Edited by Conrad Williams
Published by Titan Books in paperback
Have you ever received a letter that wasn’t addressed to you? What did you do with it? Our curiosity with mail which we receive but might not necessarily be addressed to us can conjure up fantasies about who the sender is and what exactly is inside the letter. Writing ‘address unknown’ or ‘return to sender’ on the envelope and popping it back in the postbox is how most of us deal with mail of this kind.
Edited by Conrad Williams, DEAD LETTERS is an anthology book featuring short stories from some of the finest authors of our generation. To prepare the authors for their story after agreeing to submit a piece for the book, Conrad sent each one of them a mystery piece of mail, each decorated with various ‘address unknown’ type scribbles to make it look like it’d gone through the hands of many people, and each containing something different. These mystery envelopes, many received by authors who’d completely forgot about their project with Conrad and were surprised to receive such mail, would be the inspiration for their stories. This book is the result.
Anthology books can be hit or miss and I’ve read a fair few that fall short of being a solid read. Finally we have an anthology worth waiting for in DEAD LETTERS. Each story, although sharing a common theme of undelivered, lost mail, is completely different to the next with each author having their own take on the idea of dead letters. Some focus on the Dead Letters Office, officially known as the National Return Centre in Belfast, whilst most take their story from the point of view of a unintended recipient. From time travel to Lovecraftian communities, romantic liaisons to unsolved mysteries, there’s so many avenues that the contributing authors explore, each conjuring up compelling reads as we unravel the secrets of these pieces of mail in limbo.
I have to say that reading DEAD LETTERS has been a thoroughly entertaining experience thanks to the quality of the content but also the theme which drives them all. It’s so open to interpretation that there’s never a feeling that I’m reading the same tale over and over again. Each author has their own take and story in their mind from the individual piece of mail received from Conrad, a brilliant motivational idea might I add, that every story is just another door to open and explore.
The language for almost, if not, all the stories contained in this anthology is easy to read and flows incredibly well, keeping the momentum going and most importantly keeping the reader engaged in the writing. Some of the stories go to dark places so I would say the book is tailored more towards readers aged 15+ and for those with an interest in horror, although not all of the tales are horror themed. Mystery is the most prominent theme throughout the book which can take the reader in many different directions and through various emotions with fear of the unknown the most common.
Frightening at times but always compelling, DEAD LETTERS is an absolute must-read of an anthology with plenty to offer with its strong range of narratives and engaging use of language which makes it a hard book to put down. This anthology has set a high standard which I hope future books will look to match. A tantalising experience for genre enthusiasts.