Cruel and Unusual

Four short stories of judicial horror

Fiction - Horror
262 Pages
Reviewed on 06/04/2017
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Author Biography

Award-winning author Erik Dean works include,” Garbageman, “Cryptic'' and “Cruel and Unusual." The Arizona native, is a radiology technologist, who has over 25 years of experience in radiology. At times, Erik uses his medical knowledge, when writing his novels. In his spare time, Erik enjoys reading horror and action-adventure novels. Additionally, he watches many different kinds of cinema, the classics, horror, action adventure and sci-fi. His favorite animal is a border collie. Erik strives to put into his novels, memorable characters and situations, that never have been done before. He wants to keep his reader guessing and not make his stories predictable. In 2017, his novel “Cryptic'' won first place “11th Annual National Indie Excellence Awards and New Apple Indie book Awards in the horror category. Erik Dean is currently penning his 4th book. “Crueler and more Unusual."

    Book Review

Reviewed by Arya Fomonyuy for Readers' Favorite

Cruel and Unusual: Four Short Stories of Judicial Horror by Erik Dean features four horror short stories that will take readers' breath away. Revisit the inhumane treatment of witches who were tried and burned at the stake in England. Meet Helen and the other witches within Salem Town, facing a cruel and unforgiving end. Can they get justice? In “Judge and Jury,” a ghost comes back to bear witness to crimes that the unjust judges wouldn’t judge fairly. The gangsters may have their way of covering up their crimes, but then things change when a ghost sits in court and becomes unhinged, and will stop at nothing to see justice done.

The four stories are captivating and they deal with capital punishment in its worst form. The writing is awesome. Yes, it is crisp and has something juicy about it, a savory taste that keeps the reader turning pages. Erik Dean comes across as a master in the art of the short story. I enjoyed how he could be detailed without being boring, how he could condense events into short paragraphs without losing the reader, and how each story is built to get the reader into a state of anticipation, pulling them into the dynamics of the conflict and making them hunger for the denouement. This collection is a gorgeous one and it is utterly entertaining. Cruel and Unusual: Four Short Stories of Judicial Horror is a well-crafted book that offers great short stories with compelling characters and pertinent historical references. You’ll read them and won’t want to part with them.

Ray Simmons

I like history and I like horror. Not all types of horror. Mostly I like horror like Stephen King writes it. Horror that is so horrible because it blends in so smoothly with the everyday world. That is good writing. That is what I enjoyed as I read Cruel and Unusual by Erik Dean. This book is good. It is a collection of four short stories that deal with something the cover describes as judicial horror. This is a term that I haven’t seen applied to horror stories or the horror genre in general, but it is accurate in this case and it is a great way to describe these stories - it sounds much better than justice gone bad or something like that. I liked this book because I like history and Erik Dean writes it well. I like psychological or sociological stories such as Lord of the Flies. Erik Dean combines the two elements like a pro.

I like the characters. I like the history. I like the stories. My favorite of these four tales is the one involving the Salem witch trials. I found this story the perfect combination of history and of the psychology of a small, isolated, group that you would expect to behave well, but who ending up behaving…well, horribly. The writing is good, the characters are very believable. The plotting is spot on. Given the popularity of horror, I expect to see Erik Dean’s name in a lot of book stores, and maybe in some film credits in the future.

Joel R. Dennstedt

With a perfectly designed and truly intriguing cover to successfully entice those fiction readers avidly preferring the more strange and unusual in their literary fare, the four short stories in Cruel and Unusual by Erik Dean comprise a most cleverly unique and deceptively quirky book that links themes of universal justice with those of the more individually-inspired, supernatural realms. Convicted and executed witches exact their own perfect retribution after death. A lawman and a peddler team up together to do quite the same. The Devil gets a chance to testify in court. And justice teams up with game-show television to execute the perfect final punishment upon a nasty, convicted felon.

The stories in Cruel and Unusual are clever and entertaining, and at first one suspects that Erik Dean might be writing for the young adult audience. His composition style is quite concise; his sentences often painfully assertive, with the gut punches and uppercuts of a skillful boxer. But his wry cleverness and his sardonic wit - as well as his powerfully sparse writing style – do not conceal Mr. Dean’s unerring ability to target the voyeuristic pleasure that we all, often secretly, indulge in. And this is certainly not limited to young adults. Furthermore, embedded in these marvelously engaging stories is an intelligence and observance aware of the human proclivity for seeking vengeance over justice, mean-spirited as that may be, and worse, for seeking guilty pleasure at cruelty doled out as fairness. In the end, Mr. Dean lays claim to the finest writing compliment: the stories in Cruel and Unusual are wonderfully entertaining. Beyond the style, beyond the cleverness and wit, and beyond the guilty pleasure, the reader cannot help but sport a nasty smirk while reading. He is, you see, enjoying cruel and unusual entertainment.