I won’t lie, Shaffer shared this story with me several weeks…er, okay, fine…months ago and I sat on it while I read his other work, The Horror (which was superb by the way. See my review of it here http://horror-writers.net/blog/review-of-the-horror-by-r-l-shaffer/ ). In my defense, which title did you think I was going to like more? I can admit when I’m wrong since it isn’t that often that I am, that The Stray Cats is a very interesting tail. (See what I did right there?) I should have known from Shaffer’s style that he can make even the phone book an interesting story, but sometimes people have to learn from their own mistakes.
Jennifer is newly divorced and now on her own in a quiet but off the wall neighborhood. Taking a liking to her new single life she happenstance encounters a new roommate in the form of a four legged friend. One becomes two, then eventually all the stray cats from crazy town end up at her front door for a stay at the feline Four Seasons. She begins to worry when she finds one with its innards torn asunder on her back porch. Well, that and the presences of red glowing eyes peering at her from the forest behind her house.
What I enjoyed about the story is that at first you don’t realize that you are reading a horror story. It has an air of odd happenings, but nothing macabre (for the first half). You could say it gets its House of Leaves on in that sense. It doesn’t take place in your stereotypical haunted house or graveyard, but rather a small house in a small neighborhood with the token nosey neighbors, and (nude) morning joggers. (I said it was crazy town.) Shaffer gives life to every character, major and supporting, that is believable and works well within their parameters. His pace for the story is quick but doesn’t feel rushed as the tale unfolds naturally. All together it makes a captivating spiel that is an easy read and one that would be a shame for one to miss out on.
I’m going to suggest this read for fans of the odd and strange. Horror can be a classification, but do not expect the typical monster pop fright, splatter gore, and creatures from rising from the grave from Shaffer. His ideas are of a higher degree than the superficial expectations of spook tales coming from most writers today. When shock is all the rage, Shaffer helps turns creepy back into cool. I can appreciate someone spinning a yarn of terror around a common idea of stray cats as opposed to a zombie apocalypse. (Yeah…I just said that.)
This is the first of shorts from Shaffer’s series of tales aptly entitled; Wicked Neighborhood and we will be looking forward to further installments. Just do yourself a favor and don’t sit on them for months, you’ll be missing out!
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