Dead Mediums By Dan Leach, 139 pgs.

Mar 10, 2023

I never know what to make of short story collections. They’re often hit and miss. While Dan Leach’s Dead Mediums also falls into that category, there’s way more hit than miss. And the stories that are winners do so with genuineness and sincerity.

Like other titles released by Trident Press, these tales frequently focus on a particular geographical place. In Leach’s case, he’s a South Carolinian, so stories reference the state. Through them the reader gets insight, not necessarily into what South Carolina looks like in its entirety, but how Leach perceives his home.

From there, though, the ten stories include the fantastical, the dramatic, and some that seem autobiographical. The longer pieces are the standouts, though. “Fixers” tells the tale of a husband with a belly that begins growing at a quick pace from seemingly out of nowhere. As a means to get it to go away, the man makes a deal with a wizard who he sees on an infomercial and things get dicey after that. Tied in with this growth is how the belly affects his relationship with his wife.

“A Forest Dark and Deep” finds the main character at a Fourth of July barbeque with his wife and child. He spies someone who he thinks is the man his ex-wife left him for. The way Leach weaves the past and present keeps the story taut and engaging. The combination of sex and mystery strikes a perfect balance. And the twist at the end is perfect. This tale is the peak of Leach’s skills in Dead Mediums.

Some of the stories that were only a few pages seemed to be misses primarily because they lack the punch of the longer tales. Leach’s strength appears to be in the lengthier form. It makes one wonder how well he’d do with writing a novel, especially if it mixed elements of mystery and the mystical. That said, if you’re interested in Southern short stories, you can’t go wrong with this short but engaging collection. –Kurt Morris (