I enjoy horror and Kevin J. Kennedy provides some of the most twisted and pulpy stuff out there. This collection, the first I’ve had a chance to read is no exception. Not every story landed with me, but the ones that did were fantastic and I’ll discuss them in more detail in a moment.
DARK THOUGHTS is a collection that sums up a lot of concerns and worries of humanity. There threat of self annihilation, revenge, to escape pain, and ultimately death. The stories vary from general pulp horror, neo-noir horror, and to satire, but they all carry Kennedy’s brutal and raw (often gross) style. I will have a small disclaimer here that some of these stories would certainly not be for everyone and even some may be too raw for even some horror readers, so tread carefully.
“Life on a Double-Decker,” was an almost quaint spin on zombie horror and in some ways presented the most realistic setting for such a setting. Stranded at an amusement park after the virus wipes out most of the human race, we follow a trio of survivors as they make the best of it from living in a dead double-decker bus. The horror is there, but I appreciated the characters the most, since they were well flehsed out in only a few pages.
“Carnivalland” depicts a man that goes wandering through a strange land with a dark twist. It reminded me of other horror I have read, but ones that I could not put a finger on. Overall, it was well written and certainly had those moments of dread.
“The Way of the Streets” was a great neo-noirish horror that while brutal and contained certain existential agnst and horror of dealing with gangs and urban violence. This is where Kennedy begins to really stretch his wings in the collection and show you exactly what he can do. I appreciated this story to some degree, even if at its core it is truly bleak.
“Charlie the Vegetarian Cannibal” gives the reader a strange and dark testimony that for most horror readers may be familiar with, but as the story gets deeper, it changes and twists and mutates into something rather surprising. The intimacy of Charlie took me aback, especially as he describes what he does out in the wilderness, left there by his parents. This was one story that I could have easily wanted more from.
The final story, “Lake Mesquite,” was the perfect story to end on, even if I thought it ended rather abruptly. A tribute to Richard Laymon’s “Dark Mountain,” Kennedy leans into a common trope of horror, of young teenagers venturing into the wilderness and messing with things they have no idea how to handle. The characters at times lean too much on tropes, but that’s some of the charm to this story. It’s a nice way to say good-bye to this collection and look forward to whatever next Kennedy has in store.