Little Deaths by John F.D. Taff is a strong collection of creepy tales, served up in a variety of literary styles. Taff experiments with different storytelling techniques, sometimes cribbing prose styles and themes from grand masters of the genre. In lesser hands this work would be hack, but Taff puts his own unique spin these horror genre tropes.
Taff summons a cool Lovecraft vibe in “The Closed Eye Of A Dead World,” and plays with Poe’s prose in “But For a Moment … Motionless.” “Helping Hands” is Taff’s self-admitted attempt at a moody “ye olde Englande” piece.
Other references are more contemporary. “Child of Dirt” pays homage to the 1970s cult horror film, It’s Alive. “The Mellified Man” riffs on a couple of lines from Peter Straub’s Ghost Story.
“Here” is a touching —and, at times, terrifying — goodbye to a faithful friend. “Snapback” is an excellent example of a modern epistolary tale. In Mary Shelly’s day, epistolary novels were told as an exchange of letters. Taff uses email exchanges to illustrate this time-bending tale of Armageddon.
Speaking of Shelly, the best tale in this collection — “Bolts” — pays homage to Frankenstein. Taff’s take on codependent relationships and self denial is chilling and sharp.
Little Deaths showcases Taff’s writing skill and knowledge of the horror genre. No matter how dark things get, Taff has fun with these tales, and that feeling comes across as you read them.