Written by: Drake Morgan
Laird Barron is one of the godfathers of modern horror. His work is quite outside what I’ve come to tag as “horror” in the post-war years. Words like dark, haunting, and mysterious consistently come up in reviews and praise of his work instead of violent, bloody, and gore-soaked. Short stories are an excellent introduction to any author and his latest collection, The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All, is a must-read for new and seasoned fans alike.
This is a collection of previously published stories from the last three years. Several come from Lovecraft-themed anthologies and others are from more broad-based horror offerings. They are diverse and do indeed provide an excellent introduction to Barron if one is not familiar with him. As many of these stories are from specialized anthologies, seasoned fans may likely have missed one or two along the way as well.
Barron’s writing style is outside of what I see as mainstream horror and I for one really appreciate that. It’s subtle and gently guides the reader into dark, eerie places. His characters are well-defined, distinct, and drawn in sharp lines. I found myself loving, hating, sympathizing with, or raging against them throughout the stories. The story “The Redfield Girls” serves as a perfect example. We have a wonderful cast of characters and a fantastic set up. A group of women make an annual road trip to a remote location in the Pacific Northwest. They drink some wine, relax, and recharge their batteries for the coming year. This year however, one of their party insists on a specific location and thus begins a mounting feeling of something dark and ominous. Barron delivers in tone and atmosphere, and we sit tense through mysterious phone calls, missing vehicles, and missing persons.
Barron’s horror skillfully weaves haunting tales by taking the normal and giving it that macabre twist. Writers like Henry James and Sheridan Le Fanu were famous for it during the heyday of Gothic literature in the 1800s. Modern writers seem to have lost that flare for the macabre as they fall back on gore, bloodshed, and violence. Barron is far and away a cut above the rest. Pun intended.