28 Jan Stroup on Baby Powder
SECRETS OF THE WEIRD author Chad Stroup had this to say about my debut collection, BABY POWDER AND OTHER TERRIFYING SUBSTANCES:
“I always love a good single-author short story collection (not bad ones, though…keep those far away from me pretty please). I especially enjoy collections in which each story stands apart from the next. Welcome to the latest perfect example of this, Baby Powder by John C. Foster.
There’s a lot to dig into here. This does not mean the collection is dense and/or difficult to get through. In fact, it’s a fairly quick read despite being 300 pages. But the ideas, and very often the well-crafted language, will stick with you in way flavor-of-the-month genre books will not. A good mix of horror and science fiction-ish pieces here. I’m not going to go over every story in the collection, but I would like to highlight a few faves.
The opener, “Highballing Through Gehenna,” comes out swinging. A very bleak and strange tale, leaving most of the facts to the imagination, letting the mind get used to an apocalypse of a different sort. Stressful on the level of Train to Busan. However, the threat these train passengers face is not of the zombie variety.
“Talk to Leo” is an unsettling piece about ventriloquism. Sort of. The creeps don’t let up much during this story, and I believe it’s because Foster doesn’t over-explain the situation. I love when authors make this choice. Sure, things can still be a bit scary if you know exactly what you’re facing, but I believe frights you can’t conveniently put in a box are far more powerful.
“Meat” is killer. Trees that eat people. ‘Nuff said.
I’ve always wondered why there aren’t more horror stories that deal with the death penalty, and “A Lamb to Slaughter” does so beautifully. It will make you think without feeling like you’ve been preached to. It also heads in unexpected directions.
But the real treasure of this collection is the final story, which also happens to be the title story. “Baby Powder” is where Foster’s true magic as a writer has comes together to create something special. The story focuses on a “haunted house,” for lack of a better term, but it goes much deeper than that. The prose is wonderful throughout, the characters are memorable, and the vibe of the whole story left me rattled for a couple of days after I read it. I don’t want to say anything else for fear of spoiling the wonder, but it’s worth buying this book for this story alone (plus, you also get a lot of other really awesome stories, so you really can’t lose.) Just one of those “wow” moments. I knew after reading Mister White that Foster was a good writer. After reading “Baby Powder,” I now see how great he is. His finest moment so far. No pressure.”