||July 26, 2010
Thirteen short stories where someone gets it in the end.
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Thomas M. Malafarina - Author Of Horror
Not all stories have a “happy ending”. Sometimes the forces of evil are just too strong to allow the characters, whether protagonist or antagonist to survive unscathed. Sometimes it is because of revenge, or sinister forces or simply bad Karma.
Welcome to “Thirteen Nasty Endings”, a collection of short horror stories by Thomas M. Malafarina. In this disturbing world of terror and foreboding, virtually every story has the potential to end badly for someone. There will be no “happily ever afters” in this collection. This is definitely not a “feel good” collection. Thirteen Nasty Endings guarantees that someone, whether deserving or not will get it in the end.
Thomas has put together an incredibly upsetting anthology of some of his most gory, most horrifying, most disturbing and most bizarre tales for your reading pleasure.
George Andrade's review of 13 Nasty Endings for Horrornews.net
"The eye sees a thing more clearly in dreams than the imagination awake" - Leonardo da Vinci
If H.P Lovecraft were to write the “The Dead Zone”, this would be it … but not so fast.
“Eye Contact” is Thomas M. Malafarina’s third novel published by Sunbury Press – “99 Souls” and
“Burn Phone” were both released in 2010 along with a short story collection “13 Nasty Endings” –
and it is his most ambitious book to date. It is an absorbing, terrifying story of the personal nature
of reality and a poignant, nerve-wracking exploration into whom or what is our most defining voice
amidst the suspension of all sensory input. It reminded me in plan (but not in execution – more on
that later) of the non-linear Aronofsky film “The Fountain”, wherein recurring visual motifs and
similitude of action grounded us amidst the jump cuts of time, space and character though in “Eye
Contact” we also have the singular “voice” of protagonist David Matson as a through line and the
husband and wife team of David and Gina Matson maintain their present day relationship as well.
The premise is a simple one: David Matson is returning home from playing a mid-winter gig with his
band The Coal Mountain Blues Benders in the wake of an ice storm at a remote bar in Schuylkill
County, PA, when he swerves to avoid a deer, hits a patch of ice, bursts through a guard rail and
plummets thirty feet down into a ravine. The accident thrusts him into a deep coma and the
resulting brain injury gives him the ability to see hideous, corrupt human corpses moving in our world
as monsters. He must avoid “eye contact” with these evil creatures (murderers, rapists and
suicides – life takers and haters of humanity) lest he allow a rift in the dimensional fabric and allow
them to cross and rejoin our reality.
The publisher advertises the story this way on the back cover:
“There is a thin line between reality and illusion, between sanity and insanity, between life and
death. Through no fault of his own, David Matson is thrust into a world of darkness, of illusion, of
hallucinations and never-ending nightmares; a world from which he longs to awaken but cannot.
Join him in his interminable struggle to return to reality and see what horrors fate has in store for
The entire first act of the novel is set in the traumatized, deep sleeping mind of David immediately
following the accident as he lays damaged and infiltrated by life support machinery in his hospital
bed – and what a wondrous and intricate opening set piece it is; we experience the claustrophobic
ebb and flow of the dark tide of David’s consciousness as his voice – his self – fades out of and
dissolves back into being like film scenes cut together and running through a silent projector with no
lamp … and all the while he hears his wife Gina calling to him from somewhere off in space,
“David? Can you hear me, David?” It is a horror-filled, 50 page sequence cut from a bastardized
version of “The Phantom Toll Booth” in which we learn of David’s new ability – his new “gift” of sight
– and in which we become party on his journey to resurface.
The second act, the bulk of the book, involves David being hunted in the hospital by a homicidal
nurse who was suspected in the mass murder of elderly patients and who was immolated with her
victims on the ward in which he lays (there is one particularly scary scene involving a harrowing wait
for an elevator that will have you squirming in your seat) and a suicide living in the woods at the
edge of the grounds who had abducted, raped and killed several teenage girls and who has spotted
him through the window of his room (with another edge of your seat scene involving an elderly gift
shop clerk taking forever to find the price on a pair of sunglasses) – to reveal anything more would
be to pull back the curtain on the show and spoil the payoff of the book for you: in the third act,
David “awakens”. His final departure from the hospital is eerily disconcerting and will leave you
filled with dread (and wanting more).
And “wanting more” I did: I must say that I couldn’t help but feel there was a bigger novel lurking
here … though a thoroughly engaging and fascinating read, “Eye Contact” was a bit choppy and
contained some inner logic lapses (returning to the “execution” point I made earlier), apart from
those missing threads that were part and parcel of the story, that signaled to me that perhaps this
was either too big a project for Tom at the moment (for whatever reason) or that he had simply
chosen to let the tail of this particular tiger go. In my mind, the book as written could be the first
act to something grand and wondrous, and that is a testament to the quality and development of
Malafarina’s writing and storytelling in such a few short years.
Tom Malafarina is our present day H. P Lovecraft writing with a sense of place that is Stephen
King. He writes narratives with a detachment and examination of human behavior that can be
disconcerting and perhaps off-putting at first encounter but which are ultimately rewarding (with
patience) – he designs philosophically laden visual set pieces and then thoroughly dissects the
minutia of the scene as if man were just another sentient being in a violent and insatiable cosmos
(and a clumsy one at that) to be studied and dissected, just another chapter in an ancient
taxonomy. This style works especially well in “Eye Contact” in that the only tools of exploration
protagonist David Matson has are the ruminations of his thoughts dissecting what he perceives to
be seen and felt and smelled through his mind’s eye. Yes, Malafarina’s monsters can, at times,
approach the cartoonish dimensions of an EC Comic (or King’s own “Creepshow”) but that can be
written off for the moment as the enthusiasm and pleasure of a maturing writer clearly in love with
working in the horror field and having a rollicking good time. Hell, even Lovecraft had early forays
and collaborations that were not nearly as successful as his later fully formed and masterful work.
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