A Dead Calmness, by Steven Deighan

Review by Garry Charles

Just before Christmas (2005) I received a text message out of the blue from a young man named Steven Deighan asking me for tips on writing. I was honoured that someone thought I was good enough to ask and I have since kept in touch with Steve.

He told me about his plans to release a collection of his short stories and seeing as I had already read Bad Fuse on Whispers I pre-ordered a copy without hesitation.

I have had quite a few conversations with Steve over the past couple of months and I have to admit that I class him as a friend. As a friend he has made me promise to keep this review honest and it is a promise I plan to keep. In fact it’s an easy promise.

In all A Dead Calmness is a collection of 14 stories that range in quality from good to very good and only one of them stood out as below par with the rest, but more on that later.

Most of the tales in this creepy collection are around 2000 words (mostly written for limited criteria submissions between 2001 – 2004) and because of this they sometimes annoyed me, but only because I wanted more. The majority worked extremely well at stirring images in the mind, forcing this reader to expand on Steve’s written word and hence, in my opinion, making the stories more than worth the price of admission.

I did find myself tempted to re-write certain lines and juggle the odd sentence, but then if we all wrote the same there would be no variety in style in the world of literature.

And so I feel it is now time to give an idea of the goodies on offer in this macabre selection box.

BAD FUSE: As mentioned earlier this tale has been featured on Whispers and I liked it when I first read it. Steven tells me that it is one of his least favourites, but has still opted to use it as the opening story to the book. I think he chose wisely. What better than the horror that is the emptiness of life and the deadness that fills society’s eyes. A dark picture of hard lives and family disputes; despair and indifference coming to a fatal conclusion.

A fine start.

THE SWINGING BALLARD: Is the only story in the collection that I felt did not sit well. I found it jagged and confusing, but that does not mean that it’s bad. Far from it; it still manages to make the reader think about what the story is about. Is it the visions of a tormented mind or is it a cursed soul on the point of death waiting for the reaper whilst others hunt him down?

THE NIGHTMARE MAN: ‘so sleep my pretty child, for soon you will be mine.’ All I can say is that pretty children won’t be sleeping if they’re read this bedtime story. If Steve ever decides to lengthen a short into a novella he should consider this one.

THE VIOLATION: Being a devout atheist I particularly liked this tale of lost faith and demonic retribution. ‘I know what you do,’ states the demon to the priest, but do we want to know the holy man’s secret? Steve leaves it up to you to decide.

THE PARTY: I have, after reading this tale, decided not to leave my daughter at home when I go on holiday this year. Oh, no.

FEELS LIKE STEPHEN KING: One word. EXCELLENT. Steve has come of age with this fable of a writer and his undeniable urge to have his work published. It’s longer than any of its siblings and benefits from the expansion. Instead of teasing snapshots we are treated to a fleshed out tale that reads oh, so well. I loved this one.

THE LAST DRIVE: Not a short, but a preview to something bigger that Steve plans to release later this year. No horror on show here, but it promises something nasty to come.

Watch this space.

If A Dead Calmness is a peek into Steve’s world through a keyhole then when he opens the door all hell will break loose. Steve Deighan is here and he’s going to tear your soul apart.

A Dead Calmness by Steven Deighan. Tpb, 102 pp, £4.99/US $8.99. Published by Lulu.

This review originally appeared on Whispers of Wickedness, and is reproduced here with permission.