THE DEVIL’S DUE
Edited by Adam Messer
Valhalla Books is a relatively new name in the pulp field and they are off to a great start with this premier anthology, “The Devil’s due.” Presented for your enjoyment are fourteen stories in which the main characters, much to their later regret, make packs with the Devil. It’s a classic theme, as Editor Messer points out in his introduction, and every one of these fourteen scribes has a great deal of fun with it. So, we’re going to rank them here by our favorite on down.
“The Devil You Know,” by Shane Nelson is a poignant inspection of selfishness and its true cost to the human soul.
“Here Comes Mr. Herribone,” by Tim Jeffreys. A down-and-out comedy duo discovers the secret to fame in fortune in a bizarre costume head with disastrous results. Wonderfully creepy.
“Identity Theft,” by Rachel A. Brune. The Devil’s own private eye investigates what could be the first-ever bogus contract given the Prince of Hell. An original tale with different kinds of world-weary heroes.
“Mary’s Secret,” by Winfield Strock III. Marty Todd Lincoln’s letter to a friend reveals the awful sacrifice made by her husband to end the Civil War which might condemn him to eternal damnation. Solid and intriguing.
“Genevieve and the Owl,” by Mark Allan Gunnells about a poor, village girl with a sorry lot in life until a magical owl offers several wishes. She manipulates him with cunning he cannot predict. Fun story with a nice surprise wrap-up.
“Dante’s Tenth,” by Bobby Nash. The dessert town of Dante is quickly being settled by folks from strange places as a love-sick newspaper reporter soon learns. Wonderful setup for a really well-done weird western tale.
“The Black Rock,” by Alledria Hurt is a twisty little tale of a young woman desperate to become a bestselling author and the strange black rock with the power to make her dreams come true. If she dares.
“Face It,” by Carol Gyzander. How important were his looks and standing in the community? Enough to kill his wife? But is it too late to make restitution? It all depends on the Judge. A creepy little thriller with an unexpected ending.
“The Plan,” by Josh Vasquez. Dillion grew up planning revenge against the minister who abused him as a child. What he didn’t count on was the demon in the cast. A rough, brutal tale not for the squeamish.
“The Resurrection and the Life,” by Jude Reid. A young medical school nearing the completion of his studies accidentally kills a man while drunk. To save himself he’s forced to deal with an unscrupulous whorehouse madam.
“The Known and True History of the Djin,” by Adam Messer. Wherein the book’s editor dons his writing cap and offers up the story of yet another writer willing to bargain away his life for fame. Though well written, the story’s rambling second half leads nowhere unexpected, as it should have.
“Sadie’s Choices,” by Ravyn Crescent. A girl kills her sister and makes a deal with the devil. Then at the end she tries to break the contract only to fall in love with Satan’s son. A complicated piece that left this reader both confused and unsatisfied.
“Good Samuel Ritton,” by Samuel R. Grosse. A father will do anything to protect his daughters from the world’s evils. Too predictable to be effective.
In all “The Devil’s Due” thirteen cautionary tales are fun, with a few being especially memorable. With it, Valhalla Books is off to an auspicious start. Bravo.