When I first heard about The Devil’s Coattails, the new anthology from Jason Brock and William Nolan (co-editors of the landmark anthology The Bleeding Edge: Dark Barriers, Dark Frontiers), it was billed as a “Cross-Genre” collection. I’d call it more of mixed genre book as it stands, but mere quibbles. It’s plain and simple a tome of strong, well-written fantasy fiction.
Oh there are ghosts aplenty, but they’re unconventional hauntings and manifestations. There are tales of fear and regret (Gary A. Braunbeck’s “…And Dream of Phaedian Fancies…”, Nancy Kilpatrick’s “Invisible”); loss of control (James Robert Smith’s “On the 1st Day” and Jenny Brundage’s “To Good to be Human”); ghosts of history past (John Shirley’s “Gunboat Whores” and Norman Corwin’s “Barrels Ready”); loss of family, friends and loved ones (Ramsey Campbell’s “The Moons”, Jason Brock’s “Object Lesson”, Melanie Tem’s “Best Friends”, Earl Hamner’s “The Woods Colt”, Paul Bens Jr.’s “If You Love Me”, Richard Selzer’s “Crimean Vespers” and Sunni K Brock’s “Dying to Forget”) and the loss of innocence (Paul J. Salmanoff’s “Can You Imagine”).
The ghost of Rod Serling is also present in Marc Scott Zicree’s screenplay, “Knife Through the Veil” (sadly never used for a newer Twilight Zone series), complete with an explanation and intro by Serling himself!
There are also stories about demons (Dan O’Bannon’s “Invocation”), monsters (Jerry Airth’s “Night Food” and Steve Rasnic Tem’s “Catiwampus”) and tales that don’t quite fit in a convienent category (Richard Christian Matheson’s “Interogation” and Wilum Pugmire & Maryanne K. Snyder’s “The Hidden Realm”). Editor Nolan even clocks in with an epic poem inspired by Homer and Virgil called “Dread Voyage”. S.T. Joshi is also back again from the previous book to pen a compelling introduction.
Overall, it’s a very strong collection. I’d say even better than the last one by a nose and again a nice variety of authors – many you don’t normally see in a collection like this. I’d be neglect in my duties as a reviewer also if I didn’t point out the wonderful design of this book as well. Editor Brock did the layout himself and incorporated many pieces of art by Blake, Bosch, Goya, Dore, Munch, Bocklin, Vasalius and others (along with some of his own artwork, photos and treatments). It’s one of the most interesting book layouts I’ve ever seen and fits well with the themes and moods of the stories. Last but not least, artist Vincent Chong provides an excellent wraparound piece for the dust jacket.
I’d most definitely recommend this anthology. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if more than a few of these stories go on to win awards and best of appearances. It’s that good.
(Available in two states – a Trade Hardcover signed by the editors and a Deluxe Lettered Edition HC signed by most of the contributors).
– Reviewed by Trever Nordgren
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