Car Crash Weather
There are many titles on this blog that I specifically search out to read and then review, either by working through social media, NetGalley or the Kindle listings for a specific genre; but there are also a handful of novels, novellas and anthologies that I simply stumble across accidentally, often as a result of them being offered as free downloads, or because the cover and title appeal to me in some manner. Car Crash Weather by Australian author Matthew Tait certainly falls firmly into the latter category – I’d never heard of Mr Tait before I encountered his novella as a free download, but the frankly stunning piece of cover art by illustrator Greg Chapman was more than enough for me to take a chance on an author of unknown quality. Now I do focus on cover art a lot in this blog, because I think that the illustrators and artists who work on them are often an underappreciated lot, but I mean – just look at the piece Chapman dredged from somewhere in his subconscious and created as the cover for the novelette. It is both horrific and beautiful simultaneously, a sublimely twisted creation that instantly catches your attention and lodges in your head long after you’ve finished the novelette itself; indeed, I’m writing this review several days after reading Car Crash Weather, having moved onto other titles to read and review, and I can still picture it in my head without reference to the novella itself. From the eerie way that the blood-red and bile-green colours come from the edges of the image to begin to merge together in the centre, to the shadows lurking at the sides, and the grinning skull atop the writer sitting at the old-fashioned typewriter, Chapman has created an iconic piece that I would love to see on the wall of my study.
I’ve come across titles within multiple genres that have fantastic cover art while containing disappointingly mediocre stories, so I’m pleased to state that Matthew Tait’s story contained within Car Crash Weather is just as dark and unsettling as that exquisitely grotesque piece of cover art. Michael Richards is a horror author of some considerable success, with a number of successful horror titles to his name, and an agent eager for him to finish his latest novel so that it can be published. He lives alone in his apartment, surrounded by his books and his own, dark thoughts as he works on his laptop editing the manuscript for that upcoming novel. While typing away, he hears a slow but incessant noise that sounds like raindrops from within the apartment; investigating, he’s baffled to discover that it isn’t rain but is, in fact, blood dripping own from the ceiling and pooling on one of his bookcases. It’s a surreal moment deftly described, with Tait even gently poking fun at his own profession by having Tait note that the very nature of his writing might make the authorities suspicious if he reported the liquid appearing and coating his book collection. Unclear on what, exactly, to do about the blood and getting no response from the apartment the liquid is apparently coming from, Richards falls into a sort of surreal reverie as he considers his own, deeply personal links to blood. The titular Car Crash Weather then comes to the fore, with Tait using a flashback sequence to show us Richards’ childhood, and a shocking and traumatic event that leads to the death of a loved one, and the origins of his own long-standing mental trauma. Even after the source of the blood is located, Richards’ ordeal is far from over, as a genuinely shocking twist in the last few paragraphs leads to a morbid fate for the horror author.
In some ways, it’s rather difficult to pin Car Crash Weather to one specific subgenre within the Horror genre, as Tait cleverly blends together many elements to create this short but powerful and strangely compelling tale. It’s a slow-paced and quietly introspective piece as Tait rummages around inside Richards’ head, examining his motivations for becoming a horror author, and highlighting the insecurities that remain despite being highly successful at his chosen career. That’s mixed with elements of surrealism as the author confronts the unexpected source of blood entering his apartment, and then further blended with hints of psychological, gothic and even bizarro horror as Tait takes us into Richards’ memories and looks at his social and physical isolation, and the shockingly abrupt and graphic incident that defined his childhood. It’s all wrapped up in a moody and increasingly morbid atmosphere, one that effortlessly draws you in and keeps you focused on the story as Richards’ heads for that memorable ending. Car Crash Weather is a short but masterful read from author Matthew Tait, the atmosphere, language and superb plotting all demonstrating the clear talent that Tait has as a horror writer, and I certainly intend to seek out more of his works to read and review in the months ahead.