WINNER OF THE 2007 INTERNATIONAL HORROR GUILD AWARD FOR BEST COLLECTION
FIRST AUSTRALIAN PUBLICATION
The everyday and ordinary show an unexpected malignant side in this collection of 18 uniquely disturbing tales of the fantastic. Dowling grounds his tales in mundane situations, then pulls back slowly to reveal (as the narrator of “Scaring the Train” calls them) “those moments of incidental framing reality where every commonplace surprises you.” In “Cheat Light,” a roll of film left in a pawnshop camera reveals images of an otherworldly origin. “Clownette” tells of a peculiar blotch on a hotel wall that proves to be something much worse than the harmless mildew stain it’s mistaken for. “Maze Man,” whose protagonist is trapped in an invisible maze that only he cannot penetrate, is one of several stories in which architecture motifs suggest alternate realities encroaching on our own. This is Dowling’s first U.S. collection after several in his native Australia, and the selection of stories new and old makes for one of the year’s more satisfying dark fantasy reads.
–PUBLISHERS WEEKLY STARRED REVIEW
Greetings to ill and sun-dried,
Today, I will be covering Terry Dowling’s first-rate collection Basic Black. Without further ado, here are my thoughts on the book!
Signed in human blood,
Sean Lee Levin
Collections of short stories or novellas are often a mixed bag, with some stories being great, others mediocre, and some not worth the paper they’re printed on. I am pleased to say that Basic Black maintains high quality throughout its 300+ pages. Australian author Terry Dowling has compiled eighteen creepy, mysterious, and colorful stories that span more than 20 years of his illustrious career (this edition was published in 2006, and two of the stories were originally published in 1985.) All of them are excellent, and make me want to seek out more of his work.
While all the stories are firmly in the horror genre, some have elements of other genres as well. “Downloading” features a private investigator, and therefore could be considered a mystery as well. “The Ichneumon and the Dormeuse” has science fiction elements. It’s worth noting that “Downloading” is one of a few stories in here featuring Dowling’s recurring character Dr. Daniel Truswell. The stories featuring “Dr. Dan” are some of the best in the collection (particularly the grotesque “Jenny Come to Play,” which I think Tod Browning would enjoy,) and of all of Dowling’s other work, the other Dr. Dan stories are the ones I’d like to read most.
One of the best parts of being involved with this site is that I am exposed to cool books I may never have discovered otherwise. Basic Black is no exception, and it has certainly made me want to read more of Mr. Dowling’s writing. His stories are imaginative and suspenseful, and are perfect for the short-story format. Bravo to Mr. Dowling for this terrific anthology, and I hope he continues to be successful in his career. I give this awesome collection five out five tentacles.
Sean Levin – Assistant Editor/Reviewer/Reporter