tales-from-the-lake-2Tales From The Lake Volume 2
Edited by Joe Mynhardt, Emma Audsley and R.J. Cavender

Crystal Lake Publishing
March 11th, 2016
Reviewed by C.M. Saunders

Crystal Lake Publishing, based in South Africa and expertly run by Joe Mynhardt, is quickly gaining a reputation as being one of the best outlets of horror and dark fiction currently in the market. Everything they do reeks of class and quality, and they’ve let nobody down with this anthology. As eagle-eyed observers may notice, it is the sequel to 2014’s Tales From the Lake, which featured award-winning writers like Graham Masterton, Taylor Grant and Elizabeth Massey, alongside newer names on the cusp of breaking through. It won rave reviews on both sides of the Atlantic and sold by the bucketload. So, the first question has to be, can the second volume live up to expectation?

A cursory glance is reassuring. The cover art is attractive and suitable creepy, and the list of contributors reads like a roll-call at the Horror Hall of Fame – Tim Lebbon, Ramsey Campbell, Jack Ketchum, Lisa Morton, Mark West and Rocky Alexander, to name but a few. As with volume 1, these stellar names sit comfortably alongside three winners from the Tales From the Lake writing competition, a great initiative which provides a springboard to success for some of the finest emerging writers in the genre. This time out, the honour belongs to John Whalen, Jonathan Winn and Vincenzo Bilof.

Kicking off the collection is “Lago de los Perdidos” by Jim Goforth who, you may remember, made a splash (sorry) a couple of years ago with his novel Plebs. “Lago de los Perdidos” tells the story of a man struggling to cope with the break up of his marriage, who finds himself on the edge of a lake notorious as a suicide destination. Just when he thinks things couldn’t get any worse, a strange woman appears and starts telling him things he really, really, didn’t want to know. Next up is Campbell’s offering, “Out of the Woods”. Though typically and recognizably Campbell, in truth this isn’t his best work, though that could well be due to the rest of the material here being so strong. Despite being filled with some wonderfully descriptive passages, “Out of the Woods” feels a little lightweight, and could almost be a section of a much longer work.

Early highlights in Tales from the Lake Volume 2 include “Winter’s Dollhouse” by Rena Mason, a marvellously taught little yarn featuring a couple who decide to go ice diving only to discover that danger awaits them at every turn, not all of it under water; and “Photograph of You” by Mark West, a ghost story disguised as an excruciating study in relationship paranoia. Another stand-out, “Prime Cuts” by Glen johnson, is more than enough to deter you from ever visiting Thailand, while Richard Chizmar’s “The Lake is Life” also deserves a mention for being an entertaining teen caper in the vein of vintage Richard Laymon. All in all, this is an outstanding collection in virtually every way. Some stories are stronger than others, such is the way with collections, but there’ll be something here for every reader. It was good to make a return to the Lake, and I sincerely hope to make many more visits in the future.