Cemetery Dance, February 2020
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Review by R. B. Payne
Bloody Walls: A Collection from a Fractured Mind
A corpus is technically defined as a collection of a single writer's work or grouped writings about a particular subject – in this case, Thomas Scopel and his horror scrivenings. Given there are eleven tales of terror in this volume and about an equal number of speculative dark fiction shorts, there is certainly something here for everyone.
Bloody Walls: A Collection from a Fractured Mind is primarily “referential” fiction – the author plays with horror tropes and assumes the reader is familiar with classic monsters and films. Many of these tales are a quick read – some are flash fiction and a few appear to have been constrained by publishing demands for shorter works. This makes the volume a quick read (at 236 pages) and one which suits a reader who wants bite-sized bloody horror.
Favorites among the pages are two elf stories. These are dark fiction pieces set at Christmas. One I would classify as Elf Gone Bad whereas the other is almost an action piece which comes across as The Elf: Zombie Fighter. The real titles are “And All The Creatures Were Stirring” and “The Christmas Help.” Both stories gifted me smiles and cringes for the holidays.
Also, contained within this book are a series of fictionalized interviews with classic monsters. Originally published in Suspense magazine, these are entertaining Q&A sessions with the likes of Frankenstein, Wolfman, Dracula, Phantom of the Opera, and others.
Note: I was personally disappointed that The Creature From the Black Lagoon declined the opportunity to be interviewed.
However, as a bonus, there are follow-on articles which explore the origins of the wooden stake, silver bullets, and some observations on the dark side of fairy tales.
There’s a fair amount of dark humor present as well. Several of the pieces are presented in a newspaper reporter style. “Don't Forget the Fingers: A Guide to the Perfect Zombie Family Picnic” is a prime example of tongue-in-edible-cheek. Yum.
Mr. Scopel’s writing is easy to read albeit a bit clinical. I suspect that’s his engineering background. He tends to maintain a 3rd-person omniscient point-of-view rather than tightening down to a more limited POV. A few of the stories would have benefitted from a deeper protagonist perspective and more fleshing out. In my opinion, this would have intensified the horror aspect of the stories and provided fuller emotional resonance. Still, the tales are engaging enough and one waits to see if Mr. Scopel has a novel in him. He apparently birthed a notable novella titled Twitch. It will be interesting to see what’s next.
In summary, there’s a bit of everything in Bloody Walls: A Collection from a Fractured Mind. Every writer begins a career and at the end of a decade, if they’re talented and persistent, they will have accumulated a list of writing credits. Like any writer, some stories are stronger than others, some are more innovative than others. Some are really good. The whole of this collection shows a hearty love for those things that scare us.
And that means elves too.
(c) 2019 by R. B. Payne, All Rights Reserved