It’s difficult to watch a good writer shoot himself in the foot, which author Ron Ripley does – bam, square in the toes – and in the process takes a dangling carrot dump all over his otherwise solid short story.
‘The Boylan House’ starts as a traditional haunted house story. Ripley does well here, with sweet little chunks of narrative that give us just enough to pull us in, which is what good short fiction is supposed to do. (Stephen King once compared writing short stories to driving home with one headlight. I’d extend that to reading them as well.)
Those aforementioned chunks of narrative come and go briskly, little time hops between October 1977 and today, with a man haunted by a childhood encounter with the titular house’s boogeyman, a wayward vagabond who squats in the wrong domicile, and the creepiest use of a Darth Vader mask I’ve read thus far.
Mason, our main character who returns to the Boylan House every so often with a grim pensive demeanor and a shotgun, even reminded me a bit of the old man in Jeepers Creepers 2, a movie which sucked spectacularly except for that one part.
I enjoyed most of the romp, especially since I’m a fan of haunted houses. Who isn’t terrified of that sound upstairs when you’re home alone, and holy shit, are those fucking footsteps?
Yet ‘The Boylan House’ crashes toward the end. I should have known it was coming the moment I saw the word ‘trilogy’ on the book’s Amazon description.
Because as we all know very well these days, ‘volume one’ usually means ‘bloated prologue.’ What had been a nifty, creepy short for thirty pages then fades into a stunted non-ending and a preview for the next book.
Which just makes me think, if you already have the opening pages for the following volume, why not just tack it on to the first and give your reader one complete story?
Many authors don’t like to hear it, but I happen to think one good book is better than bumping your Amazon stats by farting out half-finished novellas.
Another thing. The indie writing/reading community needs to take a stand against authors abusing short fiction. Writers are treating short stories, novellas, and novelettes like the ugly person at the bar that they only speak to in order to hook up with their hotter friend, which in this case would be a novel (or, God help us all, an eight volume short story saga, each with a shitty ending, naturally).
There are tremendous short story authors in the horror genre. We can’t let them be drowned out when it comes to sales by a bunch of writers who don’t seem to give a shit about the platform.
I’m not saying that we should automatically start firing one-star reviews on Amazon at these short fiction abusers, but we should start policing our own more effectively.
“The way hockey players do it?” asks Canada.
Well yeah, but like, the literary criticism equivalent.
Mack Moyer isn’t always such a negative Nancy. For instance, sometimes he writes poems about his mother smuggling Pizza Rolls into prison right before he hangs himself!