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Showing posts from May, 2017

'Jack Werrett,the Flood Man'

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This story is an interesting example of what used to be called magical realism, and possibly still is. It might also be a case of the 'new weird' but I'm not sure what that is. The point is that Rebecca Lloyd again provides a good rural character study with a paranormal twist. An academic rents a house from two eccentric sisters, who then insist that they move in with her. This far from ideal arrangement seems to cause bizarre aquatic activity. Water forms odd, humped puddles on stairs. Taps drip but leave no evidence of wetness. The sisters believe it's all down to the titular Jack Werrett, who in life had extraordinary powers over water. In death a dispute over the ownership of the family home has apparently led him to get a bit shirty, not to mention drippy. This nicely-crafted story reminded me slightly of the fine and neglected A. E. Coppard. It is a little less quirky that Coppard's tales of the countryside, but has the same feel. Rural England is not mer

'Christy'

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A surprise, here, in Rebecca Lloyd's Seven Strange Stories . The previous two tales I've read and reviewed are very British in character, but now we're in rural America. I suspect the Midwest USA is intended, rather than the South. But wherever it is, somebody is playing 'Duelling Banjos' in the vicinity. The story is told by Yola, a much-abused wife and mother, as an extended flashback to the Seventiees and the disappearance of her beloved son Earl. Earl was lamed by rickets, a condition that also afflicted Yola's only daughter. The poor girl was disposed of by her ghastly father, Daddy Hines. As a concession to his wife he does not murder his lame son. It's that kind of set up. Earl vanished a few weeks after he starts taking about Christy. An imaginary friend? A ghost? Some combination of the two? Who- or whatever Christy is, when he touches Earl the boy is scarred by icy fingertips. Or is the whole thing a figment of Yola's imagination? Her frien

'Again'

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Dipping a second time in Seven Strange Stories by Rebecca Lloyd I find myself thinking of L.P. Hartley. (Try it yourself, it's free.)  'Again' is a tale that recalls Hartley's very British  approach to what the French call contes cruels.   If you know your Hartley, think of 'The Travelling Grave', 'The Killing Bottle', or 'The Cotillion'.  In each of those stories we have a typical English country house setting, with guests that would not be out of place in an Evelyn Waugh novel, or perhaps Wodehouse. But what transpires is strange and disturbing, both unexpected and yet with the hideous inevitability of nightmare. 'Again' has a first person narrator, Richard, who is desperate to avoid his wife's friend Diane from making a scene. The story begins when they meet on the stairs after Richard leaves his guests to replenish the ice bucket. Diane is confused, unsure why she is in Richard's house. Gradually, as he haran

'The Pantun Burden'

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The first tale I read in Rebecca Lloyd's Seven Strange Stories is on the margins of English folk horror. All the ingredients are there, but the story is far from formulaic or predictable. It is not so much horror, I feel, as a tale of belief and delusion. Who is deluded is not entirely certain. An educated person - in this case a scientist conducting a firefly survey - encounters superstition and general weirdness in a small village. The cast of characters includes some odd types, such as The Chicken Man. The description of the latter's bungalow, with the inside of its windows caked with the crap of his most favoured poultry, is one that sticks with me. Good job it's not a scratch 'n' sniff book. The Pantuns of the title are a mother and son, village outcasts thanks to a curse that they believe leads to supernatural manifestations. The way in which the narrator tries to deal with what she feels sure is an abusive relationship is realistic and not too harrowing.

Seven Strange Stories

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Hark! 'Tis the cheery rapping of the friendly neighbourhood postman, delivering another review copy from Tartarus Press. Seven Strange Stories by Rebecca Lloyd looks interesting and is a beautifully made book, as you'd expect. I will be doing one of my now almost-popular 'running reviews' of these seven stories in about seven days. Fingers crossed. Lloyd is a new writer to me, so I'm coming at these tales with no preconceptions. I should remark that these are not all short stories. Two of them are really novellas,as you can see from the TOC. What's more, one is set in the eighteenth century, which is part of an interesting trend. Once period weird fiction tended to focus on the Victorian-Edwardian era, but it's been creeping back to its Gothic roots, I suspect. Anyway, more of all that theorising anon. So thanks to Tartarus, reviewing hat on, and much reading to do!

