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Showing posts from January, 2021

Crooked Houses - 'Your House, Any House, That House' by Rebecca Kuder

This anthology of haunted house stories from Egaeus Pres s begins with a flanking attack on the sub-genre. Rebecca Kuder's tale is that of a haunted house in a small town. People tell stories about what happened there. There was a fire, and a girl. A father tells the story to his son, but not to us, at least not directly. Instead Kuder offers a new take on the familiar, fragmenting the narrative into a series of short, oblique references, giving us the story by not telling us exactly what happened. But we can guess. There are some wonderful scenes, here, which recall the careful ambiguities of the original Modernists, Woolf in particular.  Mrs. Raine, who always wore starched yellow blouses and used to tach math back when my mother was in school, said she knew the people who owned the house before the fire. Mrs. Raine said they were good people. But Mrs. Raine said it all so quietly and she was so faded and old that no one could hear her, or they just didn't listen. This is typ

Darroll Pardoe

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Sad news - I just learned of the death of Darroll Pardoe , lifelong partner and collaborator of Ghosts & Scholars editor Ro Pardoe. I only met Darroll a few times, and as we are both rather shy I don't think I ever had a very long conversation with him. But I remember him as a man with a great sense of humour who wore his considerable learning lightly.  Darroll was a scholar and a gentleman, and will be remembered with affection by all who had the good fortune to have met him. You can find out more about him at the link above and at Pigs Can Fly .

Crooked Houses - Running Review

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 Over at Egaeus Press , the anthology Crooked Houses is on a second printing. This seems like a good opportunity to review a pdf sent to me by one of the writers in a rather starry line up. A lot of the authors here have been published in ST, which is always promising! Here is the blurb from EP to give you some idea of what to expect. Alas! Is there a theme in supernatural fiction more prone to clichĂ© and cozy familiarity than the haunted house story?      With this mammoth new anthology, Egaeus Press aims to reclaim that supremely primal tradition, not only from glossy movies, cartoons and television-era ghost hunters, but also from the Victorians, and the great, academic spook story authors of the 20th Century who, by their nature, sought to calibrate, anthropomorphise and provide justification for acts by forces which might hitherto have been considered beyond the scope of human comprehension.     Crooked Houses takes its cue from this earlier age. Though many of the stories prese

THE LAMPPOST HUGGERS - Review

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  There's been much debate over whether our attention spans are getting shorter. Maybe they are, but if so they've been shrinking for a long time. Consider the difference between the relative brevity of a ghost story from - say - the 1930 and one written in the 1870s. The rise of mass education, print journalism, and later cinema and broadcast entertainment all changed our tastes and expectations. But it's fair to say that flash fiction - the publication of very short stories online - is something new. Without the internet we wouldn't have it. And, for my money, it's a good thing.  Christopher Stanley's debut collection of flash fiction shows how the genre straddles the nebulous territory between the traditional short story and free verse. If a story is extremely short, every word must count. And they do, by and large. As each story takes only a couple of minutes to read the effect is rather like a series of blackly comic sketches, with the usual proviso about

The Red Room | A Ghost Story by H.G. Wells

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Tales From The Far Side: Night Terrors

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Mean Mary - Sweet Jezebel

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Bit of Southern Gothic here from Mean Mary. A neat little story in the lyrics.

ILL MET BY DARKNESS by Paul Finch - Review Part 4.

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The final novella in this collection from Sarob Press  is 'Spirit of the Season', which 'explores the idea of old Christmas, strange ritual, ancient powers and age-old winter terrors'. It certainly does.  The story begins with a childhood recollection of a rather creepy Christmas decoration. Then we move up to date with a husband and wife team planning the next in a series of books about folklore. The husband, a folklorist, has discovered what he thinks may be the first reference in English to Father Christmas - originally called 'Old Christmas'. He suspects that the familiar character has odd, dark origins and invites a medium to a remote, half-renovated castle where a strange manifestation allegedly took place in the reign of Henry V.  The medium - one inevitably thinks of Margaret Rutherford - is nervous and wonders if this is a standard haunting or something more peculiar. A foray into the cellars reveals that there are indeed some unburied secrets. Psychic

An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street | J. Sheridan ...

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ILL MET BY DARKNESS by Paul Finch: Review Part 3.

