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Book Review: Wrathbone and Other Stories by Jason Parent

“Parent’s descriptive prowess is masterful, his ability to paint a bloody and horrific picture in the reader’s mind is a gift.”

Jason Parent is a horror author with two novels, two novellas and numerous short stories and novelettes included in various anthologies and collections, including one story in Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Volume 1 (edited by Randy Chandler & Cheryl Mullenax, 2016). So far, 2016 has been an especially productive period for Parent, with the release of two novellas earlier in the year. Here we take a look at his recently-released fiction collection Wrathbone and Other Stories. Featuring five original stories (the title novella and four short stories), this collection showcases a wonderful and varied storytelling talent.

After a glowing reference in the form of an introduction from respected author Kealan Patrick Burke, the collection opens with the title novella, ‘Wrathbone’, a thoroughly entertaining piece of historical fiction which uses the assassination of Abraham Lincoln as the catalyst for a lifetime of misery for Captain Henry James Rathbone and his wife, Clara. Henry, the unreliable narrator of the tale, recalls the events of that fateful night, giving the well-known facts a sinister and supernatural twist. But whether his sole recollections are the truth or the dark imaginings of a mind incapable of processing the horror, they continue to haunt Henry, and his family, for the rest of his days. The story is written in the authentic style of that time period. It becomes quite lyrical, especially when Henry speaks of his love for, first, Clara and then later, his children. Parent’s descriptions of Henry’s encounters with his demons are also strikingly evocative, painting a very disturbing image in the reader’s mind.

The title of the second story, ‘The Only Good Lawyer’, alludes to the tone of the story. The action begins in a courtroom, where defence attorney Bradley Walsh is confident of successfully defending his client against a murder charge. But he hasn’t reckoned on the Haitian heritage of the victim’s father. Parent explores the idea of voodoo and revenge while putting his personal knowledge of the legal system to good use. As his case implodes in court, we begin to see where the story is headed. But the author certainly seems to have fun getting the reader there and the ending is delivered in an entertaining and clever way.

‘Dorian’s Mirror’ is also a title that hints at the story to come. Narcissistic model and actor, Dorian Clarke, enjoys a hedonistic lifestyle until he begins to notice slight changes in the mirror. He seems to have aged overnight, but we’ve all been there, right? However, in Dorian’s case, the aging doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Here, Parent takes an old story and gives it a fresh twist. His descriptions of the horrific injuries are especially vivid and gruesome. Very enjoyable with a suitably dark conclusion.

The penultimate story, ‘For The Birds’, concerns bachelor Nev and his beloved companion, the carnivorous macaw, Joji. After a brief introduction to the main characters and Joji’s peculiar diet, we are thrust into the nightmare of a home invasion. Given the scene at the beginning of the story where we learn of the tender relationship between man and pet, the reader may be forgiven for thinking that they know the direction the story is headed. But they would be wrong. Parent again manages to, seemingly without effort, pull the rug out from under our feet as the burglary plays out and comes to a stomach-churning and unexpected conclusion. Again, the descriptions of the violence and grisly aftermath are colourful, to say the least. Parent’s descriptive prowess is masterful, his ability to paint a bloody and horrific picture in the reader’s mind is a gift.

The final slightly longer short story is ‘Revenge is a Dish’. Again the title hints at the story to come, but it can never fully give everything away. Here, we meet Maurice, a chef of some talent who is hired to serve in the kitchen of a luxury yacht by the elderly owner, Doctor Flickenhoffer, and his voluptuous young bride, the insatiable Olivia. The story begins with Maurice being cast overboard after he is found to be meeting more than just Olivia’s culinary needs. As the title suggests, the chef has only one thing on his mind as he floats aimlessly on the ocean for nearly two days, clinging helplessly to a lifesaver while the vastness of the ocean and all the dangerous and terrifying creatures it may contain continuously plague his imagination. Until the moment he miraculously finds himself near the sandy beach of a tropical island, and the boat from which he was jettisoned. The conclusion finds Maurice once again able to serve the yacht’s crew and passengers. But will he have his revenge? Parent plays on the tension of the reader wickedly-well as he describes the torment Maurice must endure on the open seas, causing us to contemplate what lies beneath the calm surface. But he saves the truly gruesome horror for the finale, when the chef finds the clearing on the island and the people there.

Overall, with Wrathbone and Other Stories, Jason Parent has managed to produce a well-written and entertaining collection full of colourful characters and original ideas from a playfully dark imagination. The future looks bright for this author and we look forward to watching his career progress within the horror fiction community.

THOMAS JOYCE

Publisher: Comet Press
Paperback: (162 pp)
Release Date: 30 September 2016

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