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Basic Black: Tales of Appropriate Fear
Terry Dowling
Ticonderoga Publications, 364 pages

Basic Black: Tales of Appropriate Fear
Terry Dowling
Terry Dowling was born in Sydney, Australia in 1947. He is author of such novels as Twilight Beach (1993) and Rynemonn (2007) and editor of a number of collections including the World Fantasy Award-winning The Essential Ellison (1987/ revised 2001) and The Jack Vance Treasury (2007). He holds a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Western Australia, an MA (Hons) in English Literature and a BA (Hons) in English Literature, Archaeology and Ancient History, both from the University of Sydney. He has won many Ditmar and Aurealis Awards for his fiction, as well as the William Atheling Jr Award for his critical work. His first computer adventure won the Grand Prix at Utopiales in France in 2001.

Terry Dowling Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Mario Guslandi

To say that this is one of the best collections of dark fiction I ever read may seem obvious, considering that the book, first published by Cemetery Dance in 2006, won the 2007 International Horror Guild Award for Best Collection. And the fact that Terry Dowling is one of the most respected Australian authors of SF and horror should have been a further guarantee. However, I stopped taking things for granted long ago: Award winner books may turn out to be disappointing, ditto celebrated authors (who, as everyone else, have their ups and downs). Therefore, I started reading this volume with a positive but careful attitude, not really expecting to have necessarily in my hands a little masterpiece. Actually, it is.

I don't care much for hard SF, thus my previous encounters with Dowling's work have not always been satisfactory. Here, on the other hand, the writer is exhibiting the darker side of his work, a type of refined, highbrow horror which makes the stories irresistibly fascinating.

Fine examples are "The Daemon Street Ghost-Trap," an unusual ghost story revisiting, under a new light, the classical themes of the haunted house and the family curse, and "Downloading," a creepy, superb psychological detective story hinting at much, explaining precious little, but disquieting in the extreme.

"The Bone Ship" is another excellent, chilling tale where revenge finds its way through the centuries, while, in the odd "La Profonde," vengeance takes place on railroad tracks.

The weird, powerful "One Thing About the Night" describes how fighting with shadows in a room full of mirrors can indeed be a frightening experience.

In the subtle, well constructed "Beckoning Nightframes," a female writer is obsessed with the bizarre movements of the curtains of a deserted shed while in the disturbing "They Found the Angry Moon" two petty criminals get their punishment from supernatural forces.

The collection doesn't include any misfires, the quality of the stories is consistently top notch, but some material is absolutely superlative. "The Bullet That Grows in the Gun" is the intriguing, tense, extraordinary report of a scientific experiment involving an apparently absurd theory about materialization. An unforgettable tale graced by excellent storytelling and superb characterization. The mysterious, disquieting "The Saltimbanques" conveys unease from the very beginning by depicting how magic visits a small town through a group of weird carnival people. "Jeanny Come to Play" is a gripping, offbeat noir featuring twin sisters, freak shows, an abusive father and a puzzled psychiatrist. The story develops like an unsettling maze of truths, lies, hidden family secrets and forbidden games. Simply outstanding. In the amazing, spellbinding "Cheat Lights," a second-hand camera with an undeveloped film inside starts a surprising quest for an elusive source of light.

Basic Black: Tales of Appropriate Fear is not to be missed by any (dark) fiction lover.

Copyright © 2010 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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