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Here we are with the third of four novellas, and we're in the folk horror country. Anyone who knows the sub-genre will recognise the signs early on. Rural England - Lancashire, to be precise. A couple of characters who've never been in this part of the world before. A strange, hand-painted road sign. A crucial date - in this case, November 5th. The scene is set.  'The Hell Wain' sees two London gangsters arriving in a small town to seek out and retrieve - by brute force - an informer living under a witness protection. The have been tipped off that the small-time grass is working in a bookshop in a nowhere kind of place called Hackenthorpe. Back in the 'burning times' of Bloody, a terrible thing happened there. The home-made road sign reading No Popery furnishes one clue, a burned out church another. The hard men - one old hand and the impetuous son of the big boss - soon find that the town is a place that has known extreme violence of its own. As the plot unfold

ILL MET BY DARKNESS by Paul Finch - Review Part 2.

The second story in this collection from Sarob Press, 'Down to a Sunless Sea', plays with genre by combining two popular ideas. Firstly, a mysterious man with something on his mind offers to sell a priceless artefact to a museum. But when the representative of the museum presses the seller for more information, the story that emerges is one of deception, organized crime, and underwater adventure. And there's also a very impressive monster.  The story centres on the ancient myth of Europa, the queen abducted by Zeus in the form of a bull, because that's how he rolled. A couple of British ex-Paratroopers find themselves seduced by naughty ladies into going on a dangerous dive off a Greek island to plunder an ancient site. It transpires that not only was Europa a very real person, but also that a guardian was set over her tomb - a guardian that was still very active after thousands of years. The story is inventive, full of convincing detail, and has some excellent action s

ILL MET BY DARKNESS by Paul Finch - Review Part 1.

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A new book from Sarob Press! Actually it's a book that was published in December but I just got around to starting it, so apologies for the delay. And here's the cover... Is it me or is there a distinct Man-Size in Marble feel about that image? Anyway, it's a cracking cover by Paul Lowe.  The contents consist of four long short stories or novella, if you like, and all previously unpublished. The first, which I read last night in bed, is 'Snicker-Snack'. Lewis Carroll fans with recognise the term at once - it's from 'Jabberwocky', the poem read by Alice during her looking glass adventures. The story's premise is clever and compelling - a British comic book artists whose work was so disturbing that it his career was ruined. But not before his publisher, glimpsing the artist's conception of the Jabberwock, was sent stark raving mad.  The story concerns Gilpin, a former book-hunter who has fallen into the clutches of a dodgy character. Gilpin is for

THE VIGIL - Review

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This was a surprise - relatively low-budget horror movie that gets it right. This is a tale of supernatural evil, and the way it intersects with the very human evil we see every day, and learn about from the study of history. Suffice to say, I was spooked. The premise is simple. In modern New York, Yakov (Dave Davis) is a young man who has suffered mental illness and is part of a support group. He is a former Hassidic Jew (please note, much of the dialogue is in Yiddish), and has left the strict Orthodox world for a confusing, bright, and often scary world beyond. We first see him admitting to struggling to earn a living, and having problems talking to girls. He is not savvy with his new mobile phone, which becomes significant later on.

The Death Spancel and Others - Running Review, Part 3

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I have to admit that lockdown has not done me much good when it comes to reading. I have struggled to focus on books, just as I've found it difficult to commit to TV series or films. At the moment I feel weary and despairing, but I must finish this review of an excellent book. So, here goes. The last two stories in this Katherine Tynan collection are typically imaginative. 'The Picture on the Wall' appears, at first, to be one of those haunted portrait tales, as a young man goes to the north of England to meet the rather grim family of his fiancée. But the portrait turns out to be something rather different - a two-faced work of art that reveals a terrible family history. In marked contrast is 'The Fields of My Childhood', prose-poem reminiscence. Tynan could offer healthy sentiment and grim plot twists with equal aplomb. The collection also includes three non-fiction pieces, two of them about Tynan. One is 'Sweet Singer from Over the Sea', in which a report

Fritz Leiber - "Monsters And Monster Lovers"

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A rare chance to hear one of the greats of weird fiction talking about the genre. and he is very entertaining. What a voice!

Number Ninety by B. M. Croker, told by Edward E. French

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