There are thirteen stories in ‘Fresh Blood: Tales From The Speculative Graveyard’ by Lawrence R. Dagstine and seven of them were previously published in small magazines. The ones not so credited are not necessarily any less good though.
‘Calvin’s Homecoming’, for example, the opening story, doesn’t seem to have appeared elsewhere before but it is a well-written piece that perfectly captures the despair and emptiness felt by someone who has lost a beloved partner. The first four pages would have fitted into any magazine of female fiction. The latter part, where Calvin comes back from the grave, would not. The conclusion is as believable as anyone could make it in these circumstances.
‘The Old Boys Club’ is set in Victorian London, which is always fun for fiction, though living there wasn’t great for most people in real life. Tim Bradshaw is an American, of all things, but even so has been accepted into this society of spiritual seekers and paranormal connoisseurs. There is a bit of an initiation test. The place and time are nicely evoked and there’s a neat ending.
‘Island In The Sky’ is an Edgar Rice Burroughs style ripping yarn in which three typical adventurers – mature man, callow youth and nice young female – are caught by savage tribesmen who attempt to sacrifice them to the local god. A fun pastiche of pulp fiction, there is more serious Science Fiction, too. ‘The Ice Mines Of Pluto’ is clever and ‘Black Swan’ about a ship caught in the gravitational pull of a black hole does a good job of evoking the fear of the pilot. ‘Living Amongst The Lizards’ is about a man trying to survive when stranded on an alien planet. ‘Robinson Crusoe’ is one of his favourite books, an unnecessary hint as to where the idea came from. The lack of any other characters made it a bit dull but, overall, I like Dagstine’s Science Fiction.
There are some things I didn’t like so much, mainly the zombies. Given the title, one should expect plenty of walking dead but I didn’t choose the book for the title. I chose it for the publishers. Samsdot is one of those small outfits giving lesser writers a chance and one likes to give them the oxygen of publicity. Most of Dagstine’s stories have been published in little magazines – Samsdot does a few of them as well – that pay a few dollars. Obviously, writers publishing thus are doing it for love, though no doubt there is some hope of the big break one day and real money, too. Alas, many are called to writing but few are chosen to make big bucks.
Dagstine’s work is professional. He has a good vocabulary, makes you care about the characters (except the zombies) and usually manages a pretty good plot. I can’t say this is a book you should rush out and buy but it will give some pleasure and the satisfaction of supporting the little people.
(pub: Sam’s Dot Publishing. 157 page small enlarged paperback. Price: $14.95 (US). ISBN: 978-0-9819696-2-6)
check out website: www.samsdotpublishing.com