Angler In Darkness Is Out!

My first story collection, Angler In Darkness, is out now.

From the front cover:

acollection

From the back cover:

EDWARD M. ERDELAC, Author of Andersonville, Monstrumführer, The Van Helsing Papers, and The Merkabah Rider series presents his first collection of short fiction, spanning nearly a decade of fishing in the sunless depths of the imagination, some brought to light here for the first time.

A frontiersman of bizarre pedigree is peculiarly suited to tracking down a group of creatures rampaging across the settlements of the Texas Hill Country…..

A great white hunter is shaken to his core by a quarry he cannot conceive of….

A bullied inner city kid finds the power to strike back against his tormentors and finds he can’t stop using it….

Outraged plumbing plots its revenge….

Here Blackfoot Indians hunt the undead, the fate of nations is decided by colossal monsters, a salaryman learns the price of abandoning his own life, and even the Angel of Death tells his story.

EIGHTEEN ‘CATCHES’ FROM AN ANGLER IN DARKNESS

Now I decided to take a page from Punktown author Jeffrey Thomas’ promotional playbook and post the first paragraph/line of each story, one a day till release, so here are the openings of all eighteen stories…

Day 1 –
First story up is exclusive to the collection – The Mound Of The Night Panther, about a French trapper who discovers the ultimate fate of the lost Native American city of Cahokia…

Auguste Oudin had come down the Father of All Rivers to Illinois from Quebec three years ago in a forty foot canoe with the Seminarians and Henri DeTonti as a courer des bois, paddling, signing, and trapping for the young priests.

Day 2 –

Today it’s Killer Of The Dead, the first story I ever sold, about a pair of Blackfoot Indians tracking down the gang of vampires who slaughtered their village.

The boy puts his back to the tipis with their warm, glowing bellies, and he feels the smooth, cold stones beneath the trickling surface of the creek with his toes. The water is black but for the fat hunter’s moon reflected lazing amid the wavering stars. He is not afraid to be alone. He thinks the night shadows hide nothing that is not there in the day.

Day 3 –

Today we have Bigfoot Walsh, a weird western about a group of Texas Rangers sent to investigate a series of bloody killings in the hill country, and their tall, shaggy chief scout who, it turns out, is peculiarly suited to the task….

It was a cool spring night when the Texas Rangers rode out of the dark into Fredricksburg.

I remember because the people were out lighting the bonfires on the hilltops, and one of the Rangers, a dirty youth with rusty hair, asked me what they were for.

Day 4 –

Today it’s the first line of Devil’s Cap Brawl, which is about a Central Pacific Railroad crew dynamiting a mountain and releasing an immense creature long trapped within. A mysterious Chinese rail worker comes forward to stop it. It’s a weird western send up of 60’s Godzilla/Gamera movies with a dash of TV’s Kung Fu thrown in….

Joe Blas was so called because his papist upbringing in Drom, County Tipperary, had given him a knack for devising the most ingenious blasphemies anyone on either side of the Sierras had ever heard.

Day 5 –

Spearfinger, about a Cherokee policeman who chases a fugitive murderer up a mountain and comes down with something much worse.

Jimpsey Waterback knocked a spark from his pocketknife with a chip of flint and fanned the handful of smoking grasses with his hat till a single tongue of flame blossomed.

He hated to start a fire, but it was cold up on the mountain tonight. There was a cutting breeze hissing through the pines, causing the bones in his hands to quiver like hammer struck wire. He hoped his pursuers didn’t see or smell the flame. He had a long way to go before he got to Arkansas. The round, windy moon shining like a bullet hole in black canvas was working against him.

Day 6 –

Today it’s In Thunder’s Shadow, a story about an archaeologist in the field during the Bone Wars of the 1870’s tracking down an Arizona legend about a thunderbird, and the wily old hunter who’s not content with fossils.

September 25, 1876

To Professor O.C. Marsh, Yale College, New Haven, Connecticut

 

I have arrived in Delirium Tremens in Arizona Territory and met with the Drucker & Dobbs Mining Co.’s geologist, Elvin Planterbury, who contacted your office about the fossil he discovered in their main copper shaft. Fortunately Mr. Planterbury was able to preserve the specimen before it was broken up and sold off for the price of a few drinks. It is, in my opinion, a tarsal fragment from a large pteranodon (most probably longiceps). I have personally never seen a fossil so well preserved. Work in the mine has necessarily not been halted to await my arrival, and examination of the location at which the fragment was uncovered is impossible. I intend to survey the sedimentary substrate of the upper area of the surrounding Huachuca Mountains. I have hopes that should it prove fruitful, my work might warrant the assignment of a team from the Geological Survey. I was able to purchase a quantity of dynamite from the company as well as sufficient provisions and gear, but I shall likely require more funds to ship any samples I find for your appraisal.

Day 7 –

Today, in The Blood Bay, Jonas, living on his estranged father’s ranch after the death of his mother, pines for a wild, blood red mare. His father will only let him keep her if Jonas can get her to eat….

