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"The Fiends in the Furrows" is subtitled, "An Anthology of Folk Horror." Folk horror dwells in the pagan rituals, quaint traditions, family secrets, ancient superstitions, and/or sorceries of European-American rural village life. Often-times there are spiritual laws in effect, laws that are enforced by a malevolent being ruling over a village, wood, or mountain region where the horror takes place. The horror emerges when an outsider or heretic of some sort inadvertently violates or purposefully challenges an obscure taboo associated with the folk locale and all hell literally breaks out. In the days of the pulps, folk horror was called "weird fiction." The American, HP Lovecraft, wrote weird fiction for the pulps while the English master of folk horror, MR James, crafted his tales purely for the thrill of sharing them with friends. I would mention Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" and Stephen King's "Children of the Corn" as two of the more famous modern examples of this genre. The Fiends in the Furrows is an above average collection of short, folk horror stories. Like many short story collections, the quality of the storytelling is uneven depending on the author. Some of the stories here, like "The Jaws of Ouroboros" are more dystopian fantasy than folk horror. Others are somewhat farcical or tongue-in-cheek and never achieve pure horror for me. Thus, I was leaning toward a three star review for this package. However, the writing here is really good. Even if the story doesn't quite pan out, the phenomenal prose will win you over. That amps up the rating to four-stars for me as I love a well-written narrative. My favorite tale was "Back along the Old Track" by Sam Hicks. It's the most evocative of the masters like MRJ and HPL. It's a simple story but creepy. Good folk horror must produce creepy atmospherics. "Sire of the Hatchet" by Coy Hall is what you get when you cross Robert E. Howard with MR James while "The Fruit" by Lindsay-King Miller is a classic skin-crawler with many unanswered questions. Two of the stories, strangely enough, deal with snake-handling Christians. This was unexpected for me and I usually approach such tales with caution as they often contain an overabundance of adolescent barbs aimed at Church people. But both these tales (Eric Guignard and ST Gibson) are quite good. Both feature good snake-handlers and bad ones. And the bad ones have a well-deserved, horrifying end... as it should be for those who violate God's laws or his people! The remaining stories are well-written but resemble fever dreams more than folk horror stories. I prefer more straight forward story-telling with the traditional plot in which an unwitting outsider uncovers the creepy underbelly of a rural idyll, then seeks to escape it, leading to the inevitable demise of said transgressor for the sake of protecting the horrifying social order that has been long imposed on the locals. This book is recommended for those who love short fiction, folk horror, or a well-turned prose narrative. Enjoy!
A solid anthology of folk horror. I definitely enjoyed some stories more than others, but expect that with anthologies. Which ones each reader enjoys most will likely change with the readers. I particularly enjoyed the Eric J. Guignard story.