04
Apr
11

Occult Files Reviewed by “Space and Time Magazine”

Hi everyone,

Space and Time Magazine just published a great review of The Occult Files of Albert Taylor written by Sam Tomaino.  With their generous permission, I’m republishing the complete review below.

Please be sure to check out the current issue of Space and Time Magazine at www.spaceandtimemagazine.com!

Enjoy!

Derek

A Review by Sam Tomaino of Space and Time Magazine:

The Occult Files of Albert Taylor by Derek Muk is a collection of eleven short stories by Derek Muk featuring his occult investigator, Professor Albert Taylor. Derek Muk is a social worker from California. He has had stories published in a number of small press and online magazines such as Twisted Tongue Magazine, Sinister Tales, M-Brane SF, The Ethereal Gazette, Hardboiled, Masque Noir, and many others. The stories in this volume feature the investigations of Albert Taylor, described as in “his early fifties…short dark hair and long sideburns…brown eyes…narrow and slanted.” Taylor is a professor in the psychology department of the University of California at Berkley. He is also founder and publisher of the Occult Files Magazine and spends a lot of time investigating unusual phenomena. In some of his cases, he is helped by his friend, Ben Waters, in his forties and singer and lead guitarist for a rock and roll band called the Invaders, with the rest of the band only in their twenties. Waters also works as an apartment manager, professional mover and assistant to Taylor.

Eight of the eleven stories in this book were published before (between 2005 and 2009), one was to-be-published in 2010 and two are new to this volume. They are not collected in order of publication and the first is the 2010, and presumably, most recent one. That first story is “Asylum” (set to appear in Sonar 4 E-zine) and begins with Taylor putting together a psychic research group consisting of Ben and two others. Their first case is set at a sanitarium called Birchwood Asylum in Sacramento. It appears to be haunted by the spirit of a former inmate who slaughtered five people before slitting his throat. How Taylor handles this is truly unique and this makes for a good introduction to the book.

The next story, “Competition” is not previously published and features Albert, Ben and two members of his band, Chris Martin and Claire Bishop, battling a vampire in, of all places, Hawaii. Like the previous story, this one had a nice little twist at the end. The third story, “Dear Boss” (first published in Switchblade Magazine in 2006) is yet another take on the “Jack-the-Ripper-is-back” idea. I’m afraid this one was a bit too ludicrous for me and just didn’t work. “Footprint” (from Dawnsky in 2005) features Ben and Claire again in a story set earlier than “Competition.” They help out Albert track Bigfoot in another pretty good story. In “Ghost Town” (published in a chapbook, “Sin After Sin” in 2006), Albert and a young woman check out a UFO sighting in New Mexico.

“Lynch Mansion” (from Ethereal Gazette in 2005), has Albert, a medium and a young woman investigate an old mansion, haunted by a ghost. When they uncover the truth about an old murder, that ghost is put to rest. “The Boogeyman” (Night to Dawn, 2009) is one of the best stories in the book and shows Muk’s development as a writer. A woman named Emily Wong comes to Taylor and tells him about the murder of her teenage daughter, Norma, two years before in a drainage culvert near the BART tracks. Since then, other girls have been killed by “the Culvert Killer.” Emily has an unusual theory behind the murders which I won’t spoil. While Taylor is investigating, another girl is killed, but Taylor is able to put a stop to the monster. In “The Children of the Inner Light” (Sinister Tales, 2009) Taylor is, again, in Hawaii. He is there to be on a panel about deprogramming for a conference on alternative religions and cults, with his friend, Jacob Mueller (introduced in “Dear Boss”). They wind up investigating a cult called Children if the Inner Light with an unusually charismatic leader. This was another one with a nice twist at the end. One odd thing about this story is a sub-plot about Taylor’s ex-wife, Lynn, who he has a brief, tendentious, phone conversation with. She is not mentioned in any of the other stories and does not have much else to do with this one.

“The Exhibit” (from Night to Dawn, 2009) is set in Reno in a museum with artifacts from the Spanish Inquisition. There have been some odd occurrences and there are some gruesome murders while Taylor is investigating. Unfortunately, the explanation for this one is too convoluted and far-fetched, even for a supernatural story. The other new-to-this-book story is “The Sun Disc” which has Albert investigating a messianic UFO cult. This has an ending which will leave you gaping. The collection is concluded with “Psychic” (7th Dimension Magazine, 2007).This brings back Ben again when he and Taylor attend a lecture by Dr. Alan Copper, another professor at the university. Copper is a medium who can bring back the personalities of the dead and brings back Taylor’s mother for one last conversation with him. This one has a really dark twist at the end and was quite effective.

The stories here are all quite varied and, while a couple of them don’t work, the book, as a whole, is a good one. If you want to read some good stories and support a new author, you should buy it.

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