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Dead Promises
edited by June Hubbard
Chameleon Publishing, 220 pages

Dead Promises
June Hubbard
June Hubbard grew up in the Southern-most hills of the Appalacians. She holds a degree in Creative Writing from Georgia State University. As the owner of Chameleon Publishing, her current goal is to locate new talent and bring back the good old ghost stories of the past.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Night Voices and Careful What You Wish

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Lisa DuMond

In choosing a setting for a collection of ghost stories, it only makes sense to choose a situation fraught with pain. Of such backdrops, few are as powerful as the American Civil War. It was a time of hatred, arrogance, sorrow, and regret. Armies went to war. The country was shredded. Some people survived, some found their lives changed forever, and many, far too many, simply lost their lives. No matter the political stance or the geography, it was a time when everyone grieved.

Mr. Hagessy asserts in "Pocket Money," "The most viable ghosts suffer incredibly traumatic, violent deaths." If that is the case, then there could be almost half a million souls wandering through the sites of battles long past. And, at least as many stories about the shadows they left behind.

Dead Promises is not the first anthology to tackle the tragedy, not even the first horror anthology, but it is a good one. If some of the plots have appeared before and if some of the subjects are repeated, then just put that down to the nature of the supernatural.

Hubbard -- whose own story contribution is sadly absent -- has put together a roster of some of the most talented authors in the genre. Julie Ann Parks, Owl Goingback, and Stephen Lee Climer lead a corps of dark fantasy writers who have succeeded in hitting at the heart of this topic; the horror is not only in the fear the wraiths inspire, but in the anguish.

Three of the stories that start off the collection provoke a shiver as well as any ghost tales they might be compared to. However, along with the shudder is that of a touch of pity. Michael Nethercott's "Dusk At Seven Pines" employs a plot device that you will find echoed later in the book, but the short, sharp piece captures the scene so clearly, it is all too easy to imagine yourself there. The evocative quality of the story is not so easily pushed out of one's thoughts. "Ill Met by Moonlight" provides a story of love turned to madness, in Jan Sterling's look at the war at home and the casualties uncounted. The horror that was Andersonville Prison becomes chillingly clear in Goingback's "Last Man in Line." A warning: if you suffer claustrophobia, this piece may be even more frightening -- and it is quite frightening enough, thank you.

Several of the stories bring back in grisly detail the hopelessness of those wounded in battle, the ones who took longer to die. It might be a good idea to read "Strawfoot and Slow Bear," "Common Ground," and the title story on an empty stomach. Some mental images are just a bit too real for comfort.

Of course, none of the stories are made for comfort, are they? You cannot write about a war without writing a tragedy. No matter what the uniform, what colour the skin, how right the sides believe they are, it's a war. Everybody loses.

Copyright © 1999 Lisa DuMond

Lisa DuMond writes science fiction and humour. She co-authored the 45th anniversary issue cover of MAD Magazine. Previews of her latest, as yet unpublished, novel are available at Hades Online.

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