‘Free 5: Flash Fiction’ by Paul D. Dail (2011)

De Los Diablos Books | 2011 | Kindle edition | 28 pages

Five Flash Fiction horror pieces, all under 1000 words.

Each piece also includes a brief afterword from the author with a bit of background on where he got the idea for the story.

A little insight into the life and mind of a horror writer.

* ‘A 250 Word Introduction from the Author’ (2011)
* ‘The Professional Crier’ (2011)
* ‘I Spy with My Little Eye (2011)
* ‘Run, Rabbit, Run’ (2011)
* ‘The Death He Expected’ (2011)
* ‘Another Oldie but Goodie’ (2011)

I love flash fiction. When done well it is the epitome of the storyteller’s art, condensing a story to its bare essentials, delivering the tale with speed and sharpness of a well-aimed ice pick to the temples.

This collection, alas, is not done well.

It starts of okay, with ‘The Professional Crier’ being the best of a fairly mediocre bunch, and probably the best choice for an opener. The main character is intriguing (a teenage girl with the power to bring people back from the dead with her tears, if only for moments), and the whole thing has shades of the Edgar Allan Poe classic ‘The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar’. I could see more being done with the protagonist, perhaps a novel, or even a series of them, assuming the author could develop her further.

It pretty much runs downhill from there. Whilst I’m happy to say that I wanted more of the first story, with ‘I Spy with My Little Eye’ and ‘The Death He Expected’ I needed more. Which is to say they read like snippets or vignettes from a longer work. The former, in particular, feels like the final reel of a Tarantino film, but with out any character or narrative development to get us there.

Sandwiched between the two is ‘Run, Rabbit, Run’ – easily the worst of the offerings presented here. A cautionary tale blending a mild anti-drug narrative with a spot of Native American folklore, to produce a story so limp that it couldn’t sustain my interest over a mere 1000 words.

Fortunately, Dail redeems himself somewhat with his final story, ‘Another Oldie but Goodie’ which is much better. What starts as standard horror fare (love and revenge that live on beyond the grave!) becomes more than the sum of its parts thanks to an innovative twist that I will not spoil here.

In all, it’s a disappointing collection: two good stories, padded out with a whole lot of filler. It’s a shame too, since Dail shows definite promise, but too many of the stories feel that they’ve either been rushed, or subjected to excessive whittling to get them down below his self-imposed word count limit.

Not recommended.

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