Jonas stood with his foot on the bottom rail of the breaking pen fence between Clem and Panos, watching Henry bust a three-year-old appaloosa the afternoon his daddy, Famous Fallon, rode up with the bay mare strung behind.

Famous had run out on Jonas’ mama when he was four years old and it drove her to drink. She’d often told him this, and his Grandma said it was so.

Day 8 –

The Exclusive, about a dogged frontier reporter in the last moments of his life who lands the interview of the century with history’s most accomplished killer –

Tom Cotter was no man to be trifled with. He had rustled Mexican steer along the border into a sizeable herd in his youth, and had built himself an empire as one of the first outfits to drive cattle to the Missouri railheads, putting beef in the bellies of starving soldiers during the War Between The States. He owned a good chunk of New Mexico, and was a king among cattlemen. There were senators that doffed their hats to him, and he in turn did their dirty work on occasion, sending out his hired villains to execute foreclosures on land he didn’t own, and gunning down those who tried to resist. He had a beef contract with the local Indian reservation which he rarely fulfilled, yet the government money filled his war bag every month on schedule just the same.

Day 9 –

Tell Tom Tildrum is the tale of a great white hunter relating a story of personal horror to gain membership in a strange, exclusive London club –

“Were the squabs to your liking, Captain Howe?” Bertrand asked, dabbing the grease from his lips with his napkin.

In truth, they had not been. I have never much appreciated the philosophy behind pigeons à la crapaudine; squabs masquerading as frogs. It’s a silly French concoction, a holdover from the old days when papists insisted that their fish be made to look like beef to ease the Lenten fasts. I’d had it once before, the first time I’d dined with the Prestons at Mundui on Lake Navaisha. A preposterous dish. I like my swine arse up and my pigeons on their backs. I’d said so before. That was why Kiki had taken such a liking to me. The American infatuation with plain speaking, I suppose.

Day 10 –

Mighty Nanuq is about an Inuit shaman passing on the secret of his power over Canada’s state sanctioned kaiju to his dubious nephew –

Hal Anawak shook hands with Lt. Governor O’Dea and smiled for the cameras, the bulbs popping off like a chain of lightning among the gathered crowd on the lawn in front of Governor’s House. Luckily his hooded eyes were naturally thinner than a white man’s. Nobody would know he was closing them.

George LeDuc would have thought that was hilarious.

But George was dead.

Day 11 –

A Haunt of Jackals, where a Mossad agent witnesses an attack on Israel by a pair of rampaging giant monsters instituted by a sinister enemy….

And I will cut off your carved images and your pillars from among you, and you shall bow down no more to the work of your hands; Micah 5:13

The jeep bounced along the rutted country road through the sultry Itapua countryside several kilometers north of Hohenau, packed with four men in dark clothes and harnesses strapped with weapons. Though it was a moonless Paraguayan night, the headlights were off, the driver trusting to the dual tube AN/PVS-5 nightvision goggles he wore.

This wasn’t going to be like Eichmann.

Day 12 –

This one’s from The Better To See You, a story I wrote from an idea my daughter had, an alternate telling of Little Red Riding Hood.

The girl watched her mother pack the last of the sandwiches into the pink picnic basket. She slipped the Cincinnati baseball cap her father had given her (because it was her favorite color; she had no interest whatsoever in baseball) onto her head and snatched up the wicker handle just as her mother closed the lid.

Her mother’s hand slapped down over her’s.

The girl looked into her mother’s eyes.

Her mother held up one finger.

“You know Grandma’s not well these days.”

Day 13 –

Today we have an excerpt from Conviction, the story of a persecuted kid in Chicago’s notorious Cabrini Green housing project who suddenly finds the power to strike back at his tormentors.

“Hello, Abassi,” the lady say, when I sit down. “My name is Daniela Orozco. Now, can you tell me why you were referred to me today?”

I just shrug, even though I know.

When she open the folder and slide the piece of paper with my drawing on it, I look down at my busted shoes.

“Your teachers are concerned about you,” she say, though I know really they just worried about they own selves. “Abassi?”

I look up, and her eyes are on me. I look away, but every time I come back, she still looking. She pretty.

“You’re a very good artist, Abassi,” she say.

Nobody never tell me I good at anything. It feel good. I wish the picture was something nicer.

I drew it in history class. We was learning about the minutemen. In the picture in the book they wore GD colors and they was all strapped in the street like they was bangin’. I thought about Lateesa. I drew the minutemen blowing up, like they swallowed bombs. Their triangle hats was on fire, their heads come off, some of ‘em. I drew my own punkinhead self in there too. I shouldn’t have. If I’d of left that out, nobody would’ve said shit.

“You told the teacher these were the minutemen,” she say, with her pencil on the bloody bodies. “But who’s this down here?”

She point to the little boy with the big head and the busted shoes.

I don’t say shit.

Day 14 –

Today we have ‘Crocodile,’ a story about a Pizza Hut cashier at a Flying J truck stop who falls madly in love with a vampire she meets in the parking lot. But vampires aren’t like the ones in the books she reads.

