Review: 'American Nocturne' by Hank Schwaeble

AmericanAmerican Nocturne by Hank Schwaeble
Cohesion Press (January 2016)
287 pages; $4.99 e-book
Reviewed by Frank Michaels Errington

There are so many talented writers working in the fields of horror and speculative fiction that I’m constantly discovering authors I’ve not read before who immediately leave me wanting to read more of their work. Case in point: Hank Schwaeble. Prior to being sent a copy of this new collection from Cohesion Press, I’d never even heard of him. Maybe I just need to get out more or stay in and read more.

Jonathan Maberry, an author I have read and greatly respect, has penned an excellent introduction to Hank Schwaeble in general and specifically to American Nocturne. In essence, he says Hank is the real deal, and that’s good enough for me.

Five of the stories in American Nocturne are original, never-before-published (“American Nocturne,” “Cold Service,” “Nurture,” “Natural Selection,” and “A Murmur of Evil”). The remainder are reprints. But, if you are new to Hank’s work, as I was, that shouldn’t make any difference.

“American Nocturne” This piece truly sets the mood for the rest of the stories as it opens with a gal at the piano in a nearly empty bar. This quote pretty much sums up all of the stories which follow: “Pieces like this are called nocturnes. They’re meant to capture the mood of the night, remind one of things that happen after dark.” This particular story has the prose of a classic noir tale. Things aren’t always what they seem and the truth is much darker than what you might expect.

“Midnight Bogey Blues”A bogey is a demon of sorts in this imaginative story of a serial killer traveling down a country road with a severed head in the truck’s cab with him.

“Gomorrah” In this story, a group of guys plan on a night of gay bashing, but things certainly don’t go as planned. It also features one of the most disgusting opening lines ever. I can’t even bring myself to quote it here. It’s really gross.

“Bone Daddy” A tale of a high priced call girl talked into an on-camera liaison with a very unusual partner.

“Phantom Hill” Trying to find a man with a pure heart in the weird west is anything but easy.  

“A Murmur of Evil” And right in the middle of the collection is a Carl Kolchak story.  What a pleasant surprise.

“Nurture” One of my favorite stories in the collection and one of the best I’ve read this year. A cringe-worthy tale of rival academics.

“To Judge the Quick” More fun in the weird west. A story of a cross and a double cross.

“Mugwumps” A very effective way of making one’s enemies disappear without a trace.

“Cold Service”Another cool story, this one with a huge twist.

“Natural Selection” A Lovecraftian tale, and a good one at that.

“AB-IV” A story set in the world of Zombies vs. Robots, a retro-futuristic comic book universe created by Chris Ryall and Ashley Wood where the human population is facing extinction and pre-programmed robots are waging a post-apocalyptic war against a zombie plague that has blanketed the Earth.

Each story in American Nocturne has it’s own distinct voice, it’s own feel, it’s own flavor. It’s not at all like a single writer telling a series of stories. It’s almost as if each story was written by a different writer.

American Nocturne is available now as an e-book from Cohesion Press. If  you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can read this collection at no additional charge. Also, if you are a member of Amazon Prime, you can borrow this book for FREE from the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

This is one collection I can seriously recommend.

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