Thursday, 15 September 2016

'The Man in the Rose Bush'

And now, by way of contrast, a bit of modern quiet horror from the American master Steve Rasnic Tem. Editor Ro Pardoe has done a spiffing job with the Third G&S Book of Shadows, in that so far every story has been very different in tone from the one before. It is beautifully written, in deceptively straightforward language.

'The scene bore the suggestion of time rolling back, reaching some pleasant nostalgic point, but then continuing a bit too far.'

An American single mother, Elaine, takes her son Roger on a tour of British stately homes and castles. Roger is an excitable lad, and we can infer from Elaine's recollections that he has ADHD. She doesn't want to put her son on medication, and as a result he can be a bit over-excitable. Thus when they arrive at Westfield Hall Elaine tries to make sure Roger isn't over-stimulated by talk of olde worlde violence, especially that involving the sinister Sir William Scroggs.

This is a touching and subtle story, focusing on Elaine's love for Roger and the emotional toll it takes on her when she realises he is under some sort of strange influence. The immediacy of the past, the way in which it can possess us, is there in Roger's love of Britain's colourful history. The other side of the coin is the idea that we can never escape past evils because they linger in some form or other.

Another first rate story, one that's apparently slight but which lingers in the memory and demands re-reading.

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