by Alex Scully:
I once read an interview with a horror author and he argued that a story wasn’t really horror if it did not have a lot of blood, guts, and brutality in it. Rob Smales takes that idea and not only throws it out the window, but he demolishes it. His collection, The Dead of Winter, is an elegant, disturbing, and poignant look into the world of ghostly apparitions.
The Dead of Winter is the first in a series of novella collections. Each of the stories here is set in the winter, and each reflects some element of fear brought on by the season. In “The Christmas Spirit,” Smales channels a little Charles Dickens with what is initially the horrifying discovery of a ghost. As the narrative unfolds, however, we realize the story is actually about that magical period of belief and wonder we all experience in childhood. “Fishing Hole” take a one hundred and eighty degree turn to explore vengeance and hatred; all without a trace of evisceration or spilled guts. “Snowbirds” is a haunting tale rife with sadness, and laced with a strong undercurrent of fear.
Smales is an elegant writer. His prose lures the reader into a place both comforting and unsettling. We are his characters. We know their lives, their fears, and their nightmares. His world is our world. Safe, secure, and warm on the inside, but as the title suggests, the cold of winter is always trying to dig in to freeze our marrow. Sometimes we survive, and sometimes we wish wouldn’t have.
Dead of Winter is now available on Amazon.com.