I read often, the upside of which is that I experience great storytelling, and the downside of which is that sometimes I can predict how a story is going to end. That’s the worst, isn’t it? Being drawn into a story, turning pages with sweaty fingers, only to find that the ending was exactly as you thought it would be, and feeling the subsequent disappointment. Luckily for readers like us, author Kenneth W. Cain keeps you guessing right until the end in his anthology These Old Tales – A Collection of Dark Fiction. With each new story, I kept trying to guess the ending, and each time I was wrong.
Within the pages of this book, you will find the usual culprits. There are zombies, werewolves, and devils. However, there are other terrors without a name – and these are some of the worst, because you can’t protect yourself from what you don’t understand. To say that Cain has filled his anthology with strange stories is an understatement! Cain’s strength is in his ability to take realistic, everyday people – your neighbors, co-workers, and possibly yourself – and subject them to a funhouse of tortures. (No – I’m not going to give away any story plots or hints. I don’t want to ruin the enjoyment for you!)
It was hard not to read the stories with Rod Serling’s voice echoing in my ears. Cain’s stories are very reminiscent of those written for The Twilight Zone by such masters as Richard Matheson. They have the same draw and increasing intensity as Twilight Zone Episodes, and sometimes even the same scary warnings. My personal favorite was a cautionary tale of Chinese food…and shrimp. (God I love shrimp!) A gentleman is sharing a meal with his wife when he spies a very ugly shrimp on his plate. He is told by the proprietor that if one makes a wish and bites the shrimp, it will grant the wish. The hapless protagonist cycles through wishes, and finally comes to decide that what he really wants is what he has. Too bad for him, the proprietor has some tricks up his sleeve!
If you’re the type of person that monsters in every shadow, you’re going to love These Old Tales by Kenenth W. Cain!