Moribund Tales is a small collection of short stories written and published by Erik Hofstatter. At just under 50 pages long, it’s hardly a shelf-filler, but the size of the collection is reflected in the pricing. The front cover is eye-catching and gives a good indication of the gothic nature of the stories hidden behind it.
So, that’s the boring part out of the way, what about the stories?
Hofstatter has made a daring choice in attempting to recreate the romance and dread of the nineteenth century gothic masters such as Edgar Allen Poe, Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley, while adding his own twist to the style.
Some of the stories are suitably timeless, allowing the reader to escape from the reality of the twenty first century for a while: both Last Straw of Humanity (a fourteen year old boy who makes a decision about the person locked in the cellar) and Tears of Repentance (a man who suffers emotional anguish at the hands of his wife’s ghost) fit perfectly with the idea of old style gothic suspense, while others break with tradition and throw a modern twist into the mix. The modern settings of Internal Abduction (in a run-down city, medical experiments are one way of making money) and Infant’s Fingers (Diane, a blind girl, is reborn for a single purpose) add to the uneasiness of the storylines, giving a feeling of displacement that’s both uncomfortable to read yet compelling at the same time.
Point of view varies from story to story, with some being written in the first person and others with a third person omniscient narrator. It is with the latter that I feel the stories work best as he has done an excellent job of reproducing the chaotic effect that was the trademark of Victorian gothic fiction.
The author has tried hard to capture the emotional intensity of the eighteenth century writers and has, for the most part, succeeded, so the few criticisms I have are small. There are a few jarring sentences where a better word choice would have made all the difference and, more noticeably in the first half of the collection, the uniform length of the sentences becomes a bit monotonous. There are also some glaring punctuation mistakes dotted throughout such as missing quotation marks. A fresh set of eyes and a final read-through would have sorted these issues out. Another small issue for me was the formatting. I would have liked to see a more professional layout with each story starting on a new page, but it is perfectly readable as it is.
Erik Hofstatter’s words do not quite have the fluidity associated with the great writers, nor do his stories have quite the same impact… yet, but Moribund Tales is a good short story collection that’s well worth spending time and money on and I have no doubt we’ll be seeing a lot more of this writer in the future.
And catch up with Erik here: