Friday, 19 May 2023

DREAM FOX AND OTHER STRANGE STORIES by Rosalie Parker (Tartarus Press 2023)

NB I received a review copy of this book, and a very fine-looking volume it is.

Some authors are inspired by a particular landscape. The obvious example in the context of weird fiction is Arthur Machen, who often returned to the Welsh hills and valleys. In her new collection Rosalie Parker frequents the moors and dales of Yorkshire. Like Machen, her characters often encounter strange, sometimes mystical phenomena. However, they are seldom confronted with outright horror so much as a sense of unease and confusion shading into dread at times. Nature is not always red in tooth and claw but that's the way to bet. The title story, of a farm girl who finds a fox family more loving than her human kin, is playful but does not shy away from the violent implications of rejecting humanity in one way or another.

Monday, 1 May 2023

Charles Wilkinson - Books from Egaeus Press

I pride myself on knowing a good story when I see one, and I'm proud to have published several stories by Charles Wilkinson. He's won mainstream awards for his short fiction, so his work transcends genre. Most of Charles' stories have appeared elsewhere, in publications that are more prestigious than ST. And he has had several collections published by Egaeus Press. I am fortunate enough to own some of these books and can say with confidence that they really are collectors' items. 

The latest Wilkinson collection is The Harmony of the Stares, pictured above. 'These are tales in which music often plays a role: music as ritual, music as language, impossible music, lethal music. But here also are the silences, the stop-gaps between notes, the attempted retreats from the audible world.' 

Earlier collections are still available. Mills of Silence consists of eleven stories, plus the title novella. The theme of strange phenomena intruding on the everyday world is common to most if not all of the tales here. While the tone can be playful, it's arguably a case of whistling past the graveyard for many of the hapless individuals caught up in the cogs of various dark machinations.

'On the face of it, these are often recognisable realities populated by ordinary people; conspicuously so perhaps! Yet they are realities whose gossamer veneers are liable to tear, prone to reveal the insidious agencies, mad philosophers, fake-philanthropic organisations and amorphous forces that are really running things!' 

I note that two earlier collections of Charles Wilkinson's works are sold out. These will soon be gone, secreted no doubt on the more readily accessible shelves of discerning readers. These are the sort of books you take down to peruse when the rain lashes the window of your garret or (if you're lucky) turret. Modern fiction, but very much in the Gothic tradition. Fantastical, certainly, yet all too realistic in their portrayal of the grim farce that is life in England now. 

Wednesday, 19 April 2023

Best Horror of the Year - Vol 15

Over at the realm of the legendary Ellen Datlow, we find the table of contents for the latest of her prestigious anthologies. And gosh, wow, golly gee and so forth, an ST contribution does indeed appear. It's Steve Duffy's story 'The Harvester of Ladslove' from the rather spiffing issue 50, which you can purchase here if you like.

I send every issue of ST (in print form) to Ellen because I think she 'get's it' and she is always very keen to see what I'm publishing. It's interesting that she picked that particular story, given that it is very 'British' The setting is during and just after the First World War, which registers much less strongly on US cultural radar than it does here for obvious reasons. On the other hand, there's a hell of a monster, and the gradual buildup to the final scene is masterly. I suppose what I'm trying to say is that quality will out and it's a good thing that it does.

Any road up, congratulations to Steve Duffy, who did his apprenticeship, honed his craft, and has never failed to deliver a solid, well-crafted piece of fiction. I suspect that, were he a novelist, he would be considered one of the contemporary greats by many more people. As things stand, I'm lucky to know the guy. 

Sunday, 16 April 2023

The Legend of Seven Golden Vampires

One of the seven is already destroyed before the main action begins. And that, in capsule form, sums up the problem with this film. It's an international production (Hammer and Shaw, two fine studios) starring Peter Cushing as Van Helsing. It has good production values. It's set mostly in China, so we get a different feel to the usual Gothic castle/London particular stuff. The cast is good to excellent, providing Cushing with a solid crew of martial arts warriors plus a hitherto unsuspected son (yes, Van Helsing junior). And Dracula appears, right at the start, played with aplomb by John Forbes-Robertson (though voiced by the uncredited David de Keyser).  

Thursday, 6 April 2023

 David Longhorn - Books and Publications Spotlight | Lulu

Link above takes you to the online store wherein you may purchase this magazine or another one or maybe several, you have free will, choose wisely!

Not only a great cover by Sam Dawson, and a great line-up of authors, but also a glimpse of my duvet.

Thursday, 23 March 2023

THE FACES AT YOUR SHOULDER by Steve Duffy (Sarob Press 2023)


Excellent cover illustration by Paul Lowe

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher and am an old friend of the author.  This review contains a few spoilers.

In this introduction, Steve Duffy points out that the novelette - there are six here - offers the author a chance to build atmosphere and develop characters in a way shorter tales do not. He also concedes that M.R. James didn't need the long run-up but (rightly, I think) sees this as a mark of the man's brilliance. Whatever your view, though, this book is certainly substantial. Here are half a dozen strange worlds in capsule form. They all resemble our own a little too closely for comfort. 

DREAM FOX AND OTHER STRANGE STORIES by Rosalie Parker (Tartarus Press 2023)

NB I received a review copy of this book , and a very fine-looking volume it is. Some authors are inspired by a particular landscape. The ob...