Gwendolyn could not entirely suppress the girlish shudder that began in the pit of her stomach and somehow spread through her torso to the tips of each extremity as Brendan took her hand in his and led her toward the forest.

Brendan.

Her dark angel.

Her Peter Pan.

His hand was cold, as if scoured by a winter wind, though it was a sultry August evening after a rain, the remains of it rising as steam off the moonlit pavement and hanging in the air. Yet despite his coldness, wherever he touched her, warmth spread as if kissed by an noontime sunbeam.

She followed him. She would follow him anywhere. Particularly tonight.

Day 15 –
In Philopatry, a Catholic priest contacts an old altar boy turned hitman and ex-convict, having learned the identity of a serial murderer stalking a South Boston neighborhood….

Nobody at O’Malley’s Bar took much notice of the old priest who came in from the stone cold November night, brushing the rain from his black hat and his dripping beige topcoat. It was a Tuesday, so there weren’t too many people there to take notice. The men were in their drink. The local stylenes, cackling their lipstick stained cigarette laughs crossed and uncrossed their cheetah print legs and paid him no more than a glance. Priests were like a fourth class of male, more unavailable than a married man or a queer even. O’Malley himself would only raise his eyebrows at the entrance of some colored guy from Roxbury. As long as this baby sprinkler paid for his drinks he didn’t care.

Day 16 –
Here’s the opening to Sea of Trees, a tale of a depressed Japanese businessman who wanders into the infamous suicide forest and learns the afterlife doesn’t offer the escape he had hoped for….

Manabu stepped out of his car and let the door close. He did not take the keys. The car was a rental and the Tocoo! agency in Fujiyoshida would want it back.

He took the hiking trail out of the parking lot and walked for an hour into the woods before he came to the No Hiking Beyond This Point sign and stepped over the rope to pick his way among the tangled roots
.
His mother had told him as a boy never to play in Aokigahara Forest, the Sea of Trees, because it was haunted by the miserable ghosts of those that every year wandered in here to die. It had been going on since back in the old days of the daimyos when the destitute families around Mount Fuji used the woods for ubasute, abandoning their elderly infirm to the elements in times of famine, to spare the remainder of the household.

Manabu’s mother had told him the Ubasuteyama story once.
This wasn’t in Aokigahara, but in Nagano somewhere. There was a famine, and a boy chose to carry his crippled old mother up to the mountain to leave her in the woods. He carried her very deep into the forest, perhaps thinking to lose his conscience too.

When at last he set her down, he saw that he might become lost himself on the way back down.

“Don’t worry, son,” croaked the old woman. “As you carried me, I spread out my hands and broke off the twigs of the trees. There is a trail of the broken ends behind you now to follow home.”

Manabu’s mother had ended this story by clasping both sides of his pudgy face in her hands and promising him that she loved him as much as the old women in the story had loved her son.

Manabu’s mother was two years dead now.

Day 17-
Almost there! Here’s an excerpt from Thy Just Punishments, the story of a South Boston priest who hires himself out as an occult hitman to the Irish mob to support his gambling habit….

The steady flow of sins petty and titanic, real and imagined, droned in hushed whispers through the confessional screen, punctuated each time by a myriad of variations on the Act of Contrition;

“O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishments, but most of all because they offended Thee, O Lord, who art all-merciful and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more.”

Father Tim O’Herlihey half-listened, doled out Hail Marys and Our Fathers, muttered out rehearsed advice when prompted, and checked the passing of every other minute on his watch, fighting to keep from laying his head against the finished wood wall and snoring. He squinted at his racing form and wondered if he could hit the ATM and catch the Blue Line down to Suffolk Downs in time for the last run.

The Bishop had promised him a new priest this month, just in time for him to saddle the poor bastard with Saturday confession and free him up for next month’s Belmont Stakes Day.

Of course, first he had to pull a stake together. There had been questions about the lightness of the parish’s tithe last month. He had thought he’d had a sure thing with this maiden horse Norfolk Enchants, but the stupid nag had busted its leg on a turn and thrown its jockey over the withers, losing to Peony’s Envy.

Day 18 –

The capper story, The Wrath of Benjo, is a take on the Japanese legend of the tsukumogami; that useful inanimate objects gain sentience after a hundred years. But what happens when they fall to disuse and can no longer serve their purpose?

Benjo wept bitterly as the rain struck the barred windowpane. 
Long had he gone hungry counting the tiles on the floor, staring at the dirty white walls, at the chromed hinges and latches of the gray stall doors. He had marked his time by the disgraceful yellowing of the paper rolls as they grew old, brittle and angry. He would council them to keep heart, to maintain their cleanliness, remember their duty and be watchful, but after many years the hunger and resentment had at last seeped into his heart too. The paper had shriveled and gone silent.

Even the attendant had ceased coming. He had resorted to cleaning himself as best as he could.

“Useless! Useless!” His cries bounced off the empty walls for the thousandth time, matching the lightning and the thunder.

For many years he had wiled away the lonesome hours imagining the luxuries he would bestow upon his next guest, if ever one came.

But that dream had died long ago. He knew only the ravenous hunger now….

 

Order here –

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