First published back in July of 2012, ‘The Dead Man Vol 3’ was the first short story collection following on with US author Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin’s ‘Dead Man’ series.

The Beast Within - 118 pages
Having been resurrected from death following a three-month-long deep freeze after being buried alive in snow during a freak avalanche, Matthew Cahill has found that he has since been able to see things that others can’t.  He can detect when someone is malign – a rotting soul that is entwined with evil.  And of course, he has since come face-to-face with his nemesis – the supernatural entity known as Mr Dark.

Now, almost a year since he was given up for dead, Matt Cahill is in the town of Wittman picking up some groceries when he witnesses a young foreign woman named Roma being racially attacked.  Jumping in to the rescue, Matt fights off three of the thugs, with one taking a bullet to the head in the process.  Fleeing the scene, Matt races off with Roma on his motorbike, with Roma offering safety where she lives with her husband.  And as fate would have it, Roma’s husband turns out to be the very reason Matt Cahill has travelled three-thousand miles to be where he is.  Charles Kingman is the author of the racially controversial book ‘The Aryan’s Lament’.  A book which includes an epilogue that instantly sparked Cahill’s interest in the man and his potential knowledge on Cahill’s own post-death predicament.

However, upon arriving at Kingman’s base for the The White Aryan Caucasian Fist Of God militia, Cahill finds himself thrust into a war between two fighting factions.  Cahill is soon forced to take sides and join forces with those he abhorrently detests, in order to survive the night.  A battle is about to play out, and with his trusty axe in hand, Cahill will soon find himself up to the neck in bloodshed...

Following on with the ‘Dead Man’ chronicles, author James Daniels has furthered Matt Cahill’s quest for answers and a hope to heal himself whilst opposing the forces of evil (in particular the influence of Mr Dark).  And from the outset, Daniels gets stuck in with a good helping of violent action, barely taking a second to introduce either of the key characters from the series (which it’s no doubt assumed that the reader will probably already be familiar with).  From here it’s a quick jump into a neo-Nazi militia encampment where the thrills and spills of an inner-war that has recently sparked up, takes precedence over the plot.  Mr Dark barely makes an appearance in the tale, and instead it’s all geared towards some pretty ropey action sequences with our axe-wielding hero stuck in the middle of it all.  Sadly, the tale feels painfully uneven, stuttering along with little in the way of a flowing pace or anything that’s sustaining much of a lasting momentum.  This leads to a general feeling of flatness, without depth, inspiration or suspense.  To be frank – it comes across as pretty darn muddled and directionless.  But there’s still an element of entertainment snuggled in there to make it a reasonably enjoyable read nonetheless.

Fire And Ice - 110 Pages
For Officer Pete McCray, his day-shift as a security guard at Nitko Chemicals was going to be his worst and last, all on account of fellow employee Kevin Radowski’s (K-Rad) objection to what he deems is an unfair dismissal.  Having worked at the Nitko Chemical Plant in Copperhead Springs, Florida for the last twelve years, K-Rad expected come degree of loyalty from his employers.  But, after management couldn’t find out who was responsible for wrecking the loading dock door during a late shift, the responsibility ended up falling on K-Rad who was in charge of the area at the time.  But K-Rad didn’t see it that way.  The way he’d seen it was that he was taking the wrap for someone else’s mistake.  And he wasn’t going to just lie down and take it.  So that’s why he was back at the chemical plant, having just shot dead Officer Pete McCray, and he was working his way through the large building, executing all the plant’s staff as he went.  However Nitko’s most recent employee, Matt Cahill, was on site and ready for him.  But Mr Dark has his own cards to play in order to up the stakes just that little bit more…

Author Jude Hardin’s contribution to the Dark Man saga is perhaps born more from the idea of a gritty thriller than that of a horror.  Almost ‘Falling Down’ (1993) in its concept, the short is fast to get into the execution-action, with the colourful antagonist of K-Rad setting off on his calm killing spree from within the very first pages.  From here Hardin back tracks a bit, setting down K-Rad’s reasoning, whilst piecing together a reasonably well-fleshed-out character-history for our main man.  Slotted alongside all this systematic mayhem is a hint of a love interest for Cahill in the form of fellow Nitko employee Shelly Potts who has an interesting bearing on the unfolding plot.  With all the vice presidents at a convention in Miami and the CEO cutting a ribbon at the site for a new toll road, the timing was perfect for K-Rad to lock-down the plant, trapping everyone inside, and then begin his gun-toting slaughter.  And to be fair, the K-Rad killing spree is pretty exciting and quite notably intense at times.  Certainly the best of the three stories, the quick-fire chapters deliver fast shots of adrenaline, keeping together a snappy pace and plenty of scope for a weaving storyline.  All in all, not a bad read, but still lacks in any real punch to what should have been quite an explosive tale.

Carnival Of Death - 80 Pages
When Sue Jean Eckerd is stood-up by her so-called best friend, Madison Carroll, for a date with Freddie Pierce, Sue Jean’s night out to Cap’n Bob’s Stardust Carnival had started off on a bad note before it had even gotten started.  However, when the palm reader, Madame Zora, tells her to go home because it’s too dangerous for her in the carnival grounds that night, the depressing theme of the night just gets worse.  However, the draw of a snow cone is too irresistible for Sue Jean, and before she knows it she’s being confronted by Earl Compton and his equally thuggish mates - Harry Thomas and George Simpson.  And that’s when her night out at the carnival plummets to all new lows.  However, Matt Cahill (who’s taken on a job as part of the carnival’s security force) hears Sue Jean’s screams as the three lads try to rape her in the nearby dark fields, and arrives just in time to beat the thugs off her.  But there’s clearly something in the air that night as more violence and madness starts to sweep across the carnival.  And Cahill has no doubt who’s at the root of the night’s trouble - his supernatural nemesis – Mr Dark…

Author Bill Crider’s final story to this third Dark Man volume brings the collection back in the swing of a pretty cheesy, 80’s horror style of storyline.  However, there’s no real surprises awaiting the reader.  Just a sack full of horror story clichés and bubbling comic-book style action.  Probably the weakest of the three stories, the short tale just plods along with wacky characters acting out nonsensical roles against a ‘The Funhouse’ (1980) style of backdrop.  Along with a moderately harsh rape scene, and a response to such an attack that is about as far removed from reality as you can get, the tale wobbles around with sudden bouts of violence that ultimately comes together as another one of Mr Dark’s devious ploys.  With barely a thread of a plotline holding the weakly inspired tale together, it’s hard not to just wish the final third of the book away.

All in all it’s hard to say that this third ‘Dead Man’ volume offers up all that much in the way of entertainment other than just an easy but mostly uninspired trilogy of loosely flesh-out stories.  Jude Hardin’s tale is certainly the highlight of the collection, but is still nevertheless nothing much to shout about.  Personally, I wouldn’t recommend these books as a particularly good read.  The authors’ are clearly trying to make Matt Cahill and Mr Dark some sort of cult horror book characters in a similar style to Batman and The Joker.  Alas, without any strong storylines to support the (admittedly already pretty weak) characters, this really isn’t going to happen.

The book runs for a total of 309 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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