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Todd Russell loves reading and writing atmospheric, scary, thrilling stories. He lives in the small city of Orting, Washington overlooking beautiful, active and deadly, Mount Rainier. Mental Shrillness, a collection of horror twist ending short stories, is his first book.
His debut novel, a psychological thriller / horror story entitled Fresh Flesh was published September 29, 2011. He is working on several other books.
on Sep. 03, 2011 :
Todd Russell has written a wonderfully entertaining and gruesomely bizarre collection of short stories I will not soon forget.
My skin crawled, my hair stood on end and I even slept with a light on - but don't tell anyone please. ;)
I am eager to read more of his work and I look forward to adding it to my collection.
Well done, Todd Russell.
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)
on Aug. 13, 2011 :
In Mental Shrillness, Todd Russell explores fear, pain, betrayal, and darkness. These short stories remind me of growing up watching Night Gallery and Circle Of Fear, late at night in a dark room.
This is a collection of work that was originally posted online at AIN (Amazing Instant Novelist) back in the ’90s. I can relate to the recapturing of older stories. I have done it myself in my SF collection. There is something about the interactions online in the pre-broadband days that brought out the best in many writers. Much like today, we hung around together and traded words. It was just a whole lot slower. I’m glad Todd preserved these stories. Many writers who wrote online back then don’t have a record of their work anymore.
These stories sneak out of the shadows and bite. Surreal, sharp, surprising, and gory, they shine a light on different aspects of the human condition. We are full of vices. And these stories point out some of them. If you are a fan of horror and a fan of short stories, you will enjoy Mental Shrillness. Personally I love short stories, and flash fiction. There is something poetic and primal about telling a story in a small, deadly package. There’s not room for a lot of unnecessary exposition. The words have to count. And thus I think the impact is heightened.
If you want a slice of darkness, to read by a fire late at night, pick up Mental Shrillness by Todd Russell. It will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up, and the lights in the room flicker.
(reviewed 3 days after purchase)
on July 15, 2011 :
MENTAL SHRILLNESS is a very brief, very concise collection of short tales. Each one representing a particular human frailty, in a very twisted way. The tales really do read as vignettes of the damned. Tales quickly spat out from the tormented souls, and sent echoing down the cold marble walls, of Todd's 'Mental Shrillness Ward'. The tales are short and to the point, with zero fat. Any reader who still appreciated the short form will understand the joy of a short story that understands exactly what it is, and Todd has managed to bottle that fire and condense it, squeezing a hell of a lot of horror into very little space. One tale apart, these little gems are extremely short, clocking in at two to three pages sometimes. This is both a blessing and a curse.
See, there are some very weighty themes here. Love, sexual desire, broken hearts, betrayal, and repression of memories, and all are explored from a very unique standpoint. I'm a long time horror reader, and I found myself very surprised and disturbed by some of the imagery and ideas Todd expresses through his cavalcade of lunatic confessions. The downside of this, for me, was that I found his contrasts and insights so fascinating, I was rarely ready to walk away from them when the tale ended. the author is really onto something here.
Two tales in particular are still running around in my head as I write this. The second tale, PAINS IN THE GLASS is very disturbing, and reads quite unlike anything Ive come across. A study of pain, physical and emotional, and loaded with grisly and tragic imagery. And the fourth tale, FALLING IN BOBBIT is, or should be, something of a classic, taking devotion and sexual hunger to their utmost extremes. Its disgusted, disturbed and strangely eager with itself, much like the insane woman into who's diary we are privy too as we read. Great stuff. And the other tales are great too. DEATH WARMED OVER is a blackly comic look at sexual gratification gone all the way south, DUELLING EYES is a rapid fire glimpse at what appears to be the final moments of a doctors long battle with mental illness, and MEMORIAL DAY DESCENT, the opening tale, gives us a grim look at post traumatic stress, and the very real ghosts of our pasts. And the final, and longest tale, THE ILLUSION, proves that Russell has the chops to stretch his grim visions into more sizable lengths, as he spins a story of dark magic, wishful thinking, and the nature of illusion. Its a fitting finale, as the entire collection often feels like a carnival ride through half seen mirages.
At the same time, the length of the stories can also be seen as a strength. For so many insights and horrors to find there way into such a short work is pretty amazing, and for any budding horror writers out there, it should be very inspiring also. And that the author seems to have the self control to leave his children alone is commendable, when so many 'short stories' are long winded and often feel like a novel in themselves. These tales make for a great quick read, and unlike many longer stories, they tend to stick with you, as the readers input is vital in all these stories. Russell understands that you have a working brain, and expects you to use it. I can only agree with that sentiment. The reader implicit in the tales overall meaning, and thats just as it should be for this type of work.
MENTAL SHRILLNESS is a quick dive into some very dark waters, and is one exploration worth taking. Short on length and long on substance, its a perfect book for those looking to be horrified in rapid fashion. I want more of what Todd Russell has to offer. Check this one out.
(reviewed 8 days after purchase)
on July 14, 2011 :
The stories contained herein are, in a word, creepy. We’re talking severe creepiness factor here, people. I mean shards of glass spontaneously erupting from … oh, wait. I don’t want to give anything away. You have to buy the book and get all creeped out with me. Deal?
If you like Poe, Stephen King, or Jack Wallen or are just a fan of horror in general, you’re going to like these little tales of the twisted. That’s my 2 pence.
(reviewed 6 days after purchase)
on May 12, 2011 :
An interesting collection of short stories. Some left me confused and somewhat disturbed but I was definitely entertained. A very quick and entertaining read, may not be for everyone.
(reviewed 18 days after purchase)
on May 11, 2011 :
Russell offers us a glimpse into what he calls the Mental Shrillness ward. He has spun six eerie tales that really give your mind a workout and sends tingles up your spine.
Memorial Day Descent a soldier is promised that all his demons will be vanquished if he descends the basement stairs of a vacant mansion. This all but screams as not the thing to do! But for a soldier struggling to live with memories of war, he will do anything to exorcise them.
Pains in the Glass was my favorite. Russell crafts an intriguing tale of how betrayal is like shards of glass piercing the victim. Only this glass is real and has a tragic consequence to which the abuser will see.
Dead Warmed Over was creepy. Necrophilia in its prime is prominent in this chilling story.
Falling the Bobbitt Way is classic! Sometimes loving someone to death is not a good thing. The title says it all!
Dueling Eyes is well written but I didn’t find it as creepy as the others. If you have a fear of glass eyes then Dueling Eyes will creep you out.
The Illusion is the last story of the collection and the longest. The moral is that sometimes the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
All in all, I enjoyed these six short stories. Russell does have a knack for writing in a creative way and spins such tale that your mind reels with hidden meanings. I will be sharing these while we are camping this summer. Perfect for the traditional storytelling over the campfire!
(reviewed 28 days after purchase)
on April 28, 2011 :
This is a series of 6 short stories. Each story focussing on an emotion – love, betrayal etc. There is a certain macabre darkness running through each story. I liked that each story managed to make the hairs on the back of my neck prickle & stand on end. Particularly the last one which is a good deal longer than the others. All the stories put me in mind of some of Stephen King's early short stories.
All in all I think this is a very good collection of chills. I would like to see more from this author as I feel he has more to give.
(reviewed 2 days after purchase)