I continue my efforts to read through the books that have been sitting on my shelves for years. Turn Down the Lights is a collection of short horror and thriller/suspense/crime stories from the long-running magazine Cemetery Dance. Chizmar started the magazine in college and also runs a small press that publishes a variety of genre novels. I got this due to the fact that Stephen King and Chizmar have a long-standing relationship, and the first story in this collection is by King. Then it sat on bookcases and was transported between apartments because I have to be in a specific mood for short story collections, but the day finally came.
This is a slim book (174 pages) so it’s not a slog, and since the stories are all genre, they zip by. Chizmar is a good editor and has a strong eye for an interesting story. There’s a reason he was able to keep his magazine and publishing company going for so long. As with any short story collection with multiple authors, there are ups and downs, but the general tenor here is higher than other collections I’ve read recently, to his credit. My favorites are “Summer Thunder,” an elegiac (albeit gory) King story about the aftermath of nuclear holocaust, and “Flying Solo,” a look at two men with cancer who start helping their nurses by doing stuff like killing an abusive husband. “In the Room” was one I am on the fence about but honestly freaked me out with the idea, so that also gets a mention. And “The Collected Short Stories of Freddie Prothero” was interesting — I always feel like I’m right on the edge of getting into Peter Straub but we keep missing each other. Overall a decent read.
Warnings for murder, gore, body horror, dark themes