Follow Here To Purchase In Our House: Tantalizing Tales of Terror

Author: Peter A. Balaskas

Publisher: Bards and Sages Press

ISBN: 978-0615568133 

Nathaniel Hawthorne said, “easy reading is damn hard writing” and many of the subtle and inventive stories in Peter Blaskas's collection are written with a lyrical flow which could only be done successfully with great skill as a writer. One of the best examples of this can be found in one of his most mysterious of stories “ Wash Cycle”.

Taking a deep breath, Iovino let his mind wander at the enormous

majesty of the crimson rock formations. Some appeared to jut and grow 

directly from the earth, some were boulders that seemed to be arranged 

and set on top of one another in obscure designs as though giant-sized 

children were playing blocks with them. One of the rock formations was 

white as snow, looking so out of place from the rest of the desert terrain. 

His mind continued to drift, and Iovino began to see shapes among the 

mountains. There were some which possessed jagged cylinder towers,

looking so much like stone cathedrals whose spires overlooked the rest of 

the valley."

In “Wash Cycle” we are introduced to a brutal crude Mafia boss Iovino who is mentioned as a minor character in the preceding and very different story “Id”, a device which adds a continuity of theme throughout the collection but is not repeated in the other stories, despite all having connected motifs and ideas. 

Iovino is both corrupt in mind and body. Old and dying he forcibly engages an elderly Navaho guide, Samuel who he both denigrates and envies, to take him to a sacred site in Colarado to bath in a secret spring which has mystical elements which can cleanse the body of disease. The guide indirectly warns him that only those who are pure within can be cured and remain intact but the Mafia boss ignores the warnings threatening the safety of Samuel's family. Like many stories within the horror genre good eventually triumphs over evil but to tell you how would ruin the story for the reader.

Landscape is as important as characterisation for many of the stories and this is a particular strength of this authors. “Crossing the Styx” is another example of this where the fresh mountain air contrasts sharply with the life of a young undertaker starting a new job in a very special undertaking business where it is accepted that for the first three days after demise ghosts wonder the corridors. The main character is advised by his boss to accept but to ignore these apparitions and to concentrate his skills of empathy on the needs of the living. Unfortunately the turn of events cause the hero to break these “professional boundaries” causing him to lose more than his job. Other themes include elements of Christian and pagan believes for example “Touched” which I describe at the end of this review and in the first story, paganism in “Duet” where the Greek figure of the artists muse appears as an alien three dimensional tangible being, and not, we are lead to believe as a allegorical figure of the writer protagonists imagination. In this story to we get treated to Balaskas's skill as a horror poet, which comes directly from the traditions of Poe and Lovecraft.

All the stories with only two exceptions hold surprises and Balaskas is a master of the twist in the tail of the plot. Once the reader realises this it is only a test to see when the twist will take place rather than if. And very few of his plot lines are predictable. 

However there were one or two disappointments. The last two stories “In His House” where a seemingly normal central character is trapped as a tenant among a group of horrific mutants, strikingly similar to the X Men in both character and powers, is unoriginal and almost out of control in terms of narrative and plot. The final story “Touched” is also weak by comparison, seeing God transformed into a sixty year old woman  visiting Earth, and the Angel Gabriel portrayed as a beautiful young biker is a silly idea and Balaskas  does not do himself favours by including these stories in an otherwise great collection.

Follow Here To Purchase In Our House: Tantalizing Tales of Terror