Jeff Jellets's Reviews > October Dreams: A Celebration of Halloween

October Dreams by Richard Chizmar
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bookshelves: fiction, horror, short-story, holiday


“I never forget Halloween,” Hat said. “If I can, I stay home on Halloween. Don’t want to be out on the street that night.” “You’d feel in danger?” I asked. “No,” he finally said. “Not exactly. But I wouldn’t feel safe either.”

October Dreams is a well-above average anthology of Halloween-themed horror stories that like a bag of the holiday candy is full of savory treats, with nary a stinker to be found. In addition to some really great short stories (and one poem!), the book includes the ‘Favorite Halloween Memories’ of some of horror’s greatest writers and editors as a bit of a palate cleanser between delicacies and, as an added bonus, three really nice, non-fiction pieces on the history, best movies, and best horror stories of Halloween.

While all the content in this book is pretty good, there are always a couple tales that stick with you more than others. For me, Koontz’s “The Black Pumpkin” was a perfect Halloween confection connecting the rottenness of misshapen vegetables to the rotten in people’s souls; Clark’s “The Whitby Experience” fashioned a wonderfully Lovecraftian atmosphere with terrible things lying just below the waves; the ending of Ketchum’s “Gone” was sad enough to bring tears to my eyes; Bradbury (the only author offering two contributions in the book) is a lyrical genius and maestro of the English language; and Straub’s novella “Pork Pie Hat” takes us to the worst parts of town, shadowed places, darkened by men, rather than monsters.

But my favorite story had to be Louis Shiner’s “The Circle." Like the characters in the tale, this is a short story I will return to many, many times. Probably one of the most politically incorrect stories ever written is F. Paul Wilson’s “Buckets; I found it well-crafted, impossible to forget, but uncomfortably misogynist. In the favorite holiday memory category, Peter Crowther’s reminiscence of pranking his kids will make any parent smirk, while offering sound advice on how to create an ever-lasting memory, and nothing was darker (or hit me harder) than Ed Gorman’s Halloween recollection, which was depressingly harsh and terribly tragic.

Which brings me to the bittersweet part of this anthology. October Dreams may be subtitled “A Celebration of Halloween,” but it also can’t help but feel just as much a eulogy. Like many of these authors, I remember roaming the streets as young kid on Halloween, tromping up driveways as Chewbacca the Wookie and filling pillow-cases full of candy with my friends. The autumn winds blew the musky scent fallen leaves to my nose and on our taste buds was the sweet, sweet freedom of being out at night, well past our typical curfew (and even bedtime).

Poisoned candy and child predators were an obscure threat – something that didn’t happen in suburban New Jersey – and we were safe to bang on doors ‘til well after dark and until our feet hurt too badly to go one.

Unfortunately, that innocence is gone, and October Dreams captures that sad wistfulness for a still unspoiled holiday -- a Halloween where the only monsters are make-believe ghosts, witches and zombies. That sense of melancholy permeates October Dreams from story to story, cover to cover.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
December 15, 2015 – Finished Reading
December 16, 2015 – Shelved
December 16, 2015 – Shelved as: fiction
December 16, 2015 – Shelved as: horror
December 16, 2015 – Shelved as: short-story
December 16, 2015 – Shelved as: holiday

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