Friday, 16 June 2017
'Little Black Eyes and Tiny Hands'
Coincidence is a funny old dame. I recently included Aleister Crowley in a story, and guess what? He's in this one, the last I'll be reviewing from Rebecca Lloyd's fine collection Seven Strange Stories. The title, you may have guessed, is a somewhat unflattering description of the Great Beast himself. Here he is!
I think she has a point. Anyway, the novella is set in Sicily and concerns Ernesto, a young man with ambitions to be an architect. Ernesto's granddad tells him a fragmentary story of a group of foreigners, led by Crowley (who is never named in the story), who set up house in their village just after the Great War. Crowley is here portrayed as thoroughly unpleasant, his largely female following a hapless bunch of victims.
The description of the hostile interaction of the close-knit villagers and Crowley's Thelema cult are entertaining, and utterly convincing. Lloyd has a true novelist's knack of giving depth and colour to her characters and settings. Decades later,when Ernesto is a lad in the Seventies, the 'Ghost House' where the outsiders lived is derelict, a place where school bullies force victims to go. Ernesto ends up inside and confronts what may be the ghost of the 'wickedest man in the world'.
The sup[supernatural elements in this story are woven expertly into the fabric of Ernesto's tale, as he lives a life blighted by a few minutes of terror. Eventually he has to return to Sicily for his grandfather's funeral and forces himself to confront, for the last time, the evil spirit in the haunted house. There is hope, it seems, even for those of us who feel cursed and cast adrift.
Thus ends my running review of this latest collection from Tartarus. As always the book is a lovely thing in itself. The cover illustrator is not listed, so far as I can see.. Could this vignette be the work of the author, too?