Here's my theory about this book: The author sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for extraordinary literary talent. But he also had to agree to write like a person afflicted with a diseased mind. Finally, his satanic bargain allowed for a generous portion of humor, as long at that humor was black as pitch.
Not only are these short stories remarkably well-written, but the entire collection is packaged or couched in a meta-premise that is unrelentingly hilarious -- the premise is that the author is a certain fictional fellow by the name of V.V. Swigferd Gloume, a sort of British version of H.P. Lovecraft.
Like the real Lovecraft, the fictional Swiggy Gloume lives a dreary, dismal existence of self-absorbed alienation, bizarre neurotic fears, loathing of others, loathing in general and loneliness. He is obsessed with monsters, death, slimes and filth. His plight is a chronic inability to get his work consistently published in mainstream periodicals -- only to achieve notoriety after his death.
And pity the poor saps that Gloume must elaborately bamboozle into publishing his work. Running a piece by Gloume is the kiss of death, either for the obscure publication or even the poor editor himself.
Author WILLIAM ROSENCRANS trots out this gag again and again -- and it's funny every time!
Rosencrans also has taken great pains to keep his parody running to the Nth degree. He provides fictional pictures of Gloume, his family and childhood home, and also an appendix which creates additional insight into the character of the nonexistent author through his correspondences, poetry and more.
But it's the short stories themselves that make this book an astonishingly dark and demented delight.
If you are a fan of H.P. Lovecraft, then you'll love these works; if you are not a fan of H.P Lovecraft, then you're in luck -- that's because Rosencrans does Lovecraft while improving Lovecraft in all those ways he could and should have been improved -- with more plots that are complete and resolve at the end, by adding humor, irony and charm (yes, charm), and by daring to stray beyond Lovecraftian style whenever a story needs its own flavor.
As I read, for example, I found myself thinking, "Wow, this story really has the seasoning of a G. K. Chesterton!" or "This one has a smack of Ray Bradbury!" or "This Rosencrans fellow writes like he's the reincarnation of Horace Walpole!"
Best of all, William Rosencrans writes like William Rosencrans, obviously an author of singular and unique talent, even while he's sending up Lovecraft or anyone else.
So FREAKSOME TALES is a marvelous book. It gets my top recommendation, and will easily land in the "Top 5" spot of my 100 Best Books of 2014, and I say that with confidence even though it's only June.
Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA
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