Here’s a book that sounds promising: a former YMCA camp director shares a dozen suspense stories to read aloud around a campfire or at bedtime. Unfortunately, S. Steele’s premise is flawed by poorly crafted stories that are far too graphically violent to read to children.
Steele sells the book on the back cover as a tool to help parents, camp counselors and teachers. But the author confuses horror with violence and has characters die awful deaths in almost every story, typically by falling through trap doors to be bludgeoned by spikes and ripped apart by rats, or, in one case, getting his head blown off by shotgun fire.
The worst entry may well be when Steele has slaves inject gasoline into their captor’s head and ignite it. In another story, a dog is hit by car, then rescued, only to be kidnapped, then killed by another car just as the rescuer and dog are about to reunite. In yet another, three brothers on a family camping trip get lost in the woods and are taken captive by a deranged mountain man who threatens to feed them to his pet wolf Satan.
As if the subject matter isn’t gruesome enough to deter readers, the stories read as if they were thrown together. Parts of the tales and even some sentences don’t make sense; the plots have repetitive elements (time and again, strange lights appear in abandoned buildings to suggest that they’re haunted), and every story has countless grammatical and spelling errors, making an already difficult read harder to follow.
Most importantly, though, this book is not spooky in the fun way campfire stories should be. It is extremely disturbing and inappropriate for children.