Tuesday, 30 November 2021

'Coulter's Candy' by Johnny Mains

Our next story in Terror Tales of the Scottish Lowlands takes us back to Victorian times, and a genuine candyman on a downward curve. The story opens with Robert Colthart collapsing in the street, mocked by children for his ponderous belly. We've all been there. He wakes up on the kitchen table and his long-suffering wife tries to reassure him. A certain 'she' is dead and he has no reason to keep hitting the bottle, and indeed the pavement.

We then flashback to Colthart before the magistrate, admitting his unruly behaviour in a bumptious fashion. The penalty is stiffer than expected, and the seller of sweets faces a bleak future. But then, on a journey through a certain wood, he encounters someone who can solve his problems. For a fee, of course. A mention of Thomas the Rhymer makes clear who the lovely creature is, and how dangerous she could be. But at first, it seems Colthart has gotten the better of his problematic helper. However...

This is a nifty tale that combines a modern horror sensibility with a period setting. It's also a timely warning to older gentlemen to lay off the sugar, to be honest. I particularly liked a nod to one of my favourite M.R. James stories as Robert puts his fiendish plan into operation. 

More from this enjoyable anthology very soon...




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