The book opens with this following quote from famed daredevil Evel Knievel.
“All my life people have been waiting around to watch me die.”
I must admit, I never thought about it that way, but I can see his point. For those not familiar with the exploits of Evel, he was a stunt performer from the late ‘60s through to the ‘70s who amazed crowds with what was basically, jumping over stuff on a motorbike. If you think of Duke Caboom from Toy Story 4, you’re on the right track. Obviously, there is a lot more to it than that and I’m not doing him justice with that statement, but nevertheless, that should give you a rough idea of what he did.
Of course, what really counts when performing death-defying leaps is how far you are jumping and what you are jumping over.
To give you an idea of the sort of feats that Evel performed, he set the world record for completing a jump over 19 cars, a record that he held for 27 years. Also, he successfully jumped over a stack of 50 cars, a record that wouldn’t be beaten for another 35 years.
I have vague memories of Evel Knievel from my childhood and although I don’t remember seeing any of his shows on TV, I remember the name, the outfit and the toys. In a way that’s a very important thing, that even folks who had never even seen him perform, knew who he was and what he did, and in those days of minimal TV channels and no internet, that’s pretty good going for a man who jumps over stuff on a motorcycle
It wasn’t all smooth sailing though as numerous jumps went wrong, resulting in injuries ranging from broken limbs, ribs and a broken pelvis. Of course, every time a jump was completed, the crowd always wanted more. Jump farther, jump higher, jump just one more vehicle. This brings us back around to the quote at the start. I partially agree with it, but I think that rather than people going to shows to watch him die, they went to see him get close to death. They didn’t want to see him crash, they wanted him to succeed, but only by the slimmest of margins. They wanted him to push the boundaries of what could be done, even if it meant that death’s bony hand was resting on his shoulder for most of his career.
And that’s what Steve Stred brings to the page in, The One Who Knows No Fear.
The story opens with a young boy named Timmy who has been avidly watching a show called Daredevils that airs every Saturday afternoon. Drawn in by the sound of rock music and roaring engines, combined with the visuals of bikes leaping through the air and monster trucks crushing all in their path, Timmy was hooked.
One performer on the show, however, stood out more than others; one performer who didn’t have a name and was simply known as ‘The One That Knows No Fear.’ This mysterious character was bedecked in a black outfit, complete with black helmet and visor that kept anyone from seeing the figures true identity. As the show reaches its finale, Timmy can’t believe his eyes as this mystery daredevil seemingly fails his stunt and become engulfed in flames before having a stack of vehicles crash down upon him. Somehow though, the rider survives and Timmy becomes a fan of not only the show but of the character that he dubs, Mr Fear.
Best of all for Timmy though, is that how he and his stepdad start to bond over the show and when news reaches them of Daredevil’s not only doing a live tour but that one of the shows will be in their hometown, they both readily agree to go.
Timmy couldn’t be happier. His stepfather is beginning to treat him as a son, something he has dearly wanted and not only that, he gets to see his hero perform live; maybe he’ll even get to meet him in person?
But, what if there is some other reason for why Mr Fear keeps surviving against impossible odds? What if he’s not quite what he seems? And what will happen if Timmy and stepdad Michael do get to meet him face to face? After all, they do say that you should never meet your heroes.
The One That Knows No Fear is a great short story that does an amazing job of conveying that feeling of watching a stunt show. It’s not often that I get fully drawn in and join a character in their emotional journey, but here, I did. The writing pulls you in and as cliché as it may sound; I felt I was there, with Timmy, watching the show. It had that edge of your seat feeling as Mr Fear dallied with death and performed a seemingly impossible stunt. It gave me happy memories of being a child and watching similar shows and feeling your breath catch in your throat as you witness a stuntman hurtling toward certain doom at 100 miles per hour.
Added to all this is the sense of friendship that grows between Timmy and his stepdad, Michael. Initially, Michael comes across as a douche and you’re hoping for him to meet an untimely end, but as the story progresses and a father-son relationship starts to develop between the pair, you end up liking the guy.
But what of Mr Fear? Well, I had my theories, which I’m happy to report were proved wrong, but as for how he keeps surviving and who or what he is; that’s something that I’ll leave for you to discover yourself.
The One That Knows No Fear is a great short story that is part of the Short Sharp Shocks! series which, as far as I’m aware, are all available for 99p each and are a great way for readers to discover titles from new authors and are published by Demain Publishing.
Speaking of discovering titles by new author’s, that’s exactly what has happened here. I’d never read any of Stred’s previous titles and I only stumbled upon this one after author Duncan Ralston mentioned it on Facebook. Having read this, I’ll be looking to purchase more from Steve as this was a great introduction to his work and if I do, I’m sure you’ll be hearing all about it, eventually, here at reelhorrorshow.co.uk
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