I remember reading the Stephen King short story collections NIGHT SHIFT and SKELETON CREW when I was a kid; wondering how every story somehow sounded the same. Whether a story about Greek Goddesses in rural Maine, or junk-trawling cyborgs in far-future space, always there was that voice. That homey, familiar-but-strange storytelling voice that bled through the spaces between the words. Without knowing what or how King accomplished it, I could feel it every single time. The stories stuck with me.
Richard Thomas stories are about going places - places you don't want to go, and whether you go along willingly, or get dragged behind, always with one question - 'How did I get here?'. And through each story runs that voice;that whispering, insidious voice telling you that no, you're not stopping here; you're only staying long enough to see one more picture, one more image of a soul in motion on the way down. Sometimes you zoom in close through a grubby lens, and other times you skim above the muck, and shake your head in piteous wonder.
Richard Thomas is a broad-stroke painter: he gives you the bones of the stories, the beats, and lets you fill in the rest.
Standout stories include: Steel-Toed Boots, Committed, Victimized, Twenty Reasons to Stay and One to Go, Transmogrify, Rudy Jenkins Buries His Fears.
Ed Lee meets Brian Keene. It's certainly gross; there are a couple of passages that were revolting, but without any of Lee's veneer of psychological/psychoanalytical color. The last story is a standout, if only for its ideas; the execution is flat and rushed, with archetypes substituted for character. Maybe if Harding combined his superlative gross-out capabilities with the kind of Grand Guignol macro-horror used in the last story, this would have been a more varied and satisfying collection.