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Holiday Madness

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Halloween and Christmas: are there two more opposite holidays? The former commemorates death; the latter celebrates birth - not an ordinary birth but a particular world-changing one. Melding these two disparate themes of holiday cheer and chilling horror into a baker's devilish dozen of thirteen supernatural tales and poems may not be your idea of an "under the mistletoe" kind of story. But it certainly takes a reader along some scary and strange paths. San Francisco Bay Area author and teacher Fred Wiehe shares good company with, among others, Charles Dickens ('A Christmas Carol' certainly blends the season's joy with haunting episodes of ghosts and other dimensions) and film director Tim Burton, whose musical fantasy 'The Nightmare Before Christmas' is an unusual excursion into both realms.

Do the stories succeed? Being an avid reader of horror stories myself, I say a resounding YES - but you better watch out! Wiehe's wit sends his yarns twisting in unexpected directions with the title story `Holiday Madness' being a good example, where overwork and stress take their toll on a helpless victim as the Christmas season progresses. I appreciate Wiehe's new-wave take on tales of terror, especially now, in autumn, when it's believed that the curtain between our earthly world and the other side becomes less distinct, and communication between the two worlds is possible, more than any other time of the year. Tales of gloom and doom work well in most any season but admittedly there's an extra buzz when October makes its appearance and tree leaves stage their annual display of fall color. And `Holiday Madness' delivers! Not only rousing excitement and thrills but likable protagonists engaged in combat against overwhelming forces of evil make for consistently compelling reading throughout.

"The Uglies", "Raven Mocker", and "The Three Wolf Men" were a few favorites. "The Uglies" brought to mind Daphne du Maurier's short story, "The Birds", though in this case it's large, bat-like creatures that wreak havoc in a small town. On the other hand, the "Raven Mocker" nemesis IS a bird-like monster. But is it a hallucination in the mind of elderly Cherokee Charlie Two-Lives? Father Joseph Christy, a lapsed priest, grapples with new-found doubts about G-d's existence - and with forces from hell in "The Three Wolf Men". College students band together as paranormal investigators and battle an intransigent apparition to rescue a captive 10-year-old boy in "Ghosts, Inc". And of course there's Santa Claus himself, who puts in several appearances, clashing with various gremlins and alien threats. To read about jolly old Saint Nick firing rounds from a Glock 21 pistol or defending himself with an M16A1 Assault Rifle almost made me feel as if I was having an OBE myself (no, not Order of the British Empire but Out-of-Body experience) - a truly dippy feeling is the only way I can describe it!

*WARNING! Wiehe writes wildly, weirdly, and well. Some of these stories are bloody and gory; shock value is used to full effect. In other words, it's NOT your traditional Christmas fable. So as the days draw in and the nights grow longer, you might want to sit in a comfy chair, read a few of these mind-bending stories and "get into the holiday spirit"(!) Instead of enjoying a hot, spiced mug of apple cider, perhaps consider imbibing a glass of whatever Oktoberfest beer suits your fancy. No, I'm not plugging anything other than this book, but a beverage more bracing seems better suited to a book like `Holiday Madness'.

**Fred Wiehe appears regularly, reading his stories, on radio station KKUP, 91.5FM in Cupertino, California. 'Holiday Madness' is a compilation of those he's written for KKUP over the years.

I first became aware of Fred back in early '07. I was on my way to work one morning and he was reading from his chiller novel 'Strange Days'; I was so mesmerized I just sat, transfixed, 'til the broadcast was over. Needless to say my boss wasn't too happy (I'd never done anything like that before) but I was so thrilled - in the happy sense -to make a new reading discovery! Keep 'em coming, Fred!

Lisa Hawkins
Date Added: 01/28/2013 by Admin Review Poster
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