A little light screaming by Johnny Mains. Book review

A LITTLE LIGHT SCREAMING by Johnny Mains, Parallel Universe Publications, p/b

Reviewed by Sandra Scholes

There is strange fiction, but rarely do we get to find a writer who challenges what we think about horror as a genre. Johnny Mains stories read like a list of people you wouldn’t want to meet in real life. The third collection of short horror stories, Johnny Mains has his supporters right at the back cover of the book who all pretty much think of him as likely to be sectioned at any moment, yet for him to get to this third collection means he has talent.

Johnny has written with other authors, ‘Paintings’ with Simon Bestwick and ‘The Curse of the Monster’ with Bryn Fortey, ‘The Girl on Suicide Bridge’ was nominated for the Best Short Story category of the British Fantasy Awards 2015, and in Johnny’s ‘Author’s Mumbles – Part 3’, he shares with us how he gets his ideas and the writing process he went through that led to its being published. Not since reading musings from Neil Gaiman’s works have I noticed the sheer endurance writers need when their writing is either rejected or changed, or according to the writer, over edited until it doesn’t resemble what the writer intended.

Blossom is one of these stories that is short and starts out with a man who thinks he has the perfect life with his wife and children until a mystery illness shatters the illusion. Johnny intended the story to be a Robert Aickman tribute, but it turned out very different in the last draft. I felt it was one of the stronger ones where the antagonist gets his just desserts, and rightly so. ‘The Case of the Revenant’ is Johnny’s way of paying homage to Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, preferring to write about Holmes as Watson can be a little boring sometimes. Set in Austria, Holmes investigates an unsolved case where a family has been murdered. I got the impression Johnny had always wanted to write a Holmes story as so many writers have tried to pen at least one in their lives, though this ends in a much more sinister way than expected.

There are ten short stories here, so I can imagine another anthology coming out at some point soon. Unlike other writers, Johnny makes sure you see the monsters, their evil intent and malice at the very end, rather than a vague image or suggestion of them. Not all the characters have their monsters in their heads and not everyone in the stories are as nice as they appear. Admittedly, there are one or two stories that are deep enough to cause an emotional response (‘Blossom’, ‘A Forest of Lonely Deaths’ and ‘The Girl on Suicide Bridge’).