NIGHTMARE YEARNINGS BY ERIC RAGLIN [REVIEW]
This debut short story collection from Eric Raglin collects sixteen stories of weird horror including tales of;
- A father and son attending the annual Running of the Bulls, where familial pressure and toxic masculinity combine with tragic results
- A decrepit apartment complex where residents seem to disappear without warning, and the terrible secret that resides on the top floor
- A house that boasts five spectral residents, and the heart-rending story behind their deaths.
- A cable TV show starring a cannibal cook, and one young boy yearning to be next on the menu.
- A couple seeking solitude receive a cryptid visitor, unsure whether its appearance is an ill omen or a sign of the changing times
With only a handful of previous publishing credits to his name in the indie horror short story market, Eric Raglin may not be a well-known name right now, even among the most ardent of horror fans, but ‘Nightmare Yearnings’ is surely about to change that. When a book boasts blurbs from indie horror titans such as Eric Larocca and Hailey Piper, it is a book that people should take note of.
We’re firming in ‘weird fiction’ territory with these sixteen shorts, but there is a surprising diversity of tones throughout.
Some of the book’s earlier offerings (such as “Mother’s Tongue” or “Ivory”) are quite downbeat meditations on grief or loss, whereas other tales lean a little more fun and light (“The Patch”). Raglin is also more than capable of unsettling, disturbing or otherwise scaring the pants off his reader as well, with shorts such as “Grey Matter” boasting some strong body horror in an otherwise heartbreaking metaphor for Alzheimer’s, or pieces that read like nightmares committed to page (“Sick Leave”, “Under the Hoof, Upon the Horns”). There’s no complacency and no filler with ‘Nightmare Yearnings’.
This book may prove to be a bit of an acquired taste.
Every story within leans heavily into the bizarre and whether this is used as a metaphor (“Smaller”, “My Better Half”) or simply to deliver a uniquely memorable and entertaining story (“The Reveal”, “For My Final Girl”), there isn’t a single entry that could be accused of being predictable. One of the book’s biggest strengths is how the weird is used to enhance the story being told, never being its focus. Some shorts present a bizarre scenario used to tell a very personal and human story (“Remi Rook the Cannibal Cook”) or takes a seemingly standard premise and enhances it with a strange new twist (“The Patch”, “Lockdown”).
My personal favourites included “The Lord Above”, one of the collection’s most unsettling stories, and “Top 5 Ghosts Caught on Camera”, which begins as perhaps the book’s most light and overtly comedic tale, before taking a particularly dark turn. ‘Nightmare Yearnings’ though, where there is no weak link and each and every story could well prove to be a favourite to another reader.
2021 is proving to be a stellar year for short story collections and this new release from Eric Raglin is no doubt going to feature heavily on a lot of ‘top’ release lists come to the end of the year. His distinctive voice and unique take on themes of fractured relationships, sexuality and humanity demonstrate his assured grasp of weird fiction and promise an exciting future of what I hope will be many more fantastic books to come.
Richard Martin started reading horror books at a young age, starting with R L Stine’s ‘Goosebumps’ and ‘Point Horror’ series. He traumatized himself at the age of twelve when he read Stephen King’s ‘IT’, and never looked back. He is currently based in the UK, where he lives with his partner and an inappropriate amount of books.