If you’ve been reading The Catoctin Banner for the past few years, you have probably read the serial stories written by James Rada, Jr. “What Happens on the Mountain” is the one that is currently running in this newzine. Rada has now collected the horror serials, along with some new, unpublished stories in a collection called Shades & Shadows: Catoctin Tall Tales & Short Stories.
Catoctin Mountain lore tells of monsters like the snallygaster and dwayyo, creatures that haunt the dreams of children and adults alike. Shades & Shadows has similar stories of Catoctin Mountain. These nightmares are on and around the central Maryland mountain, incorporating its places and people into its legend.
In “The Anger of Innocence,” millions of birds flocked to the small town of Graceham in 1972, destroying crops and annoying the residents. But what brought them to the town and for what purpose?
In “Cast from the Gods,” the U.S. government is building Site R or the Underground Pentagon deep beneath Raven Rock Mountain during the 1950s. When the complex was being built, workers found something else in the ground. It had been there for centuries. Its discovery released a danger that the U.S. Army nearly failed in controlling.
“Old Kiln Road” is a story about a mother dealing with grief and strange things that happen along Old Kiln Road in Thurmont.
“Fire, Fire” is the story of an arsonist who worked for Catoctin Furnace in the early 1800s and what drove him to madness.
Most of these stories appeared as monthly serials in The Catoctin Banner. The collection also includes three previously unpublished serials.
In “Set in Stone,” a stone carver in Thurmont finds blank headstones suddenly inscribed with the death information of murder victims. He becomes the suspect in their murders. He discovers that the truth is far more fantastic and horrific and dates back through generations of his family.
“Bon Appétit” is about a very special dinner at the opening of a new restaurant in Thurmont and how the owner gets revenge against his critics.
“Confessions” is about a man who has visions of murder victims who apparently have no connection to him.
The serial stories are based on a feature of newspapers from early in the 20th century that featured serial stories.
“When I was asked to write something for The Catoctin Banner’s Arts & Entertainment page, I decided to try to bring back the serial story,” Rada said. “My twist was that I localized the story so that they used actual places and/or events from Northern Frederick County.”
Rada’s first serial, “The Anger of Innocence,” was supposed to be the only story, but the feature proved popular, and he went on to write more stories in different genres.
“I switched up genres sometimes to be able to offer something for everyone,” Rada said. “Plus, I liked going outside of my comfort zone with what I was writing.”
He started coming up with ideas for possible stories and outlining them. Some of them might even be expanded into novels.
As the stories accumulated, he realized he had a nice collection of stories with more on the way. He decided to publish the collection as he has done with some of his non-fiction articles.
The problem he ran into was how to present it. The easiest way would have been to collect the published stories and release them as a multi-genre collection. The more he thought about it, though, the more he thought it wouldn’t fly.
“Readers tend to like certain genres,” he said. “My horror fans probably wouldn’t appreciate my romance serials and vice versa.”
He settled on releasing three Catoctin Tales & Short Stories, each which will focus on a single genre. Shades & Shadows is a horror collection. The other two will be a romance collection and a thriller collection.
“This doesn’t mean that I’m done with horror serials. It just means that I would need to write another set to come out with another title,” Rada said. “Meanwhile, I am working on the other two collections.”
Shades & Shadows retails for $18.95 and is available at local bookstores and online retailers. For more information about James Rada’s books, visit his website at jamesrada.com.