Monday, January 27, 2014

Review: The Lord Came at Twilight by Daniel Mills

I discovered Daniels Mills at the same time I started this blog. The very first book I reviewed, A Season in Carcosa, contained my introduction to the young author. "MS Found in a Chicago Hotel Room" is an excellent spin on The King in Yellow, and marked Mills as an author worth watching. In the next year I would read Daniel's stories in several anthologies, always excited when I saw a table of contents announced including his name. I also read and reviewed his novel, Revenants, which is a great weird story of Puritans and the wilds of New England.

The Lord Came at Twilight is Daniel's first collection of short fiction, and includes fourteen stories: a dozen reprints and two originals. It was with great pleasure that I revisited the many stories that I have read previously in anthologies, and even greater pleasure to enjoy the stories I was as-of-yet unfamiliar with.

Dan's writing has a classicist bent, as he often prefers to tell his stories with a refined, more formal voice. In the hands of a lesser writer taking this path can be disastrous, but Mills crafts these tales with ease. Whether he is riffing on Lovecraft with "Whisperers" or taking readers to a mysterious plantation in the Civil War South in "House of the Caryatids," Dan is using a classic voice in a way that is all his own.

Some favorites from the collection include:

"The Hollow" - One of Dan's best stories to date, it follows an abandoned boy growing up around his abandoned village. The sense of loneliness and regret plague the young man.

"MS Found in a Chicago Hotel Room" - I love a good King in Yellow story, and Mills delivers with this one. A strange trip to a mysterious brothel leads to nothing but trouble for the narrator, and the story makes quite a connection to the Gentleman of Providence.

"The Photographer's Tale" - A spooky tale with hints of a disturbing past. Mills keeps the hints subtle, making the tale all the more powerful.

"The Wayside Voices" - Told using multiple narrators, this one deals with an inn run by a crazed, violent innkeeper, and the ghosts that belong to the inn.

"The Naked Goddess" - I've always been a fan of horror stories that see a character finding himself/herself in a town which proves itself to be hostile, like the narrator Lovecraft's "The Shadow Over Innsmouth."

"The Lord Came At Twilight" - A story building on Ligotti's "The Mystics of Muelenburg."

Daniel Mills has a poet's eye for beauty, and his literature evokes a sense of classic weird fiction. His love for his native New England goes hand in hand with his knack for conveying the strange and liminal. The stories within The Lord Came at Twilight are at home among the best weird tales from Machen, Blackwood and The Gentleman from Providence himself.

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