Hell Hound by Ken Greenhall
Let me start by telling you that I loved this book. I tend to prefer emotional storytelling. I want you to endear the characters to me, to make me care about what happens to them. (Aside from the compassionate responses of “That is a terrible thing to happen to someone.”) This story is not that. The writing is excellent, but it is dry and straightforward.
This story follows the life of Baxter, a white Bull Terrier with blue eyes, as he transfers between homes. He only changes homes twice, but both occasions follow disastrous events in his current home. Baxter does not understand the love and devotion exchanged between pets and their people and acts only to improve is situation until he ends up in his last home.
”I suppose it is easy to love a creature that is totally dependent on you and to imagine that it loves you in return. But I do not see the point of such emotions.”
His last owner, a boy named Carl, is someone Baxter thinks is like him. He does not understand the intricacies associated with Carl’s obsession with Hitler and misconstrues Carl’s interest in cruelty with an interest in strength or courage. They get along in a kind of mutual understanding for awhile, but Carl does something that Baxter cannot overlook.
Greenhall builds up to the ending perfectly. It is a short and concise book whose end feels like the open of another story, as the last pages mirror the first. While it has a similar theme to Cujo by Stephen King, they are not similar books. Cujo is overwrought with emotion where Hell Hound is cold and calculating.
Everything That’s Underneath by Kristi DeMeester
I am not a huge fan of short stories, but I think short story writers are people to admire. I personally struggle with packing all the information I want into such a small space, but DeMeester does it well. There are eighteen stories in this collection and with each story DeMeester takes a shot at what terrifies or intrigues you. I would say that she hits her mark about 50% of the time as I tagged nine out of eighteen and I tend to be a tough reader to please when it comes to short stories.
My favorites tended to have depictions of horror tropes that I find creepy just due to the imagery itself (such as a person crawling or slithering, people are not meant to move that way) or had some reference to magic, ritual, or “gifted” members of a community which spoke to the pagan/occult fascination in me. Those were the ones that I wish were full stories since I had so many questions left after the story was over. I know that even full stories leave a lot of questions unanswered, but these particular stories of hers are worlds that I would like to explore more.
This is one of the better collections I have encountered, but it also brings to mind my days of scrolling through Creepypasta stories – both the good and the bad.