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The Dark Country

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  542 ratings  ·  60 reviews
In the same creepy vein as Philip K. Dick and Thomas Harris, Etchinson's award-winning fiction is justly known for its creepy ambiance. ...more
Paperback, 216 pages
Published March 1st 2002 by Babbage Press (first published January 1982)
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Average rating 3.65  · 
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 ·  542 ratings  ·  60 reviews

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Bill Kerwin
Jul 24, 2016 rated it really liked it

After reading a handful of The Dark Country stories, I began to think of the paintings of Edward Hopper. At first my reaction was a puzzle. I wonderer why.

After all, Etchison writes vividly of Southern California in the late 70’s and early ‘80’s, of LA airports, highways and rest stops, of laundromats and convenience stores. Hopper, on the other hand, paints the East Coast in the ‘30’s and ‘40’s, depicting New York railway compartments, gas stations and chop suey joints, movie palaces, furnishe
Jack Tripper
Dennis Etchison had three excellent collections released in the 1980s, but this, his first, is the most consistently unnerving from beginning to end. His unique brand of horror is quiet, yet can shift to disturbingly visceral and violent all of a sudden. This isn't Charles L. Grant we're talking about here. Etchison knows how to suggest, but he is also not afraid to go for the throat.

Deserted highways and rest stops in the middle of nowhere, 7-11's and diners in the dead of night -- these are th
Dec 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: horror
What a read! The author really manages to draw you into his world of a dark country with all kinds of strange settings. Do you want to see the Walking Man? What about the Daughter of the Golden West? When you cross The Dead Line, take The Late Shift and watch The Nighthawk you will soon reach The Dark Country. I really liked those masterly told psychological stories. Reading this book is like being on a trip but one you never were on before. Recommended!
Aug 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror, autographed
Etchison should be better known. He wrote some of the most harrowing horror tales of the 70s and 80s and I hear he is still going strong. He is sort of the god-father to splatter-punk and even if his story are sometimes psychologically introverted, he excels at the brutal ending. There is rarely any supernatural themes in his fiction but he is one of the best at psychological horror. His stories can be as straight forward as a sledgehammer yet still maintain the subtlety of a traitor's kiss.

Aug 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
"The Dark Country" was Dennis Etchison's first collection of short stories, and originally appeared back in 1982. This reader picked up an out-of-print copy recently, after seeing that it had been included in Jones and Newman's excellent overview volume, "Horror: 100 Best Books." Well, I don't know if I would place it on MY personal top 100 list, but this book certainly is a unique collection of shuddery, gruesome little tales. Readers looking for horror stories depicting monsters, ghosts, demon ...more
Anima Miejska
Oct 11, 2020 rated it liked it
Hm... some creepy stuff here, but not entirely my cup of tea 🤔
Cody | CodysBookshelf
What’s better than discovering a new (to you) short story collection from the vintage horror era—especially one with a lengthy blurb from Stephen King and a generous introduction from Ramsey Campbell? I took this book in small sips, over the course of ten days, and I’m glad to say I quite enjoyed the experience! As with most collections, The Dark Country isn’t wholly consistent; I enjoyed some stories more than others. But that comes with reading a collection.

This was also my first experience w
Apr 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Most readers, no matter how widely we read, have our specialties. For me, that would be horror short story collections, specifically from the boom era (1974-1990, give or take). Don't get me wrong, I like a lot of modern collections, and novels from that vintage take up some serious space on my shelves, but Ford-to-Reagan era shorts and novellas are my jam.
One of the major genre movements of the time was quiet horror, of the kind practiced and celebrated by Charles L. Grant. Another practitioner
Jul 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book by Dennis Etchison that I've read and I was really impressed, I liked all the stories and found Dennis to be a terrific and inventive writer. This collection felt like the perfect place to start as someone new to Dennis's work and I'll definitely be picking up more of his books in the future. ...more
Jun 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories, horror
Etchison’s writing has intrigued me whenever I’ve the odd Etchison story from various anthologies I’ve stumbled upon. Considered psychological, quiet, subtle, and introverted, Etchison writes his own unique brand of horror. His debut short story collection features sixteen stories.

“It Only Comes Out at Night”
A husband and wife travel at night to a roadside rest stop in the middle of a desert. I loved the creepy atmosphere, and the buildup to the chilling climax. 4/5

“Sitting in the Corner, Whimpe
Mark Fuller Dillon
At last, we have an e-book edition of one of the major American horror collections, and the stories are as troubling and as powerful as they were when I bought my copy from Scream/Press in 1982.

Long before then, Dennis Etchison had been writing and making a name for himself. In the 1960s and '70s, his work had appeared in everything from the MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION and WHISPERS to NEW WRITINGS IN SF, and he was a regular in THE YEAR'S BEST HORROR STORIES from DAW. We all knew that
Ben Loory
Nov 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Favorites (great titles, too):

"It Only Comes Out at Night"
"We Have All Been Here Before"
"You Can Go Now"
"The Dark Country"

and especially

"It Will Be Here Soon"

which is kinda like if Raymond Carver wrote a ghost story.
Apr 09, 2015 rated it liked it
This collection was a weird experience, I either loved or hated the stories, with little in-between. These stories can be simultaneously brilliantly and frustratingly disorientating. In a few cases Etchison has very round-about ways of telling what I thought were rather run-of-the-mill stories when you get down to it. In the final equation though, there's more good than bad here.

