On the Verge of Madness by George Wilhite contains echoes of H. P. Lovecraft that reverberate through the short stories throughout, but with a fresh approach and lively dialogue. The nine short stories in the volume weave a colorful—and sometimes bloody—collage of the macabre, raising fear in a unique voice.
The first three tales follow the same storyline. The book starts off with a foreword by Arthur Chaldean about his nephew Victor’s disappearance after his wife went missing. Arthur found a collection of notebooks that comprised Victor’s journal, and Arthur provides the narrative necessary after each series ends, lending an air of realism to the story. When the diary begins, the expectation has been forged so brilliantly one can’t wait to find out what ensues.
In “Checks and Balances,” an alcoholic named John must face the toughest part of Alcoholic Anonymous’s twelve-step program, step eight: apologizing to those he’d hurt when drunk. Some forgive him easily, others hold a grudge, but none are waiting to tear him apart like his wife. On the way to her house, he’s tempted to crawl back into the bottle and must match wits with a sinister force offering an easy way out. In “The Gangster’s New Clothes,” a hit man finds out what it’s like to step into his victims’ shoes. Literally.
On the Verge of Madness left me mostly satisfied from beginning to end with clever storytelling and strong characters that made me care. Only one story, “A Plea from the Cradle,” didn’t blow me away and left me scratching my head. Still, way over 500 is a great percentage, and I recommend this tome to all horror aficionados.