A short story collection can be like a good whiskey, it goes down easy, but once it hits your stomach there’s a burning that leaves a lasting impression. Two Dogs at One Dog Inn by David John Griffin, is like someone handing you 11 shots and one tumbler of whiskey. Some of the stories are easy on the stomach, others a little rougher, but in the end, you’ll have a fun time.
The entire collection feels like a cousin to the Twilight Zone. Not in the same vein as the show, but the basic idea of something strange going on, affecting a person or a family in a bizarre way. One story has a man falling in love with a spider, despite his wife’s protests. Another one is about a cult of mobile phone addicts, and one has a girl with the ability to control things with her paintings. I had fun with all of them, there’s an energy in Griffin’s writing that you can’t help but enjoy.
David John Gfiffin’s Novella is key to the books power. In a clever delivery system of emails and journal entries, we get to help unravel the mystery of what happened at the One Dog Inn. Audrey and Stella are coworkers at a dog shelter, Audrey was sent to find out why there are dogs barking at the Inn, but what she finds is much weirder than what she hoped. Through the emails, Audrey relays the story while trying to prove to Stella that she is not crazy. She tells Stella about the robot-like receptionist, strange swans, and a memory drive she found in a garden. The back and forth between the two women is great and constantly puts you on edge, afraid that Audrey might snap and stop discussing what she saw.
The memory drive is the key to the main mystery, housing a series of journal entries from a famous sci-fi author. It’s interesting to get the story through the author’s eyes, because we can never be too sure what is true or not. Griffin uses this device to take us through the strange hotel and the author trying to win back his wife. He might be an alcoholic, might be too focused on meeting a deadline, and might be obsessed with the hidden staircase behind his fireplace. We also discover that his wife had cheated on him in the past and is possibly cheating on him now. However, the hotel does seem to want him for something, giving us the bizarre and otherworldly spirits that teach him how to manipulate matter. Griffin takes his time giving us bits and pieces of information before revealing the true wickedness of the author and the true terror that is hidden in the Inn.
After the novella we have 11 short stories that vary in length from a few pages to much longer pieces. I liked most of them, though a few end a bit abruptly for my taste. We just get into some action and then the story ends. It works for some because it allows your imagination to play out what happens next. But, for others I would have liked to have seen where Griffin thought it was going to go.
These stories are the ones that definitely give off the Twilight Zone vibe. For instance, Clara Seaward’s Paintings is about a child that torments her parents through the paintings she creates. In her mind she believes she is evil due to the marks on her skin, however her mother helps her see she is not evil. In A Crouching Man we meet a man busy painting his front gate, only to notice the man across the street is copying his every move. When the man stops so does the copy, when he goes in his house, the copy does the same. Griffin builds the suspense as they play this game until it builds into a terrific and haunting ending.
Finally, probably my favorite story of the lot, The Conversion of Ruscoe Robinson. A wonderful story that you’ll want to reread as soon as you are finished. It’s a beautiful look at one man learning how to become self-sufficient, live off the land, and survive without any electronics or anyone to help him. Ruscoe gets lost in the woods, a maze that traps him for over a year. He becomes strong, fierce, and confident as he finds food, shelter, and learns the names of trees and animals. I loved watching this transformation, cheering on every success.
Despite a little hiccup with some of the endings, this is a fun collection of stories. It’s the kind of book you can pick up, read an eerie story or two, put down, and enjoy digesting for a bit before picking back up. Though, I did find myself at times wanting to push through and keep reading despite needing to do other things. If you are looking for something that has a taste of the bizarre, maybe a splash of the Twilight Zone, then I think you’ll want to find this collection.
Two Dogs At The One Dog Inn is published by Urbane Publications and is available here.
David John Griffin
David John Griffin is a writer, graphic designer and app designer, and lives in a small town by the Thames in Kent, UK with his wife Susan and two dogs, Bullseye and Jimbo. He is currently working on the first draft of a fifth novel as well as writing short stories for a novel-length collection. His first novel published by Urbane Publications in October 2015 is called The Unusual Possession of Alastair Stubb. The second is a literary/psychological novel, entitled Infinite Rooms. The magical realism/paranormal novella and short stories was published January 2017 and is called Two Dogs At The One Dog Inn And Other Stories. He has had two short stories and a flash fiction piece published in anthologies.
Reviewed by Matthew Brandenburg
The SHALLOW CREEK Short Story Competition
Mallum Colt, proprietor of Colt’s Curiosity Shop, invites authors to explore the sinister shadows and crooked streets of his once splendid town of Shallow Creek.
Guests are gifted a Shallow Creek visitor pack consisting of a map of Shallow Creek, a character profile, a specific location, and an item of interest.
These items shall act as a source of inspiration as Mallum Colt guides his guests through Shallow Creek and reveals the secrets and stories of a town bereft of sleep.
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