01 August 2020

Review || Black Dogs, Black Tales

Black Dog, Black Tales Review on Cats Luv Coffee Book Reviews

Tails that wag and tales that tell of vampire dogs, undead dogs, and canine superheroes. Some save our souls and protect the world while the others try to crush us. These spine-tingling tales aren’t shaggy dog stories. Against all odds, the dogs survive.

An international community of writers, poets, and artists came together to bring their best dark fiction to this anthology, where there is only one rule: “the dogs don’t die.”

Black Dogs, Black Tales is a horror/dark speculative fiction anthology with quite a unique theme. There is only one rule—and one of the main reasons I agreed to review it—the dogs don't die. A horror compilation of great authors featuring dogs AND the dogs don't die? I'm in. Even better, Black Dogs, Black Tales is a charity anthology supporting the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand. In the case of this anthology, the black dog can also take on a different meaning—that of the trials of mental health. We can thank Winston Churchill for this turn of phrase who named the depression that followed him most of his life his "Black Dog".  

While I believe that Churchill was a bit unfair to the canine species in his naming, I've always enjoyed the folklore of the Black Dog and can validate his reasoning. If you are unfamiliar with the lore, black dogs have a varied history of sightings in Britain and feature often in dark tales. Sir Author Conan Doyle’s The Hounds of Baskerville is one such tale with which you may be familiar. Often regarded as a portent of death, sightings of the black dog have been recorded all the way back to 1127. Though not always malevolent, some report the black dog acting as helpers to lost travelers or guardians from harm. Others like the more famous Black Shuck are said to have terrorized people or even been the reason for their demise. It's no surprise really given its vast history that it could be related to mental health concerns that "dog" us through life. Black Dog, Black Tales presents a diverse mixture of new and tried ways of envisioning the black dog as both frightful phantom and man's best friend. 

My favorites of the bunch were the vigilante-themed: "Shifting in the Black" by L.L. Asher and "Night Wolves" by Tabitha Wood. The former adopts shapeshifter form as a way of tracking down human predators and the latter allowing the dog to lead the way to the truth. "Redbone" by Justin Gulesarian was a fun read with a little Redbone Coonhound and rookie handler Jim called in to handle a missing person's case with a surprising ending. I also adored the eerie "The Dead way" by J.C Hart, where a little girl knows there's more to a dead-end than it appears. Some of the stories were difficult to read like "Use a Shovel" by Galina Trefil and "Yellow Dog" by Alan Baxter but these too are a testament to the love and loyalty that dogs have. The stirring poetry of Dion Winton-Polak and Steve Dillon and the illustrations of Miranda Crites, Chloe Herczeg, Falco Verolen, and cover artist Fran├žois Vaillan-court brought a nice break to the writing along the way. 

This is a rich collection and one I'd recommend to horror and dog lovers alike.  To one degree or another, they all center around a pooch, whether actual or supernatural, and it was exciting to see the diversity of writing given the meager guidelines given. One great thing about anthologies is you are almost always introduced to new-to-you authors to fall in love with and there are definitely new names that I will be searching out for future reads. 

Black Dog, Black Tales Review on Cats Luv Coffee Book Reviews