Reviews > Published on February 16th, 2016

Bookshots: 'Interior Darkness' by Peter Straub

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


Interior Darkness

Who wrote it:

I was left with an unmistakable spine tingle and feeling of lingering discomfort.

Acclaimed author Peter Straub, well known for his horror fiction.

Plot in a Box:

Interior Darkness is a collection of sixteen chilling short stories spanning 25 years of Straub's career.

Invent a new title for this book:

Something Off

Read this if you like(d):

Stephen King, Anne Rice

Meet the book's lead(s):

Each short story has its own (often misguided, sometimes frighteningly aware) lead.

Said lead(s) would be portrayed in a movie by:

I could definitely see Brad Pitt playing the main character in Mr. Clubb and Mr. Cuff, one of the longer stories in the collection.

Setting: would you want to live there?

I would not want to inhabit the worlds of any of these stories! Oh no, no, no.

What was your favorite sentence:

His whole problem was that he always forgot he was nothing special.

The Verdict:

Interior Darkness may be a collection of short stories, but the book itself spans almost 500 pages and 25 years of Straub's writing. This was my first time reading his stories (why did it take me so long!?), so all of the work was new to me. For the most part, the pacing of the longer stories is slow and deliberate, allowing the reader full access to the world in which the stories take place. As I read a few of the last sentences, I was left with an unmistakable spine tingle and feeling of lingering discomfort.

"A Short Guide to the City" is a story about place. It tells the reader many things about a certain Midwestern city, but leaves out key details that the reader fills with his or her own terror and assumptions. As someone who favors character over anything else in a narrative, I was surprised by how much I loved this story, and it might be my favorite overall because of its masterful subtlety. "In The Realm of Dreams" and "Going Home" are no longer than a page or two, but they both deal with memory and the past. Fear blends with deep pain and the results are powerful. You'll definitely find a healthy mix of bloody horror and mind horror within these pages.

At the heart of this collection is confident, skilled storytelling that never falters. Straub is not trying to speed things along or make unrealistic jumps in action, even when the events that occur are shocking. Once I got a feel for the world of each story, I was strapped in for the ride. I have read all the stories and had some distance from them, but as each day goes by the characters and occurrences continue to plague my brain. Get out of my head, Peter Straub! You are too good at what you do.

About the author

Christine J. Schmidt is a writer originally from New Jersey. After receiving her BFA in Dramatic Writing from SUNY Purchase, she worked at Seattle Repertory Theatre as their artistic literary intern. She recently left Brooklyn, where she was a bookseller and events host at WORD, to reside in Los Angeles. She has previously written for New York Theatre Review, and her plays have been read and produced at theaters in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Washington. Coffee is her favorite thing.

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