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Midnight Tableau
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ISBN-10: 1-55404-105-8
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Supernatural/Horror
eBook Length: 321 Pages
Published: March 2004
OUT OF PRINT

From inside the flap

Whether it’s a young man trapped beneath the sea in the belly of an iron behemoth or an old women trapped within the confines of an abusive marriage, Michael McCrann paints dramatic portraits of people in unpleasant situations.  Sometimes they?re good people, sometimes they?re not-so-good, but always the characters that inhabit these dark worlds are fleshed-out in remarkably vivid dimensions. The twelve tales of dark fiction contained in Midnight Tableau are sophisticated, character-driven, and crafted for a discerning adult readership.  The stories include; Lured, La Ara?a Afortunada, Forever Isabella, What Needs Doing Will Get Done, Awake, Down the Cellar, The Rubbish Man, The Pledge, The Wail of the Banshee, The Lizard's Tale, Close Your Eyes, Sweet Angel and the novella, Coven of the Unwanted.  Each of the settings ? from the exotic to the commonplace ? are more than mere backdrops.  They are carefully fashioned to lure the reader into the fictional nightmare.  The plots are filled with thrills and twists.  The malevolent forces within range from creepy-crawlies and viscous garden gnomes to more esoteric antagonists like an evil little secret from the past.  But, ultimately, it will be the people ? the predators as well as the prey ? that remain to skulk in the mind for some time to come.


Midnight Tableau is a tightly crafted collection of twelve tales of dark fiction that is something noteworthy within the genre.  The stories are thematic portraits of the human essence, a shadowy montage of our dark, individual souls.  


Michael McCrann purposely avoids the label "horror" when defining his work because, unfortunately, the term is associated with writing that is juvenile in content and style.  There are no vampires, werewolves or gratuitous gore in the stories.  These select tales are sophisticated pieces that aim to be more creepy than scary, more chilling than shocking.  The collection contains developed characters, original plots, dark humor, and lively, active prose.  The author’s writing has been influenced by the great works of Richard Matheson, Stephen King, Ed Gorman, Christopher Fowler, Ramsey Campbell, Shirley Jackson from within the genre and others, such as John Irving, Wally Lamb, and Tom Robbins from the mainstream.
 
Midnight Tableau has realistic, fleshed-out characters placed in precarious situations and explores themes including: isolation, social displacement, interpersonal control, fortune and misfortune as birthrights, and more. Taken as a whole, the collection depicts the dark facet, the black core within the heart of the human animal. But more importantly, Midnight Tableau is entertaining.  It will appeal to a broad-based readership. The collection was particularly written for all the discerning adults who don?t much care for the current conventions within the horror genre?  And for those who don?t become unsettled easily.



Reviews and Awards

Midnight Tableau
by
Michael McCrann
Double Dragon Books
www.double-dragon-ebooks.com
ISBN: 1-55404-106-6

Reviewed by Jason Brannon, Post Mortem Magazine & SpecFicWorld Online


"It's difficult these days for a new writer to find an audience.  People have so many distractions to choose from that often they overlook quality in their search for immediate gratification.  This is true with movies, music, and certainly books.  That's where I come in.  It's my job as reviewer to make sure you know what's good and what isn't.  Take Michael McCrann's debut collection, "Midnight Tableau," for example.  This is a book you'll definitely want to purchase if you love tight, sleek fiction with claws.  Put down the mass-market paperback and snatch this one up.    
        
Admittedly, I didn't know what to expect when I started reading since I wasn't familiar with McCrann's prose.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to find "Midnight Tableau" to be a book full of literate, well-written stories with intriguing premises that weren't the normal recycled group of cliches.  Unlike many small press ventures, this isn't some thrown-together mish-mash of ideas.  Rather, it is a feast of fine reading that any horror connoisseur could appreciate."    

"... a very strong first entry by a great writer who deserves to find his audience.  Those unsuspecting readers who haven't yet discovered McCrann's writing are in for a treat.  Those of us who have discovered "Midnight Tableau" can only wait patiently for his next work. "
  
Recommended.

(Read the complete review at www.michaelmccrann.com)

 

"In Michael McCrann's work I can see shades of the most popular modern horror writers. People such as King, Matheson, Koontz and Laymon. These are not comparisons I make lightly.   And yet his dry, witty observations, his attention to detail, uncluttered prose and superbly rounded characters give it a style all of its own.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Midnight Tableau and found the mixture of thriller-writing, out-and-out horror and dark humour a breath of fresh air in today's market. Stories like 'The Rubbish Man', with its unnerving ending, 'Close Your Eyes, Sweet Angel' which introduces us to such a realistic setting and main protagonist you can't help but believe in the story, and 'The Lizard's Tale' were my favourites, but you'll find much here to satisfy any discerning palate. A new voice that should go a long way..."

- Paul Kane, author of Alone (In the Dark), Touching the Flame and FunnyBones.



Midnight Tableau (Excerpt)


Lured


"Seventy-five minutes and not one clock-tick more," Captain Chisholm’s voice echoed over the hollow thuds of small waves that slapped the side of the boat.  "Or I just might leave yer to the crabs."


Craig turned to see the Captain leaning over the railing of the tiny upper deck, expecting a smirk or a wink, but saw no lightness in the old man’s craggy, windswept face.  Nor was there an emotion from the Mate at the stern.  He was busy adorning a barbed hook with a feathery, red and yellow lure ? to cast for Ocean Blues Craig could only assume for the Mate hadn?t uttered one word during the entire trip.

