The second story in Waiting in the Shadows (see previous blog entry) begins thusly: 'Pansy Williams had the misfortune to be exceptionally pretty.' You wouldn't think, with such an opening, that an enormous primeval phallus would feature prominently in the denouement. But it does. Sort of.
Pansy's brief journey through life is neatly described by Kate Haynes as a series of disappointments and frustration. She's too attractive to have friends, too shallow and self-centred to keep men. Eventually she resorts to changing her name to Paula and going on a dating website. It's that bad. At first things seem to be looking up, as Paula/Pansy contacts Rufus, a nice-seeming chap. They agree to meet up in a quaint old English town 'to the north east of Longleat'.
A nearby landmark is a chalk giant, a figure of a man 'in a state of arousal'. Paula does not approve of that sort of thing and is dismayed to find a mezzotint of the randy giant in her hotel lounge. What's more, when Rufus turns up he seems weak and sickly compared to his online picture. But as he is attentive and apparently wealthy she goes along with his suggestion that they have a picnic on the hill of the Standing Man. It is there that Paula realises things are not quite what they seem.
This is another story that nods to M.R. James, notably the hill figure in 'An Evening's Entertainment'. It offers a new take on an old theme that I won't reveal here. Very much a folk horror tale, this one has a distinct feel of Seventies spooky TV, in a good way. More from the running review soon.