Sunday 4 September 2022

Review: Pariah by Sam Dawson

This review was published in Phantasmagoria magazine #21 August 2022


Published by Supernatural Tales, 188 pages

Not only does Pariah contain sixteen excellent stories by Sam Dawson, it also includes some really well drawn line illustrations by the author too. Plus he created its distinctive cover.

Pariah and Other Stories is an entertainingly varied collection. While some of the tales are darkly disturbing, others are satisfyingly horrific. All share an air of authenticity.

Sixteen stories are too many to itemise here, especially as some are only a few pages long, so I will mention two that impressed me the most.

Field Trip is also one of the longest. In it we encounter two close friends who have had a long, ongoing passion for camping in unusual places, especially those with a ghostly reputation, as a sort of daring do. Perhaps inevitably, they finally chance on somewhere that not only lives up to its reputation but does so in ways the two of them least expect – somewhere that proves far more dangerous than either of them is prepared. For them it was just supposed to be a long lost, deserted village, isolated since the sixteenth century due to plague. No longer even shown on any maps, they are surprised to discover it is far from deserted and going there will change their lives forever. A well-conceived and gripping story with some unexpected twists.

The other that especially caught my attention is the title story itself: Pariah. Set during the second world war at a time when the allied armies are still fighting their way across Europe, Pariah is the nickname bestowed on a specially converted Churchill tank. It has had its main gun removed to be replaced with a massive flame thrower. Needing a new command after having lost the crew of his previous tank when it was hit by a shell while he was temporarily away from it, Sergeant Freddie Brown is offered the Pariah. Few tankmen want anything to do with flame throwers as they are regarded by most as a barbaric weapon. In fact, they are hated so much by the Germans they are known to shoot any of their crews who fall into their hands – which is why Brown’s new command comes with a brand-new crew. Its previous one were executed when the tank was briefly captured. As events unfold, it isn’t long before it becomes obvious to Brown that the tank’s reputation goes further than the detestation felt by everyone towards its function, a reputation that continues long past the end of the war up until the present day in a well-researched tale full of authentic-sounding anecdotes and facts. 

One of the things that impressed me most about all of these stories, besides their variety, is the author’s research into what he is writing, without ever becoming pedantic about it.

All in all, an excellent collection which I thoroughly enjoyed. 

Pariah & Other Stories is published by Supernatural Tales and is available to
purchase from Lulu and other outlets.

Phantasmagoria magazine

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