Eloise, by Ibrahim R. Ineke

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You've read my review of Ibrahim Ineke's graphic adaptation  of Machen's 'The White People', haven't you? It's just down the page a bit, if not. Eloise, or, the Realities , to give it its full title, is a longer and purely original work. Original, that is, in terms of character and story. Its central idea and treatment is very reminiscent of British folk horror TV of the Seventies. This is no accident. In the blurb we read that Eloise is partly 'inspired by classic TV series such as Children of the Stones and The Owl Service'. I would add Penda's Fen to that list, with perhaps a dash of Nigel Kneale. From the start it's clear that Ineke's setting is that of the pre-internet era when social networks for kids consisted of old-style friendships. It was not an idyllic world, though we may remember it as such. The story begins with Eloise's parents - who are never really more than ciphers - packing for a move. "Where's E

The Sign of Ouroboros

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Exciting title, eh? Full of mystical significance, and snakey goodness. Anyway, it's my latest book from Scare Street. It involves a mysterious cult, mass hypnosis, and sleazy but unwary men being eaten alive. So that's all the ingredients you'd expect to find in a good old-fashioned yarn. You can find out a bit more here . It's available as an ebook and in good old fashioned processed tree. Oh, and it's the first in a three book series that just gets more bonkers and intriguing as events unfold. And I should know, I'm still writing the last one. A list of other books by yours truly can be found here .

'The White People'

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I am the lucky recipient of not one but two review copies of weird graphic tales by Ibrahim R. Ineke . I'll be reviewing the longer book, Eloise , in a few days. But first a re-imagining of Arthur Machen's 1904 classic 'The White People'. If you haven't read it, go and do so now.  Done that? Okay, as you probably know 'The White People' is held by many to be one of the best pieces of weird fiction in English. It's a short, superficially simple story. In a framing narrative two erudite gentlemen discuss the nature of evil. One argues that true evil is a pure as true goodness, and thus has an innocent quality. To support his case he produces a journal written by an unknown child which details her induction and training in a nameless cult.  The contrast between the simple, childish language and what is being done to her is deeply disturbing. The story is not an obvious candidate for any of the visual arts.It depends on the reader trying to

Audio Stuff

If you go here you will find some of my older readings, including stories from ST. Below is a small sample. This is a test of my incompetence with html. The story should be 'Ancient Lights' by Algernon Blackwood.

Richard Dalby 1949-2017

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Richard Dalby , who died recently, was one of the most prolific and knowledgeable editors of supernatural fiction. His expertise extended beyond ghost stories, embracing children's fiction, detective literature, and book illustration. He was responsible for so many first-rate anthologies that his influence on writers and fans of these genres must have been immense. It is never easy to quantify in the influence of an editor. But I suspect that most of the people reading these words know his books. He shaped many minds and we are poorer for his departure. On my own bookshelf I have a copy of the Ghosts and Scholars anthology, which Richard co-edited with that other great expert on ghostly fiction, Ro Pardoe. He edited two volumes of The Virago Book of Ghost Stories , The Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories , and Dracula's Brood: Neglected Vampire Classics . All are worth seeking out. I regret not getting to know Richard in person, but on the occasions I corresponded with him (he n

Trilogy of Terror (1973)

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I love anthology horror movies, and I revere the great Richard Matheson. So surely a TV movie featuring not one but three Richard Matheson stories would be pretty damn good, huh? Nope. First aired as an ABC Movie of the week in March, 1973, Trilogy of Terror is an object lesson in the strengths and weaknesses of its format. It was intended partly as a showcase for Karen Black, who stars in each segment as a different character. If you don't know who Karen Black is, this is who she is. She's the one in the foreground. Twice. The guy in the background is, well - more later.

Twixt (2011)

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"So, how does it feel to be the bargain-basement Stephen King?" I think I can safely say this is now what a horror writer wants to hear on a book signing tour. But it is what horror writer Hall Baltimore hears from Bobby LaGrange, sheriff in a small town with a very odd history. It's a funny old place, Swann Valley, what with its belfry clock that has seven dials, each showing a different time. Then there's the old hotel where Edgar Allan Poe once stayed. Oh, and the colony of Goths on the other side of lake who the sheriff blames for a spate of murders. Murders in which the victim is staked through the heart. Naturally. Bobby (a bonkers Bruce Dern) explains to Hall (a chubby, pony-tailed Val Kilmer) that he thinks the 'vampire equivalent of the electric chair' was used to kill the girl in the morgue. For good measure the sheriff has constructed a small working model of the staking machine. Hall, who's having the usual writers' problems with his