Review by Brennan LaFaro
Following Halloween Season and Season’s Creepings, Ronald Kelly is releasing Irish Gothic. Technically, it’s not in line with any specific holiday, more country and culture, but putting it out only weeks before St. Patrick’s Day? Mr. Kelly knows what he’s doing. All three of these recent Crossroads Press releases weigh in at a little over one hundred pages—enough to wet your whistle and prepare you for the season.
I alluded to Irish Gothic being St. Patrick’s Day horror, but it’s really not. You won’t find stories about drunk people drowning in Chicago’s green river or Leprechauns getting rowdy in Boston. All the stories take place in, or at least have their roots on the Emerald Isle. There are so many fascinating creatures exclusive to Irish mythology that show up here including, but not limited to, Sluagh, Dearg Due, and Formorians. You also get more traditional cryptids such as the banshee, selkie, and of course, leprechauns. All this bookended by a glossary of Celtic beasties at the end.
Irish Gothic opens with “Flanagan’s Bride”, a terrifically ghastly take on the traditional banshee mythos. For initiated Kelly fans, it’s a bit strange to find his voice narrating a story not set in the southern U.S., but the reader acclimates quickly and Kelly’s down-home voice adds a unique element to a story set across the sea.
This collection shines where Kelly employs his signature brand with non-traditional elements, such as “Diabhal’s Timepiece”, “Letters from Kilkenny”, and “A Fine Wake for Nana Ferree”. “O’Sheehan”, probably my favorite in the collection, eschews the previous element and tells something a little off the wall. It’s unexpected, but an absolute blast, and it’s my selfish hope that Kelly will revisit the character. A short note for “The Spawn of Arget Bethir”—if you have not read Kelly’s book Undertaker’s Moon, it’s in your best interest to save this story until you have. Consider this a plug for that phenomenal small-town horror werewolf book.
If you’ve got some Irish in your blood, come read about the critters that terrorized your ancestors on the Emerald Isle. If not, never fear, Ronald Kelly’s churning out can’t-miss short fiction right now and he doesn’t appear to be stopping anytime soon.