Tuesday, 6 October 2009

More Coffin Nails

I've been a good boy and read some more stories from John L. Probert's excellent collection Coffin Nails. 'The Ossuary' is a variation on that old (and rightly much-used) theme of 'someone visits a somewhat spooky place'. The idea of a house full of decoratively carved human bones is weird enough, and it's a tribute to the author's imagination that he manages to make the finale of his story as strange as its setting.

That's followed by 'Final Act', with its combined themes of the spooky girlfriend - a very popular one, again - and love that endures beyond the grave. There's also a nod to a horror classic. One flaw, for me, is a central incident that leaves a character seriously disabled. It is based on a real-life event, but that is perhaps the problem - it doesn't quite fit and seems less probable, somehow, than the supernatural stuff.

'Between the Pipes' is very strange indeed. The central theme of someone using an evil 'thing' for selfish gain, only to have it backfire on them, if again familiar from M.R. James, among others, but again there are subtle and rather moving variations on the theme.

'The Sacrifices We Make' is a very short story indeed - a mere four pages. It takes a lot of skill to make a short-short memorable, and this one is unusual enough to stick in the mind. Again, though, there's a twist near the end that slightly spoils it, for me at least.

So, pretty good thus far. The nights are drawing in as I prepare to tackle the last few stories. Have the scariest been left till last? Oo-er.

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