Book Review: Talking Walls and Cigarettes (And Other Dark Tales)

Talking Walls and Cigarettes coverTitle: Talking Walls and Cigarettes (And Other Dark Tales)

Author: Erin Beck & Kelli Beck

Genre: Horror, Short Story Anthology

Rating: 4,5 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

Talking Walls and Cigarettes is a collection of seven dark short stories that deals with both real life monsters and those that dwell within us. A bartender still grieving the tragic death of her brother, shunning from her family, and the whispers in the street is visited by a man who appears out of thin air to offer her a way out of her own personal hell in The Salesman. A poor family is cursed by a mysterious old man in the woods and the children are at risk for falling victim to their parent’s unspeakable acts in Porcelain. The title story follows a man as he is tormented by demons in his own mind. In Homecoming, can a young woman find what she’s looking for years after her father’s abduction by other-worldly beings?

In this horror short story anthology, authors Erin Beck and Kelli Beck provide a varying palette of horror – from the disturbing appearance of a ghost to alien abduction to demons to terror only present in the protagonist’s mind. The themes of the stories vary greatly, but their quality is consistent.

The first story, “Cough Syrup” was by far the most complicated story to understand. The main character is dealing with grief, comes from a dysfunctional family, and eventually starts making some bad decisions. It was dark fiction more than horror, but definitely set the right mood.

Next up came “In His Cellar”, which I thought was hands-down the best story in the anthology. Dark, bleak, with no way out. There are no good guys, there is no redemption, no hero saving the day. The main character falls prey to a sadistic serial killer. The only outcome is evident, and pain necessary. The story is strong, to the point, and terrifying.

“The Air in Venice” had a good premise – a boy turns up in a city and brings along the Plague – but I felt like parts could’ve been explained better. The story jumped from one thing to the other, as if it didn’t really know which direction it wanted to follow.

“The Salesman” was an okay story, but it wasn’t really scary. All in all, it seemed to have a pretty upbeat message. I liked the premise of it, but it could’ve been darker. A woman is visited by a ghost, which may not be a ghost at all, and they end up making a deal.

“Taken”, the next story in the anthology, talked about alien abduction. This was probably the weirdest story, and I’m generally not a fan of alien abduction stories, but I ended up really enjoying this one. I could’ve easily seen this story turn into a novella though – there was sufficient back story and plot to fill a novella.

“Porcelain” was another hit for me. A mysterious man curses a family, and what follows is so random and horrific that I absolutely enjoyed it. If it happened in real life, I’d scream my head off, don’t get me wrong, but in fiction, this is the kind of story I like. Surprising, different, with an ending you don’t see coming by a long shot.

“Talking Walls and Cigarettes” is the last story in the book. A man is slowly losing his mind, hearing voices that aren’t there and seeing demons. When he suspects the nextdoor elderly lady may be a demon, things start to go terribly wrong. A story about what happens if your own mind turns against you. Dark and disturbing, and a very enjoyable read.

My top three stories, in order, are “In His Cellar”, “Porcelain” and “Talking Walls and Cigarettes”.

All in all, a balanced anthology offering a lot of variation in theme, with some truly dark and disturbing gems.


  1. I have a hard time with anthologies, because the stories can be so hit and miss. However, it’s a great way to get a taste of authors and also you don’t have to make a huge committment like with a novel. I appreciate you going through the stories.


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