Dark Missives - Dan Howarth
Dark Missives - Dan Howarth (2021) Reviewed by Yvonne Miller
Dark Missives…dark words and even darker intent. Those are the words that instantly appear through hazy vision. There is not one bad story contained within this collection of horror shorts. Each one gave me something I didn’t realise I was looking for. Deadly art installations, an imposing force in an Anderson shelter, and lore behind a serial killer known as The Pusher. The tales are twisted, well developed and come together to create an extremely strong collection of work. The narrative sings a dark tune carried on the back of a deadly raven.
11 stories. 11 ways to hurt, maim and incite fear.
The first story that spoke to me was Nesting Instinct, which focuses on parenthood and examines exactly how far you would be willing to go to protect those you love. As a parent, this was a particularly difficult story to read which is exactly the kind of story I love – edgy and uncomfortable. The narrative leaves nothing to the imagination, it allows the reader to immerse themselves in the story and feel exactly what the characters are experiencing.
Mergers & Acquisitions felt like the epitome of horror; in which the same day is repeated over and over and over again. The same mundane tasks repeated until infinity. Jon has his sights set on the Vice-President vacancy, something he has worked his ass off for, but he discovers that two other individuals are in the running ahead of him. This leads to frustration, anger and completely losing his cool. I enjoyed the protagonist’s inner monologue in this story, you can feel that inner resentment and rage bubbling to the surface until it boils over. It was a brutal story.
Dark Missives has a fine collection of the dark and depraved but none quite like Collaboration. You know what they say: art is subjective. Though the art installation featured in this story couldn’t be loved by anyone, or at least you would hope. The protagonist is a failed artist, by his own admission, who doesn’t walk the traditional path. He takes risks - big ones - and the events that happen in Collaboration are his biggest yet. He’s carried on the work of an incarcerated artist and his next unveiling will be to Mrs. Devonshire’s primary class. What happened next shocked me to my core.
'Dark Missives' is a masterpiece with refreshingly different tropes that will send shivers down your spine. It’s incredibly immersive, Dan Howarth has the IT factor.
Dan Howarth is a writer and editor from the North of England. His work has featured in numerous publications both in print and online, most notably at The Other Stories podcast where episodes of his stories have been downloaded over 100,000 times. In 2018, Pareidolia an anthology Dan co-edited with James Everington was shortlisted for a British Fantasy Award. Unfortunately, it didn’t win and ruined this bio. Like all Northerners, Dan enjoys pies, rain and drinking blood from the skulls of his enemies.