Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Back of Beyond, (Cemetery Dance), by Alan Peter Ryan

There are places in this world that are "out of the way".  Hiding in the cracks, off the beaten path.  These places exist in-between worlds. We've all been there, one time or another...or perhaps only driven near them, but near enough to know these places felt different. Odd. Out of...place.  The kind of places where anything could happen.

And usually we only recall these places after we've left.  Once gone, we try to return, only to find that these places are never exactly as they were when we first visited them...or they're not there at all, anymore.  They are places beyond us, places we can barely remember but can't completely forget...but are never able to return to.  

These are the emotions so often invoked by Alan Peter Ryan's work.  A critically acclaimed travel writer with literary inclinations and a speculative bent, Ryan's work in Cemetery Dance's forthcoming four-story collection, The Back of Beyond is subtle, unnerving, and disquieting. Not all the stories deliver the same punch, but as a whole, it's a collection that perfectly invokes that reverence...or maybe even fear...of places "off the beaten path."

The two strongest tales are "Starvation Alley" and "Mountain Man,"  the former about a middle-aged father trying to bridge the gap between him and his estranged son, on a cross-country trip that unfortunately doesn't work out the way he'd been hoping.  Along the way, they visit a diner called Janey's, a place too good to be real...perhaps literally.

The best story is, without a doubt, "Mountain Man", featuring two characters of whom I hope we'll see more of posthumously, that of Beauchamp and Trask, two cowboys who have the knack of running across rather "odd" things in the great wild west. Imagine a weird western co-written by Zane Grey and Robert E. Howard, and that's what you get in Beauchamp and Trask.

In this case, it's an old feller come down out of the mountains, a ragged old boy, with a crazed gleam in his eyes, dark stains around his mouth, who mutters "Might eat you...most likely will."  With the best of intentions, Beauchamp and Trask bring him back to their compound...but things go bad quick, as it turns out the old boy's madness is infectious.    

Literally.  And Trask and Beauchamp are called upon to handle it as only they can. 

The Back of Beyond is forthcoming this Spring, 2012.  Pre-order your copy today.

Kevin Lucia is a Contributing Editor for Shroud Magazine and a blogger for The Midnight Diner. His short fiction has appeared in several anthologies. He's currently finishing his Creative Writing Masters Degree at Binghamton University, he teaches high school English and lives in Castle Creek, New York with his wife and children. He is the author of Hiram Grange & The Chosen One, Book Four of The Hiram Grange Chronicles, and he's currently working on his first novel. Visit him on the web at www.kevinlucia.com.

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