There's some very good stories here. "It Only Comes Out At Night" and "Daughter Of The Golden West" are both full-fled
Feb 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: audible, horror
My favorites were It Only Comes Out at Night, The Pitch, and Today's Special. It Only Comes Out at Night had a sense of Twilight Zone about it. The Pitch and Today's Special were very similar in topic, but both really good in letting the reader fill in the awful details of the plot.

After It Only Comes Out at Night, several of the stories were very reminiscent of hard-boiled detective stories or film noir (Sitting in the Corner, Whimpering Quietly, The Walking Man, We Have All Been Here Before,
Kevin Jones
Jul 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Feelings of loneliness, alienation, and despair abound in this short story collection. This is indeed a vision of a dark country, both literal and figurative as many of the dark deeds and doings transpire at night. Death and musings on the meaning of life abound in these stories (right down to a trilogy of stories with organ harvesting as the central theme). The best moments, however, come from the liminal aspect of many of the stories where the reader can only grasp at the significance and mean ...more

"I didn't find any of the stories particularly horrifying, but they were interesting and well-written."

-Stephen King
Sep 30, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
2.84 combined which rounds to a 3 star rating. This is an older set of short stories from a different era. Some were great and some I really just didn't like. ...more
Dec 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror
Most of these stories were published in the late seventies, very early eighties, when there was still a burgeoning fiction market in "men's magazines." (Instead of listing the actual magazine titles in which the stories first appeared, the book cites the names of the publishing houses ("Dungent Publishing Corporation," etc., which published Gallery Magazine, Gent--porn, basically.) I'm lucky enough to own a first edition, which features J.K. Potter's genuinely creepy photo art; these are photogr ...more
Jul 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
Etchison is one of our finest short story writers. This is a very strong collection of his work. Etchison often was able to open his stories with dynamite lines that dragged you intensely into the story.

The title, The Dark Country," comes from Etchison's respect for Bradbury, but Etchison's horror stories are much more brutal and graphic.
Trent Zelazny
Nov 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Simply put, collected here are some of the very best horror short stories ever written. Etchison is a master, and sadly underappreciated. His imagination is amazing, his style beautiful. If you want to study the craft of writing excellent horror short stories, this one should definitely be on your reading list.
Jun 02, 2009 rated it it was ok
These stories are just so close, just so tantalizingly close to being truly horrifying but in each one, there's something missing, something that makes it not-scary. I haven't finished all of them yet & I'm not sure I will. His writing style is kind of irritating & the payoff is just not worth it. ...more
Richard Leis
Jan 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
5 stars for the craft alone.

And the content? I was expecting supernatural and creature horror, so I had to set aside my expectations right away. There is some of that, but most of these short stories delve into real-life horror more than fantasy. I guess many of these short stories might be considered noir, but I feel like noir is where these stories begin, but they end up full-on horror by their ambiguous or shocking or terrifyingly punctuated endings. Those punctuated endings are fascinating t
Aug 15, 2019 rated it liked it
This collection feels very Punk in its attitude and in-your-face aggression. “The Machine Demands a Sacrifice” is a nasty little story that is a precursor to the milieu of Fight Club. “Calling All Monsters” is a citing condemnation of our corporate health system. “The Late Shift” resonated nicely with Kelly Link’s “The Hortlak” – while Link’s is more a nihilistic and cosmic uncaring view of retail, Etchison’s focuses on the exploitation and the active boot of the corporate retail establishment o ...more
Jim Smith
May 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Creepy little ambient, often minimalist macabre stories of the sort Ray Bradbury and Shirley Jackson would write.

Contains three stories in a row about organ transplants, oddly.
Shirley Moore
Jun 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Take a walk on the dark side…An unbelievably pithy and traumatic collection of dark, stark tales, The Dark Country travels on byways the reader might not otherwise ever want to explore – into the deepest recesses of the most obscure corners of the human psyche and experience. This being the second Etchison book in which I have indulged, I thought I knew somewhat what to expect, but he caught me shockingly off-guard again and again. This man’s work is a revelation; every word, every sentence, eve ...more
Aug 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Those stories are creepy in atmosphere and extremely well drafted in every other way as well. However, they often seem to be one point short of a plot. So, you'll be bopping along, creeped out as hell, and then all of a sudden the story just ends, and you don't know for sure why. I had to do too much speculation to finish the story. That's really the author's job. ...more
Rena Mason
Sep 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
The DARK COUNTRY is a great collection of stories that range from the eerily subtle to the memorably disturbing without little-to-no intense gore or excessive violence. The most haunting story for me was the first one, "It Only Comes Out at Night", because I think it sets the tone for the rest of the collection. If you prefer creepy tales of unease, this is collection is a perfect choice. ...more
Stephen King recommended book and author per "Forenote to the Paperback Edition" of King's Berkley 1983 paperback edition of Danse Macabre.

I didn't find any of the stories particularly horrifying, but they were interesting and well-written.
May 05, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: horror
A fairly inconsistent set of stories as far as I'm concerned...some were pretty good but it got a little repetitive in the middle and so so at the end. Not the best collection of short horror I've read. ...more
Jun 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Rereading Etchison’s seminal collection, and while some of it is dated, the best resonate even more today.
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aka Jack Martin.

Dennis William Etchison was an American writer and editor of fantasy and horror fiction. He is a multi-award winner, having won the British Fantasy Award three times for fiction, and the World Fantasy Award for anthologies he edited.

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