Great short stories to carry around on boring, routine days, the organization of this short story collection offers even more than great content and surprises in the stories themselves. After you are impressed with a few of the stories, go back and read “Welcome to my world(s),” the introduction. May will list the authors that warped her mind in such a way that she could write this stuff. Sounds like a good way to build a reading list for the ever full TBR shelf.
Behind Dark Doors by Susan May
The next eye-catching item is an 18 paragraph list, each one describing what you are about to read. These are interesting to read all by themselves. Usually when I write a review of a short story collection, this is what I like to do; write a few short lines to give my impression of each story. I won’t do that here; who could write the summary better than the author? Although entertaining, feel free to skip this part because May repeats this paragraph to introduce each story.
Then we get to the stories themselves, each one with a bit of a surprise. Each selection is then followed by a section titled “From the Imagination Vault” in which May relates the background environment that provided her inspiration. This is where the reader gets to know the author and by identifying everyday situations that are held in common with the reader may cause the reader to think “Right, I feel that way too, I can be a writer.” Reminds me of odds given in Las Vegas.
While, as I promised, I will not summarize each story, here are comments on some of the stories and backgrounds.
I Hate Emma Carter About bullying in general, but also about cyberbullying, I gave it to my teenage son to read. Sadly, he was able to relate it to many situations in his junior high school.
Scenic Route Read this one, then the two chapters the editors removed (but which May put back for this edition) then the speculation in the Imagination Vault. Coincidentally, I read this story at the same time an international news event happened about a Japanese couple who had become so frustrated with their child’s behavior that they abandoned him in a forest area. Read the story to see the connection that made me feel depressed.
Harassment Day After the story there is the telling of a true anecdote that inspired the story. At no extra charge.
Monster Rules This might be the exception in the collection as May mentions that she wrote it for her children. So there is not super, extreme, horrible stuff that happens.
To Be or Not to Be In the Imagination Vault May describes this as her grimmest story about an ultimate parent nightmare. While I agree about the ultimate nightmare part, there is another story in this collection, Back Again, which I think describes the horror in more detail.
After eighteen great stories, we are treated to a nine-chapter excerpt from Deadly Messengers, an intriguing thriller that has several seemingly unconnected crime sprees. Chapter nine left me no choice other than to download the full novel.
This collection made me feel like I was having a conversation with the author. The last thing I read like this as Stephen King’s On Writing.