My thanks to the author R David Fulcher for a review copy of this book via Booktasters.
The Lighthouse at Montauk Point and Other Stories is a collection of a dozen short stories, many just a page or two in length, others longer. The genres are varied, but most do have an element of the uncanny about them, whether downright creepy (the ‘horror’ genre) or taking one into fairy tale or fantasy spaces or extraordinary occurrences.
These stories are peopled by an assortment of characters, among them criminals attempting to escape the authorities or their wrongs; a traveller lost in a reverie which transports him to a different world altogether; a child fearing the stuff of nightmares as children typically do; a juvenile who harasses the elderly in his town; an air force pilot defecting based on an appearance by god in his dream; a father rescuing his child from the clutches of a dragon, and even a possible vampire. Some characters one feels sympathy for, but many are unlikeable and one is pleased at them getting their just desserts even if the way this comes about gives one shudders.
For someone who isn’t much of a reader of horror stories (mild horror is as far as I can go), it was surprising to find that among the stories I enjoyed most in this collection were ones that would classify as horror. ‘The Shamblers’ for instance, where a group of juveniles harass and pick on the elderly in their town had an ending I certainly didn’t see coming until just when it played out. In the titular ‘The Lighthouse at Montauk Point’, ‘Retribution’ or ‘Gold Fever’ while one might guess what end might be in store, one doesn’t really guess how it would really come about.
In most of the stories with a creepy element, I felt the imagery came through very strongly and well—one could picture, and indeed to some level, even feel the occurrences as they were unfolding, with goosebumps or shivers down one’s spine. Whether it is zombies reaching out for their victim, or another being feasted on by tiny creatures or a nightmare suddenly turning real, there is quite the range of downright chilling images, some with their share of gore.
Of course, not all the stories are quite so scary, we have the milder ‘Drawing the Ace’ where a young student flying to Europe meets a retired airforce captain; a grandson worried about his grandfather when the woods the latter spent most of his life around are to be felled for timber or even the fantasy ‘An Unlikely Hero’ where a father’s quest to rescue his daughter from a dragon turns out rather different to what he (and the reader) imagines.
Overall, this was a rather enjoyable collection of stories to read. Their short length for me worked in their favour; the fact that the creepy elements, vivid though they were, played out fast and quick made me able to handle them (and dare I say ‘enjoy’ them) a lot better than I otherwise would have. Certainly a good pick for Halloween season.