Sometimes, readers just need to be entertained. Thanksgiving for Werewolves and Other Monstrous Tales plays like a marathon of b-movies at the local classic movie theatre on a rainy day. The kind of event were eager fans show up in costumes and exchange trivial histories of their favorite, but not well known, monster. In this collection, M.L. Kennedy puts monsters in our everyday life, and instead of focusing on the sharpness of their teeth, or the ooze coming from the corners of their mouths, he instead observes the involved humanity. Sometimes, the monsters serve a more important purpose over simply hiding in the dark waiting to scare you.
M.L. Kennedy’s introduction lays the foundation of the collection, a kind of call back to Ron Sterling’s brief monologues regarding the Twilight Zone. Although this collection has cults, werewolves, and all sorts of bugs in all the wrong places, he makes a note about the importance of monsters in his own life, in the world we currently live in:
Like a lot of kids, I grew up loving monsters. Monster stories are often conceived as warnings about the dangers of the outsider. Then a strange thing happens in that children who feel like outsiders relate to the monster. An unpopular tween or teen has more in common with Larry Talbot or the Creature than he or she is likely to admit. It’s the opposite of the power-fantasy of super-heroes. Horror stories deal with a lack of power, a lack of control, whether it’s of one’s impulses or about how one is perceived by the angry mob that is Junior High.
This rings true more than maybe you would expect as you journey through Thanksgiving for Werewolves and Other Monstrous Tales. The fear and sometimes lack of empathy we have for the unknown, as seen in “Dinosaurs versus Cyborgs.” The pitfalls of our own curiosity, as seen in “A Hair out of Place.” The everyday dangers and risks of “benevolent humanity” in “Tried to be the Pied Piper, ended up being a Bridge Troll.” In these stories and more, Kennedy flips the expectations of horror and puts the pressure on the humans, on the unlucky souls caught up in ancient monster rituals and blood feuds.
The title story is the main course, the longest in the collection, and the one you savor the most as you finish it. If you liked Quentin Tarantino’s From Dusk Till Dawn, you’ll like this story. It’s contains its share of comedic one liners, teasing of a deeper and historically backed folklore of “skin-changers,” and characters worth following. They aren’t heroes, they aren’t even decent human beings. They are like their silver screen opposites, gears that keep the story going. For a story of this length, it has a steady pace and ends each chapter with a fitting and often appropriate cliffhanger for a few seconds. It’s a multi-episode story, and it benefits the “Thanksgiving for Werewolves” in this case.
Kennedy’s stories move quickly and get right to the point. He introduces the monsters early, he includes the conflict as soon as possible. It works for a majority of the stories, but at times, some of the shorter pieces seem more like teasers than flash fiction. This isn’t a slight on the craft, it’s a hunger to see more. Regardless, there is enough boo in the scare for the monster lover to enjoy. 122 pages go by fast, and along the way readers will see monsters and creatures of all kinds, and that it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the villains they are constantly set up to be. (March 2015)
Purchase Thanksgiving for Werewolves and Other Monstrous Tales HERE.
Reviewer bio: Nick Sweeney's book reviews can be found at the Atticus Review, the Summerset Review, and the Heavy Feather Review.