might happen, doesn't. McCammon is in complete control, upsetting the applecart of your expectations but serving a fine applesauce with the results.