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Mr. Fox and Other Feral Tales
Norman Partridge
Subterranean Press, 388 pages

Mr. Fox and Other Feral Tales
Norman Partridge
Norman Partridge is the author of The Ten-Ounce Siesta and Saguaro Riptide. Mr. Fox and Other Feral Tales won the Bram Stoker Award for 1992 and his collection, The Man With Barbed-Wire Fists, won for 2001. He lives in Northern California with his wife, Tia V. Travis.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Mario Guslandi

First published by Roadkill Press in 1992, the Bram Stoker winning Mr. Fox and Other Feral Tales is the debut collection of Norman Partridge, who has become one of the most prolific and respected writers in the horror field. The present Subterranean Press edition collects all the stories appeared in the original volume plus a bunch of early tales published by Partridge in a number of genre magazines.

Among the original stories, "Mr Fox," a quiet horror tale where a smart bride-to-be discovers the hidden secrets of his future husband, still maintains its freshness after all these years.

Another good one is the cryptic but fascinating "Vessels," set on a beach where an elusive girl takes a long, long dive into the sea..., whereas pieces like "Sandprint" and the odd "In Beauty, Like the Night" featuring zombie centrefolds, sound a bit outdated.

Predictably, as in any short story collection, not everything can be top-notch or appeal to everyone's taste. Personally I found "Black Leather Kits," a dull story of Satanism, so unconvincing to appear like a parody of the genre and, by contrast, "Save the Last Dance For Me" was a very effective representation of a small town's dirty secrets and minor tragedies.

Also noticeable are "Body Bags" a creepy horror story taking place during the Vietnam war, "Tooth and Nail," a delightful piece where a vampire meets a werewolf, "Cuidado!" a weird western full of macabre details and "Walkers" a mystifying tale of paranoia.

Partridge is a very talented writer and an experienced pro. He deals effortlessly with any type of horror subgenre and often mixes up different genres in the same story as in his early, atmospheric tale "Cosmos," an extraordinary mixture of horror and noir.

The best piece in the book, hands down, is "The Season of Giving," a grim, sad, moving Christmas mystery written with Richard Chizmar. Quite a great story where every word and sentence is simply perfect and the characters so masterly shaped to make it absolutely unforgettable.

Every story in Mr. Fox and Other Feral Tales is introduced by Partridge himself, recollecting in a very entertaining manner the circumstances related to the creation and the publication of that particular piece of fiction. The recollection of his experiences as a beginner in the writing field, sometimes nostalgic, sometimes overtly funny, is expanded to include a number of useful tips for the new generation of neophytes trying to become published authors. So this volume is not only a collection of short fiction but an actual handbook for aspiring writers.

Copyright © 2005 by Mario Guslandi

Mario Guslandi lives in Milan, Italy, and is a long-time fan of dark fiction. His book reviews have appeared on a number of genre websites such as The Alien Online, Infinity Plus, Necropsy, The Agony Column and Horrorwold.

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