13 Broken Nightlights by Barry Napier

Short story collections are a great way to get to know an author, and 13 Broken Nightlights provides a glimpse at Barry Napier’s varied approaches to writing dark fiction.

Barry’s bibliography is evidence of his range as a writer. With publishing credits that cover fiction, poetry and comic books, 13 Broken Nightlights offers that same variety, providing something for everyone.

 

Mi Casa Es Su Casa reads like melodic prose, and in an interview with Macabre Republic, Napier shared that the story first started out as a lengthy poem titled “A Heart with Picket Fences.

The story finds an operating room full of doctors exploring the treasures revealed within a patient, and causes each one to wonder about the magic and mystery held within themselves.

An Excerpt from Mi Casa Es Su Casa:

“Her small face looked like a dull pearl. She was sleepy and her hair was askew, life wafting pollen atop her head.”

The closing line is as powerful as the  wonderfully imagery throughout, and sums up the melancholy tone perfectly.

End Credits had me intrigued from the very beginning. It tells the tale of Jason, whose film director father Val DeSade (now passed) left a series of clues in the end credits of his films for his son to discover and decipher.

Excerpt from End Credits:

“The secret to it all,” he had said, “is in the credits. I placed the instructions in the credits all broken up. You must watch them all, in order.”
“Instructions to what?” Jason had asked him.
“The work. A way to reach the Dark that my movies speak of.”

My only complaint – I felt as though the story left me hanging. Just as we are allowed a peek into the clues and what happens when Jason begins to collect them, the story ends, only hinting at what is to come. I would like to have seen exactly where Barry intended to take the remainder of the tale.

Lunatic Mile is a creepy little story that is not for the squeamish. This story follows Rosetta, a 75-year grandmother and her task to keep a deal with a dark visitor in exchange for him mending her pains and keeping her family safe.

It offers a similar tone as another story in the collection called Grave Seasons.

While the former explores choices and how the reward may not always be worth the sacrifice, the latter, Grave Seasons, explores the dark history of a Louisiana farm and the local code that “what you take from the earth, you must return it with your own.”

Each of these stories stays with you long after reading them, and were two that I enjoyed immensely.

This Tour Don’t Roll Through Seattle has a bleak, gritty tone and was one of my favorites, if for the little tidbits hidden throughout.

Barry’s love of music is common knowledge, and he uses this tale to explore the myth and history of rock ‘n roll.

The theme was familiar to me and after a little research, I realized I had seen a movie in the ’80’s (starring none other than the Karate Kid himself) that explored the same theme.

Blues musician Robert Johnson is the main character in this story. There is a legend that says Johnson made a deal with the devil to become a master of blues guitar. The legend says that Johnson went to the crossroads and was met by a large black man (The Devil, natch), who agreed to the deal in exchange for his soul.

Napier explores this idea, with Robert sitting on the side of the road playing his guitar and receiving a visit by a few passing musicians (one of whom is undoubtedly Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain) while he waits for The Devil to collect him.

When the Devil makes himself known and the men go to board the bus, he utters the story’s titular phrase to the grunge rocker, leaving Johnson to get on the bus alone and wish not only that he hadn’t, but that he had never picked up a guitar in the first place.

This was a delightful little tale but it still has a darkness and melancholy of lost souls wandering the streets, searching perhaps for peace, for camaraderie, and for the magic that comes only from sitting alone and strumming a guitar. A great mixture of history, myth and atmosphere.

A Collection of True Evils tells the story of two friends who find a fabled book said to hold a collection of histories surrounding “serial killers, witches, members of satanic cults and other sorts of undesirables.”

I liked the idea of this story, but I did feel that it took too long to get to the good stuff. The meat for me was at the end and I would have loved to have seen that as the focus instead of the build-up of the boys debating what to do with this book supposedly haunted by a dozen cursed souls.

While I found only a few of the stories fell short, this is a solid collection that shows Napier is a talent at conjuring a scare, but that he is also able to deftly hide horror in the everyday.

Whether on the greens of a country club (in Farewell, From the Eleventh Hole), in what goes on behind closed doors at the office (in All The Little Secrets) or a young boy poised to deal with the sadness of death and the question of whether ghosts truly exist (in Riding in Trucks With Ghosts), Napier’s talents for exploring the deep corners of dark fiction are illustrated with skill in this 13-story collection.

Whether you are in the mood for quiet horror, something more poetic or prefer a bit of gore, this collection shows Barry’s talent is far-reaching and tinged with darkness.

 

13 Broken Nightlights by Barry Napier
Words: 45030 (approximate)
$0.99 on Kindle
Currently FREE on Smashwords!


Have you read 13 Broken Nightlights or any of the stories found within? Which was your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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