First, the obligatory disclaimer. While he has the great fortune of sharing the same last name with me, to the best of my knowledge, David J. West and I are not related. We’ve never met, nor do I owe him money.
OK, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about this book. Weird Tales of Horror is a full length short story collection containing 21 stories and poems (I won’t be detailing all of them), David’s first if memory serves me correctly. And it’s not a complete collection. These are his horror stories to date. He also writes fantasy, usually in a sword and sorcery or historical vein, and most of those aren’t included here. Two of the stories in this collection were originally printed in anthologies I’ve reviewed here (“Gods in Darkness” in Space Eldritch and “The Mad Song” in Artifacts and Relics: Extreme Sorcery).
David (it feels weird referring to him by his last name, so I won’t) has a fresh voice and isn’t afraid to do things that are unusual. His work reminds me a bit of the early work of Henry Kuttner, when Kuttner was trying to branch out and attempted a number of ambitious stories in a variety of genres. Stories that provided training for the classics that followed such as “The Proud Robot”, “Mimsy Were the Borogoves”, “Happy Ending”, “The Twonky”, and Mutant.
David is doing a similar thing with his work, although I have no idea if he’s intentionally following Kuttner’s example or not. What he is doing is stretching himself as a writer, tackling various subgenres and genre mashups, challenging himself to grow and improve. The stories here range from some of the more traditional types of horror, such things in ancient tombs that are best left undisturbed (“The Dig”) to Lovecraftian horrors in outer space (“Gods in Darkness”) to demon jackalopes in the Old West (“Tangle Crowned Devil”).
In fact, three of the stories here deal with a bounty hunter named Porter Rockwell. In addition to the forementioned “Tangle Crowned Devil”, there’s “Fangs of the Dragon” and “Garden of Legion”. The former is a tale Native American magic and a lake monster. The latter concerns demon possessed tumble weeds. (I think we have a few of those where I live.) Porter Rockwell is a bounty hunter who doesn’t limit himself to ordinary criminals. The Weird Western is making a comeback these days, and the Porter Rockwell series is a worthy addition to that subgenre. I suspect (and hope) we haven’t seen the last of Porter Rockwell.
David is a self-described pulp aficionado. This interest is most evident in “Make a Monkey Outta Me”, an homage to King Kong, pulp villains, and two fisted fun.
He also has a more than passing knowledge of “litrachure”. “A Good Home for the Spoon” is narrated by Ernest Hemingway and concerns a rather difficult evening he had in Paris.
I’ve already mentioned some of the tales in this volume deal with Lovecraftian themes. Nylarthothotep makes a couple of appearances in “Curse the Child” and “Echo From the Abyss”.
One other story I particularly enjoyed was “The King in the Wood”. Here David turns his attention to the mysterious shop that sells unique items, items which change the lives of those who purchase them. I liked the way music and mythology were used in this one. The voice and setting were different than the other stories, being that of a young woman in college, and David made her convincing. It’s also an interesting contrast to a similar theme in “The Mad Song”.
I found this a solid collection of weird fiction. The selections range from a few poems to short stories to novellas.
As for the production values, overall they were good. The cover is designed to look like an old horror paperback, complete with creases and faded illustration. I read the electronic version, and there were no strange formatting errors. Passages that were supposed to be in italics were, and those that weren’t, weren’t. The links in the ToC worked and took me to the stories they were supposed to.
The only complaint I have about the formatting is more of a copy-editing issue. That was the misuse of apostrophes. Where the word was plural, there would be an apostrophes; where there should have been apostrophes indicating personal possession of something, the apostrophe would be missing. Often it was obvious there was a typo, but in other places the error changed the meaning of the sentence. Other than this, the production values of the book were professional quality. throughout.
If you like weird fiction and are looking for new authors to try out, give David J. West a try