 

"I won?t even be that long," he replied, setting the digital timer on his wrist.  And, attempting to brighten the mood, added, "Back before you have time to miss my handsome face." 


But the Captain remained stoic, a nub of a cigar clenched between his yellow teeth.  His eyes like black marbles.  Veins knotted at the crook of his elbows.  Coarse, white chest hair matted against a skinny, bronzed torso.

 

"Surface support," Craig muttered, not loud enough for anyone to hear.  Cap?n Andy had been so helpful and friendly during the other dives.  Why hadn?t they chartered the WaveChaser again?  Why the Enchantress?  Because it was cheaper, that’s why.  And Tommy and Frank were cheapskates.  Especially Frank.  Drinks Old Milwaukee and wraps his sandwiches in newspaper for chrissakes.  And he was the one picked to hire the boat?   Naturally he found the Enchantress with its dedicated crew and experienced surface support.  Yeah.  From Captain Queeg and his retarded mute.


Sea spray misted Craig’s face as he sat, legs dangling in the cold water, on the starboard side platform of the small, modified fishing boat.  He tasted the water.  Inhaled it.   The pungent odor of diesel fuel had dissipated since Chisholm cut the engines and he could now smell the salt air.  It was the scent of life.  And that’s why he took up this silly hobby to begin with?wasn?t it?  To feel alive.

 

But more than that, he wanted danger.  Or at least that’s what he believed when he signed up for lessons in the swimming pool at the community college.  But the ocean wasn?t a pool.  And the Continuing Education class didn?t teach wreck diving.


The platform ebbed and tided, Craig’s internal organs rolling with it.  Tommy and Frank had plenty of time to secure the anchor line to the San Diego.  He was to join them as planned.  He should go?  If only his legs and arms would cooperate.


"Ya gonna dive, or should we plant yer?feet in a pot of dirt, Daisy-boy?" Chisholm asked.


Craig turned, wanting to tell the old man to go play with his little dinghy, but was distracted by bright starbursts of white light reflecting from a crucifix on a chain nestled in a thatch of the Captain’s wiry chest hair.  The icon was flanked, on each side, by two gold wedding bands.

 

Artifacts.  Wears them around his neck like medals of honor.  Or bravery.   But they weren?t.  They were only souvenirs (recovered from the poor bastards that died on the U.S.S. San Diego when it went down in 1917), no different than the old buckeye gizmos and artillery shells he?d sandblasted and polished and used to decorate the inside of the cabin.  Nothing more than a schoolgirl’s lockets?right?  But somehow, they were different.  Maybe because, buckeyes and shells were one thing, but wedding rings?that’s not scavenging, that’s grave robbing.

 

"Shall I put you on a pedestal in a park so the pigeons have something to shit on?" Chisholm asked without mirth.


Craig said nothing.  No snappy comeback to counter the Captain’s needling, deciding it best not to get into a pissing match with the old crank on his own boat.  There would be plenty of opportunity, back at the dock, to tell him exactly what he thought of the Enchantress’s surface support and her dedicated crew.


But then again, who was he to say anything to the Captain about diving? Captain Chisholm had artillery shells in his cabin and dead men’s wedding bands hanging from his neck.  Craig certainly wouldn?t be recovering any artifacts during this dive.  They weren?t going in the wreck.  Not without the guide diver the brochure promised.  Not even Frank was experienced enough to explore a wreck on his own.  And definitely not ready to tackle a difficult one like the San Diego.  Not a chance.  When Captain Chisholm said that the tour guide diver was home sick, they decided to explore only the exterior of the vessel.  Why hadn?t they just canceled and rescheduled?  Because they were already hyped-up and ready to rock n? roll?  Wasn?t that what Tommy had said?  Let’s rock-n-roll!  And maybe Craig knew, deep in the part of the mind that can effortlessly distinguish truth from a lie, that there really wasn?t a guide diver working for Chisholm ? so there was no point in rescheduling.  The dedicated crew consisted only of the happy Captain, the friendly Mate, and the screeching gulls overhead.

 

Water rolled on to the platform, submerging it, as the boat list to starboard.  An unnerving thought occurred to Craig as he performed a check of his equipment.  Did the Enchantress even have a radio?  To contact the Coast Guard, in case something went wrong?  They must.  It’s required?  But maybe they didn?t.  The Captain’s tattoos were self-carved.  And the Mate ? Mr. Personality ? did not seem particularly technologically savvy.  He looked more likely to eat the self-picked lice from his scalp than operate a radio.  They had to have one?didn?t they?  And depth finders, flares, and horns, et cetera, et cetera?  There were rules to be followed.          Besides, the ocean was flat calm.  A perfect day for a dive.  But, then again?why weren?t any other charter boats moored above this wreck?  Because four people died exploring the San Diego, that’s why.  Four separate diving accidents.


Each man had gone inside the iron behemoth, without a guide or a line, and became disorientated.  Lost in an upside down labyrinth of corridors and living-quarters and ammo rooms and galleys and side turrets and God knows what else.  Panicking?  Swimming into walls and ceiling and floors and locked metal doors until their tanks ran out of air and they ripped the masks from their faces and breathed in that first lungful of seawater.


But hell, Craig wasn?t going inside the Diego.  There’s nothing to be afraid of?