Keith Minnion is best known as an illustrator, and that's a damn shame. Not that he shouldn't be known for his art – the way he captures the essence of characters and creatures alike with his detailed work is a boon to any publication it appears in – but he's proven multiple times that his writing is easily the equal of the artwork that has thus far overshadowed it.
Last year, Minnion published his short story collection It's For You through his own White Noise Press, 19 tales that span a dizzying array of genres from noir to science fiction to fantasy to straight-up horror. Minnion's illustrations are sprinkled throughout the book, and having his words and pictures side-by-side highlights the similarities in his approach to both – the short stories and artwork alike are simple, clean, and direct. Nothing is weighted down by unnecessary ornamentation, and the result is a set of tales that move at a breakneck pace.
The title story really sets the tone for Minnion's fearlessness in cross-pollinating the genres he loves. "It's For You" is equal parts police procedural and supernatural thriller. Detectives in a particular homicide division are dying off at an alarming rate, and the common thread appears to be phone calls placed from the scene of an old crime. The story quickly veers into familiar "Twilight Zone" territory, and even though you'll probably guess the ending well before you get there, the lean prose makes the journey a pleasurable one.
"Dead End" takes a few more chances and comes to a less definitive conclusion. It's a story of vigilante justice that strongly recalls Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery." Set in a quietly off-kilter version of our own reality, the sad events unfold toward an inevitable conclusion, yet the story ends with many questions unanswered.
"Along the River Lethe" is a science fiction tale that stirs elements of The Matrix and Total Recall into something unique and unsettling. Minnion uses these trappings to look at the real-world fear of our loss of privacy; in his world, a person's private thoughts can be had for a price – or, if necessary, by force.
The closing story, "Island Funeral," also appeared as a signed limited edition chapbook from Cemetery Dance in 2011. It's a story about family, and about the sometimes unbreakable ties that families hold among themselves – ties that sometimes transcend a person's final, most intimate wishes. Minnion begins tightening the screws from the very first page, and the sense of dread that permeates the entire piece of work is close to unbearable. This is one of the best examples of what "quiet" horror – horror built on the back of suspense and characterization and atmosphere rather than blood and entrails – can achieve in the right hands. From its sad opening (a bride on the morning of her honeymoon who can only think of where she'll be buried when she dies) all the way through to its heartbreaking conclusion, the author is in complete control, nurturing that feeling of dread to the breaking point.
"Island Funeral" is easily worth the price of admission alone. Speaking of which, you can buy the whole book through Minnion's website (an actual, physical, signed-and-numbered book, limited to 300 copies) for $12 plus shipping. The rest of the stories are a fun exploration of genres as seen through a darkly-tinted lens, and there's not a loser in the bunch. This is a quality collection of work that deserves to be read far and wide.
Blu Gilliand is a freelance writer of fiction and nonfiction. He covers horror fiction at his blog, October Country, and contributes interviews to the Horror World website. Follow him on Twitter at @BluGilliand.