Too Late for Prayin’
Carson Buckingham
Black Bed Sheet/Diverse Media (February 4, 2023)
Reviewed by Andrew Byers

Carson Buckingham’s collection Too Late for Prayin’ is an entertaining and eclectic collection of horror (and horror-comedy) short stories that deftly combines spine-chilling thrills with occasional laugh-out-loud humor. With eighteen tales that traverse the realms of the macabre and the absurd, this book is a rollercoaster ride through the dark and twisted corridors of the human imagination.

The collection offers a wide range of horror themes, from supernatural entities wreaking havoc to psychological terror, making each story a surprise—I never knew the tone or topic of the next story. Buckingham’s writing style is consistent in its excellence, making each story a gem on its own.

Because there are so many stories in this collection, let me highlight just a few of my favorites.

“Skin Deep”: A young woman becomes so obsessed with using plastic surgery to perfect her face that she sacrifices everything else: friends, family, and her own health. A nice bit of body horror.

“The Wee Small Hours”: A teenage girl—an awkward outsider—is abducted, along with many other children, and has to figure out how to escape. The strange beings who live down by the park in the middle of the night might be able to help.

“Best Served Cold”: A timid young woman decides to become independent of her parents with the help of her old childhood imaginary friend, who isn’t quite so imaginary. The problem is that he seems to be a little resentful that she abandoned him for so long.

“Letter for You”: An excellent story with a nice brutal twist. A boy named Cody’s parents have a nasty divorce and his wealthy father ends up engaged to a gold-digger. Then Cody is placed in the care of a couple of really terrible babysitters. Not to worry, Cody has the situation well in hand. And he’s not so happy with dear ol’ dad.

“For Number 11”: President Taft’s Chief Justice of the Supreme Court receives a long missive from the recently deceased president that reveals Taft had been using black magic for many years, which he learned in the Philippines. What a bizarrely unexpected premise. I love this kind of historically-grounded horror though.

“Watercolour in the Rain”: Kind of a classic Victorian British ghost story. I hadn’t quite expected a story like this to be included in the collection, but it, along with “For Number 11,” clearly demonstrates Buckingham’s deftness with historical horror.

From the very first story to the last, Buckingham’s storytelling prowess and imagination are on full display. Each narrative is a mini-masterpiece, drawing readers in with compelling plots that hook you from the first few pages. It’s a testament to the author’s skill that these tales are not only engaging but also highly diverse in their characters and premises. Recommended.