NOISE & OTHER NIGHT TERRORS
Newton E. Streeter
Bone Yard Press / 117 pages / (1998)
The 1999 World Horror Convention was along the lines of a good news/bad news kind of experience. Bad news — the organizing committee apparently started preparations the night before. Good news — there were many worthwhile panels. Oh yes! There was the great news! I returned with armloads of review copies from the indie presses in attendance. If Noise & Other Night Terrors, the first of the lot, is anything to judge by, you and I are in for some good reading.
Maybe you’ve never heard of Streeter — I hadn’t — but you will be glad to get the skinny on him. And, if you are lucky enough to meet him at a con, buy him lunch or a drink and enjoy some fascinating conversation. For now, be content with getting to know him through his work.
Noise & Other Night Terrors is a compact collection of seven of Streeter’s short stories. With such a slim volume, he doesn’t have time to take it easy, so don’t expect a gentle orientation; “Noise” starts the anthology off on a decidedly dark and creepy note. This skin-crawling tale puts the fear back in dying, where it belongs. Forget the harps and halos, you’re headed for somewhere a tad more disturbing everafter.
Recover from that only to get the willies from the next offering, “Acute.” The uncommon viewpoint of “Acute” makes for an all-too-clear glimpse into genuine pain. This is a horror brought about by everyday circumstances, a nightmare that starts at birth.
Tell me something: How can Streeter write in such open and accessible prose and still trip you up every time?
This is some very grim stuff, with violence and gore aplenty. The stories touch on paedophilia, murder, poverty, racism, and more of society’s sicknesses. Most of the stories will wring a wince out of the reader. Many will leave a good share of the audience somewhat nauseated. But, the most surprising aspect may well be the fact that these are stories with a social conscience. Carnage and morality? Streeter even gets his point across without beating the reader over the head with it.
He even peoples his work with characters who step out of the whitebread mold and exist as full and varied human beings. Step out of the WASP mainstream and get your feet wet and your hands dirty with some of the folks you’d like to pretend don’t exist. Go ahead! I already checked — there’s nothing in there that can hurt you.
The last page comes all too soon (after your stomach settles, you’ll be okay), but there is a special treat waiting for you. Boneyard has been kind enough to tease us with an excerpt from Streeter’s upcoming debut novel The Dare. Soon, we’ll get a chance to see if he can maintain this level of intensity and quality in the long program.
You know what? I’m betting he can do it. And not break a sweat.