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The Stories of Jeffrey B. Burton

Shadow Play

Don't turn around. Walk fast, faster, because someone or something may just be after you. Shadow Play is a story collection that offers enough mystery, murder, and mayhem to fill a whole season's worth of the old Alfred Hitchcock Presents or Twilight Zone television shows.

Shadow Play Book Trailer

Shadow Play is as entertaining as it is chilling. Each tale is a journey through a dark and twisting maze, where illusion and reality are often one and the same. A work horror fans can really sink their teeth into!

—Dennis Kirk, Editor, Outer Darkness

The book you hold in hand is filled with twenty original and shadowy tales on the cutting edge of modern horror/suspense. These stories capture the dark reality we all fear, at once eerie and haunting, chilling and nightmarish

D.E. Davidson, Editor, Night Terrors Publications

A lot of short fiction comes across my desk. When a Jeffrey B. Burton submission enters my Inbox, my pulse quickens. I know a Burton tale will take me down unexpected alleys. No one sees the world quite the way he does. Late at night, when I can't sleep, I fear that his vision might just be close to reality. Still, I keep coming back for more. Burton is the master of the twist ending . . . no, make that the master of the twisted twist ending.

Burton breaks the mold. The reader is often unsure which character wears the white hat and which wears the black. Like in real life, his characters wear many hats. When his characters put on the black hat, watch out, nasty things happen. The loving dad with a late night hobby, the annoyed downstairs neighbor, the good cop, the academic, all these people and more, inhabit Burton's rogue gallery. Evil often has an ordinary face, perhaps even the face that tucks you in at night. Other times, evil really is the monster living in your closet.

Burton has a way with children. He knows how the love for a parent can inspire a child to try his darndest to make the world right. He also knows how dangerous power can be in the hands of someone too young for a fully developed moral sense. There is a reason the most brutal armies use children as troops. Burton understands.

I recommend the Shadow Play collection. Let's keep Burton typing . . . and away from heavy blunt objects, sharp knives, and weapons of mass destruction.

—Raymond M. Coulombe, Editor, Quantum Muse

In 2004, novelist Michael Chabon edited McSweeney's Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories, an anthology paying tribute to the golden age of comics and pulp fiction. As the title suggests, the collection makes an attempt to recapture the literary conventions of an earlier era as well as a vanished sense of preadolescent wonder. Good intentions aside, it's difficult to imagine "literary" writers such as Margaret Atwood and Joyce Carol Oates following Chabon's stated program of "genre bending and stylistic play." Astonishment often dims in the face of self-consciousness.

If Chabon had read Jeffrey Burton's Shadowplay, he might not have felt compelled to recapture the past. Burton's anthology features 20 stories that are refreshing in both their unselfconsciousness and loyalty to the conventions of classic genre writing. Lean in construction and entirely focused on providing an unsettling effect, the stories aim to entertain. Like "The Shadow" and "Doc Savage," they offer a delicate balance between lurid material and innocent amusement, usually avoiding gruesome excess, often recalling classic episodes of "The Twilight Zone" or "The Outer Limits" in their terse economy and ability to deliver an unexpected conclusion.

Shadowplay's scenarios frequently recall those of Stephen King, who also brings horror into familiar, everyday worlds. Often, Burton's threats are not supernatural at all, but an unexpected revelation of a character's capacity for evil. In "Bump Bump Man," a father's bedtime stories hint at sinister nocturnal activities, while a traveling star salesman practices an ominous hobby in "Per Diem." Occasionally, one threat is a mask for an even larger, unsuspected menace, as in "Cold Snap," where a corrupt sheriff learns that his innocent partner has an even greater capacity for deception.

A mordant sense of humor often emerges, as in the concluding "Grog's Last Prank," a twisted variation on Tobe Hoober's "Funhouse" in which a frat boy's plans to vandalize a theme park backfire in poetic fashion. As in the revenge-thirsty 1950s EC comics "Tales from the Crypt" and "Vault of Horror," natural justice often prevails: an insufferable coworker is punished in "The Ten O'Clockers," while the demoralized narrator of the title story finds supernatural protection from daily threats.

At 20 stories in under 140 pages, Shadowplay is somewhat compromised by its brevity and focus on the exigencies of plot; selections occasionally read like terse outlines for longer, more detailed narratives. The addition of minimal scene setting, character detail or incidental information might assist in slowing momentum, modulating tone, and adding suspense by delaying the inevitable conclusion. With skillful dialog and an acute sense of observation, Burton already provides the impression that a greater world of detail lies beyond his straightforward prose. By expanding his visions, he could easily bring his narrative technique to the level of his original, occasionally sardonic, ideas.

—Sten Johnson, Whistling Shade (The Twin Cities Literary Journal)

Pocol Press announces the release of Shadow Play, a collection of short fiction horror pieces by Minnesota-based author Jeffrey B. Burton.

Don't turn around. Walk fast, faster because something or someone may just be after you. This collection offers enough mystery, murder and mayhem to fill a whole season worth of the old Alfred Hitchcock Presents or Twilight Zone television episodes.

Jeffrey B. Burton has been writing for the past dozen years and has published in Outer Darkness, Quantum Muse, Dogwood Tales Magazine, The Cozy Detective, Potpourri, Satire, Detective Mystery Stories, Crimson, and Millennium Science Fiction & Fantasy Magazine.

"Shadow Play is twenty truly original and shadowy tales on the cutting edge of modern horror and suspense. These stories capture the dark reality we all fear, at once eerie and haunting, chilling and nightmarish," D.E. Davidson, editor, Night Terrors Publications.

"Shadow Play is as entertaining as it is chilling. Each tale is a journey through a dark and twisting maze, where illusion and reality are often one and the same. A work horror fans can really sink their teeth into," wrote Dennis Kirk, editor, Outer Darkness.

Virginia Burton, Jeff's mother, was head of Roswell High School's English Department for about 10 years, and taught English at RHS from 1986-2001.

—Roswell Daily Record (Around Town section)

SHADOW PLAY is a collection of twenty short stories, twisted through a kaleidoscope of macabre and chilling colors. Each tale seems to illustrate the axiom that looks can be deceiving.

In "Eykiltimac Stump Acres," we meet Dwight, a senior citizen debilitated with Altzheimers who does remember a thing or two.... "The Tenth One" shows us that concentrated effort really does pay off...for a while. "Clippings," reminds us everyone has the right to voice their opinion. And in "One Last Sliver," the author gives a wink and a nod to Poe.

My biggest complaint with SHADOW PLAY was the uneven caliber of the stories. Mr. Burton's writing appeared rushed in some of the selections, the plot forced onto unexpected tangents for the sake of a shocking twist at the end. Yet, I found the majority of his ghastly tales entertaining with a certain tongue-in-cheek dark humor worth consideration.

—Cerri Ellis, Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine

A very engrossing collection of stories worthy of Alfred Hitchcock himself! Each is uniquely entertaining - the reader gets pulled into various unpredictable scenarios, which he won't want to leave until the very end.

—Susan Moon, The Nocturnal Lyric

Burton has an uncanny ability to combine all the elements of the genre you love—urban legends, the insidiously creepy, the twist ending, quiet cold calculating homicide, auto-animations and shadows—resulting in a real hair raiser. About as much fun as you could stand on a stormy night alone in your reading armchair.

—Brian Ames, author of Smoke follows Beauty, Head Full of Traffic, and Eighty-Sixed

His talent and quality stack up well.

—Brett Andersen, ThisWeek Newspapers

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