One of my favorite pastimes is to attend author events, whether they are event in which the author speaks, takes part in a Q&A, and signs books, or in a "meet and greet" format in which the author has a table with their books, you have a discussion, and then you can buy one or more books and have them autographed. Through the meet and greet format, one of my favorite authors that I met was Carlotta Holton. Since she writes horror fiction, she won my attention with writing in a favorite genre of mine. Her encouraging, cheerful personality plus her wide ranging knowledge only gave me more reason to like her. With her short story collection, Touching The Dead, I can confirm that I am an avid reader of her work and am interested in what she puts out.
Holton's horror fiction concentrates on two areas of interest: the historical and the superstitious. Each of her novels has some historical implication behind it. Salem Pact is a recreation of the Salem Witch Trials, Vampire Resurrection concentrates on the time of the move into Roanoke, and Deadly Innocence has to do with a relative of a deadly ancestor. With Touching The Dead, we see plenty of historical implications, but the theme has to do with different superstitions that are observed across the globe by different cultures. This is a fascinating jump and I felt that Holton landed quite well. I was thrilled by several of her short stories, many of which were excellent.
The collection kicks off with "Brother Tom's Salvation Show," which I found was a great way to begin. In the story, a town is being crowded with crows and is dealing with a drought. Brother Tom comes around with high hopes of dealing with the misfortune being brought to the people. We learn here that Holton is good at creating a twist and shifting our thought process to think one thing and then do another.
In "Touching The Dead," a relative has died and some cousins learn that if you touch the person that has died, you will not have nightmares about this particular person. A cousin takes this superstition too far and it turns into a frightful horror story.
"The Coming Of Borsotka" is one of my favorites and it has some of the most creative implications. It takes place in a Czechoslovakian village at the time that Czechoslovakia was one country and not two separate countries. It centers around a witch that comes to people's houses and cause them with incredible misfortune. We learn in the story that no matter what kind of fashion she engages in such that Borsotka lives on.
"A Case Of The Overlooks" has to do with a girl who visits her grandparents for the summer. Her grandmother is a kindly woman, but her grandfather is a creepy, pedophilic individual who makes his granddaughter's visits less enjoyable. Then she learns about staring and what it can do to others...
"Uncle Peter's Resting Now" makes me think about Easter, because it has to do with dying eggs. The only difference is that in this case, each color is dyed to represent a different objective. For instance, white represented purity, yellow represented fertility, while green represented health, and there were plenty of other colors to go around. A conflict occurs when the eggs are being rested, but these antagonists soon realize that they are messing with the wrong situation...
These are among my favorites listed above, but the others in this collection include "The Ultimate Chain Letter," "A 'Caul' To Sailors Everywhere," "Ghost Of A Chance," "Cagliostro's Mirror," "Serafina's Revenge," "Shear Superstition," "A Family Mailed To Order," "The Vampire's Lair," "Soul Food," "Jack's Back!," "The Red Room At Borthwick Castle," and "The Pendulum Swings Both Ways," as well as a poem titled "Jaunty Jack" in order to set up for "Jack's Back!" which has to do with Jack the Ripper. I'm positive that you will find at least one if not two or more pieces that entertain and haunt you as the day progresses.
I thoroughly enjoyed this superstitious collection and am fascinated by the many superstitions that make up our global culture. Carlotta Holton did a great job compiling up a collection with different stories in her areas of interest, which provided us with plenty of reasons to enjoy it as well.
In my Amazon review, I complimented it and rated it four stars out of five for being an exciting, impacting read, but not everyone of them grabbed me completely. Still, there were plenty of them that grabbed me and held on tight. My official verdict is a 9/10, because it was very good and there were ideas and twists that really left me thinking and even if I didn't have a story under my list of favorites, I'm sure someone will.
Speaking of Amazon, I will leave a link for her book if you are interested in buying it and giving it a read. I encourage you to do so, you'll have no regrets... maybe just a nightmare or an hour or so lying awake in your bed (but if you're trained to read horror, you'll be used to it).
Carlotta Holton's next book will be a follow-up to this short story collection featuring more superstitions. It's called Touching The Dead... Again.
Here's the link for Touching The Dead: