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Book News

Wilson delivers classic and entertaining short stories

'The Barrens and Others'
by F. Paul Wilson

Forge, $24.95

Review by Jim Argendeli

Web posted on: Monday, March 01, 1999 2:35:40 PM EST

(CNN) -- Short story collections do not sell. At least that is what publishers seem to believe, and a glance at most bestseller lists seems to buttress their position. That is a shame, for with computer chat rooms and television competing for a person's leisure time, it would seem the short story collection would be ideal for readers who want a quick fix.

If that describes what you want then your wish has come true, courtesy of F. Paul Wilson. His latest story collection is called "The Barrens and Others" and it is just perfect if you want to turn off the television but don't want to get caught up in the time it takes to fully enjoy a novel. The 14 stories span a decade of his work, including two never before-published pieces. They run the gamut from suspense (similar to what Hitchcock may have served up) to Twilight Zone horror, with a spice of science fiction added to create a wonderful smorgasbord sure to please any reader of genre fiction.

Take "Feelings", which concerns what happens when a non-empathetic lawyer starts to feel the pain of everyone and everything around him. Those feelings include hospital patients and a cooking lobster. By the end of the tale the lawyer earns his fate.

In the title story Wilson pays homage to pulp horror writer H. P. Lovecraft. What starts off as an investigation into an urban legend veers into cosmic horror and the questioning of reality.

Other Wilson stories include the psychoanalysis of a famous fictional criminal and a Western horror tale of what really caused the death of Doc Holliday. In an introduction to each piece, the author traces the genesis of the stories giving an entertaining forward to how the story came to life.

All in all, "The Barrens and Others" is a very enjoyable way to get reacquainted with the art of the short story.

Jim Argendeli is an avid reader and book collector who lives with his wife in Georgia.

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