Horror Book Review: The Black Telephone by Joe Hill

The Black Telephone is a (very) short story by acclaimed author, Joe Hill, that originally came in his anthology, 20th Century Ghosts.

Joe Hill has released all those stories individually a little while back and the first one I have read is The Black Telephone. 20th Century Ghosts came out in 2005 and was a huge hit, winning many awards and really putting Joe Hill on the map as an author in his own right.

Being the son of Stephen King and wanting to be a horror writer really means you are going to have to step up. I love that he chose to go under a cut down version of his mothers name so as to prove himself as an author, not live off of his parents legacy. Joe Hill, or Joe Hillstrom King, has certainly proving his ability now, time and time again. I am a big fan. That love started with the absolutely brilliant, The Fireman. From there, it grew into NOS4R2, Horns, Heart Shaped Box, Strange Weather, Locke and Key – this guy is amazing.

Joe Hill The Black Phone

But I still hadn’t read 20th Century Ghosts. The part where it all started. So, when looking for a late night, short read and I came across these individually wrapped stories from the collection, I was delighted. A short read is exactly what I was looking for though, even then, I was surprised by quite how short it is.

The Black Telephone equates to just 26 pages. It’s short but, apparently, size doesn’t matter. It’s what you do with it that counts and in that respect, Joe Hill knocked it out of the park.

We join the story at the time of John Finney being tricked into capture. Mostly via internal monologue, we watch him suffer as a prisoner. A young man struggling to come to terms with what is happening to him. Held by a dangerous psychopath who may bust in at any time and end him. In a dark room where John is clearly not the first victim, he is alone and afraid. The room is mostly empty. There is a mattress and a toilet and nothing else. Well nothing except the black telephone in the middle of the room. An antique looking thing that seems to also concern his captor.

Unplugged and not working, it is surely nothing more than an odd relic of a time long passed. Until it rings. As John struggles to understand what is happening and whether he has lost his mind, the children’s voices on the other end speak to him. And it is through their words that he finds clarity.

I wont say any more. I would hate to ruin it for anyone interested. Safe to say though, I immensely enjoyed the story. I really think Joe Hill captured an amazing amount of detail and emotion in such few pages. It is short and I have mentioned that numerous times but my disappointment at it’s end was purely because it ended. I was more than satisfied with the ending itself. I can see why his anthology was so popular if The Black Telephone is the standard of stories within.

Get it. Enjoy it just understand beforehand, this is a 15 minute read at most. Accept it for what it is and enjoy a deep an interesting tale full of fear and tension.

Grab yourself a copy on Amazon, here.

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  • Brendan Fisher

    Owner/Editor/Writer/YouTuber - Heavy Metal and reading, two things I have always loved so they are the two areas you will find most of my reviews. Post apocalyptic is my jam and I always have a book on the go and have for decades now. From a metal perspective, age has softened my inadequacies and I now operate with an open mind, loving many bands from many sub genres but having a particular admiration for the UK underground scene. In my other time, when not focused on Dad duties and work, I try to support the craft beer movement by drinking as much of it as I can and you will also find me out on the streets, walking. I love walking, I love exploring new places and snapping nature photos as I go.

The Black Telephone by Joe Hill
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