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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

General Slocum’s Gold by Nicholas Kaufmann

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General Slocum’s Gold by Nicholas Kaufmann

General Slocum’s Gold by Nicholas Kaufmann is a very slick and barebones ghost story.  How many umpteen million stories have there been of cursed gold and the foolhardy people who try and claim it for their own?  And yet, I don’t care; I like this one despite the fact that it’s not the most original knife in the drawer.  It cuts just as deep.

A group of ex-cons get a line on a fortune in gold buried on a small island, North Brother Island, in the East River near New York.  Does this island even exist?  I’m from that region originally, and I must admit that I don’t know.  I considered for a little while going online to maybe Wikipedia and seeing if it did, or if, for that matter, there was ever a steamship called the General Slocum.  As I considered it further, I think I’m more satisfied with the fantasy of it, that the fact that the author could have made up a story whole cloth that actually has me asking myself if it has any grain of truth in it is more intriguing than if he just picked up some old wives’ tale and ran with it.

Like a racecar, once you’ve stripped away the roll cage and the safety harness, this story carries very little excess weight; there’s really nothing between you and the speeding asphalt.  The author has deftly constructed a tale that is scary without being gory.  Not that there’s anything intrinsically wrong with being gory, but so many stories attempt to substitute an avalanche of intestines for any real horror; General Slocum’s Gold is far better than that.

I must admit, in closing, to two points of confusion.  One, I’m uncertain why this story was published as a chapbook.  It is not particularly long and would have made a fine addition to an issue of Chizine or any horror anthology, where I think it would have reached the wider audience it deserves.  Two, the protagonist of the story has a, um, power I’d guess you’d call it.  He can project some force through his hands and use them as a kind of sightless X-ray.  The story is unclear on this point; therefore, I can’t really explain it.  But my confusion is pertains to why the author chose to include this bit of X-Men voodoo at all.  An ordinary man trapped in this situation is a good story; a guy with supernatural hand powers I don’t see as better.  Still, General Slocum’s Gold: find a copy and read it.  It’s good stuff.

Publisher: Burning Effigy Press
Price: $8.00
Chapbook: 40 pages
ISBN: 978-0-9739231-4-8