The blurb suggests Within Wet Walls was inspired by M.R. James and Dickens. While I agree with these comparisons I was also reminded of ‘The House onThe blurb suggests Within Wet Walls was inspired by M.R. James and Dickens. While I agree with these comparisons I was also reminded of ‘The House on Rue Chartres’ by Richard A. Lupoff and Lisa Mannetti’s best work. Of course the style is the author’s own, devised and honed over the years as a writer and her work as editor on February Femmes Fatales, Thrills, Kills and Chaos and Ganglion Press. Lily Childs may finally be be on the point of her own literary breakthrough and may look back one day to recognize this publication as the catalyst of that turning point.
When you travel with Lundy you’ll be blindfolded with fear as you come closer to the manor. The recesses of cruelty seep through the walls of Wealdstone House falling in pools of horror and desire. The water ripples with the hum of a song. The melody twists through nearby woods leaving stains of music hanging from winter branches. A route that leads you to a story of another age. If you choose to follow the whispered aria make sure you wrap up warm because Lily Childs types with fingers of ice that refuse to melt even when they dig into your subconscious mind.
The book is a quick trip at only 30 pages long; compact for effect and easy to read in one short sitting. A perfect fireside read for these cold and windy nights, or by candlelight at Christmas.
It's obvious that the passing of Joel Lane in 2013 not only left a canyon in the hearts of so many who loved him, but it also left a crevice once destIt's obvious that the passing of Joel Lane in 2013 not only left a canyon in the hearts of so many who loved him, but it also left a crevice once destined to be filled with his stories now untold. On his blog McMahon suggests The Night Just Got Darker was never intended to be published, it was in fact the result of grief and that helplessness one feels when trying to understand the sudden loss of somebody you love. I’m glad he was persuaded to let others read this piece, to set it free into the wild and often scary world. Because this is a fitting tribute. It’s terrifying in its suggestions, it’s realistic in its social commentary and it’s also very personal; the journey of a man trying to hold things together when he knows in his heart they have already been washed from his hands.
The story focuses on the narrator, a typical suburban man with a house in a nice part of town, a mundane job that pays the bills and a wife cast ashore from their childless marriage. Gary McMahon weaves an unnerving series of events through the collapse of the narrator’s relationship and colours the set pieces with strokes of dark hues. The result is a story that pulls the reader in like discovering your swimming teacher has suddenly guided you into the deep end of the pool and is waving your armbands in the air.
The ennui of his situation pitches the mood perfectly for the world in which the narrator finds himself. A Hitchcockian device manipulated to great effect here – Innocuous spying on a neighbour across the street results in a spiraling journey into the heart of terror.
The neighbour in the window is a writer, but his stories don’t deal with normal plots. He tries to convince that his words and his tales are more important than that. We’ve all encountered writers who felt the same and the narrator backs away just as we would at a party. But the author’s claims are true, it’s not the ranting of an egotist at all and he has something terrifying in store to prove it. He writes a plot that upturns the life of his neighbour and the direction of McMahon’s story with a flick of vertigo.
Gary McMahon deals with huge issues in this short tale. He’s not afraid to throw down the chair and whip to let us glimpse into the lion’s mouth. While the social commentary, or rather social observation as there are really no answers here as in real life, is bleak it’s also very honest. There are times this story feels grubby, dusted with industrial pollution and industrialised relationships. But among the darkness and grime shines a purity. McMahon never offers hope for mankind, he merely observes the absence of rectitude in the people who inhabit and contaminate the world. That’s what makes this account so authentic. The author writes with such sharp quality it’s as though he’s lacerating the page with his words.
This hugely impressive story concludes towards a stark reality while playing with the tenets of fiction. It’s this duel of story against realism that offers strong shoulders to carry this tale. As in life we never truly know what is real and what is a conceit; the illusions of comfort, of love, of safety and of life can all be collapsed with a quick pull of a rug. Possibly The Night Just Got Darker is a wake-up call, a rallying cry to live, to be accountable for the world around us. Perhaps it’s a warning of the inevitable.
While the story is soaked with grief of one sort or another; of lost lives, lost chances and eventually the loss of everything, it’s also about waking the ghost. The night that awaits the narrator drunk and disorientated in another city without recall is alarming. Yet it also tells of the flip of a coin that life can be, and is more often than we care to admit to ourselves. It’s may appear to be an existential question but it’s deeper than that. It’s asking not just who we are but how we are. Does free will or divinity shape our lives. If it’s the latter then who is playing God?
Whichever way you read it you’ll be sure to feel a stone dropping inside your heart. This isn’t the sort of horror I’d tell you to read with the lights on, or to keep your feet and fingers inside the covers when you fall asleep, just in case. There are no comforters for this kind of horror. There is no safe place you can hide while turning up the lights to keep the shadows from dancing on your walls as you fall into your dreams. Because this atavistic horror. Horror that always was and always will be.
So cover yourself if you wish. Hide your face under the duvet if you think it may help. Turn up the lights if you want. But none of that will help because The Night Just Got Darker.
"It's like the Rough Guide they never dared release; The Rough Guide to The Island of Horror."
Aaron Dries novel A Place for Sinners from Samhain Publi"It's like the Rough Guide they never dared release; The Rough Guide to The Island of Horror."
Aaron Dries novel A Place for Sinners from Samhain Publishing is a real travelogue of horror. It starts with a child, Amity Collins, penned into a dark cave by feral dogs, helpless and static like the transistor radio that she carries around. The monsters never really leave after that; as much as the light never fully returns into the world of Amity, her brother Caleb or the people they meet. Sound is also stolen from her life after the gunshot to kill the dogs leaves Amity deaf.
We leapfrog into the present following the adult siblings as they plan an escape from their religiously zealous and overbearing mother. She’s a hoarder, a house full of yellowing newspapers, chipped bric-a-brac and broken lives. An Indonesian adventure awaits Amity and Caleb far from their tightknit Australian town and claustrophobic history.
Dries threads an assortment of outcasts and socially broken lives through this adventure. Robert Mann a New York copywriter with a life like a minefield used as a dancefloor by a herd of elephants. Matt, a German backpacker who attaches himself to the brother and sister. His relationship with Caleb becomes an invisible shard of glass, scratching at Amity and bleeding Caleb without either realizing. Then we have the most monstrous of characters. Sycamore is an English housewife with such a sadistic bent she makes the Whitechapel murders look like an episode of the Mickey Mouse Club.
Alison Littlewood has taken a risk in using a type of fractured tandem structure for her haunted house story. Supernatural tales are usually best leftAlison Littlewood has taken a risk in using a type of fractured tandem structure for her haunted house story. Supernatural tales are usually best left to a straightforward narrative that drives the reader along. But this isn’t a normal ghost story. This is a story of how ghosts are created and more importantly how they change the living world around them. The author took a risk and it paid off in spades.
The novel starts in present day. Nothing too unfamiliar here. A large country place called Mire House left in a will to Emma, a protagonist battling her own internal ghosts, a mystery surround the house and Charlie an uninvited relative from her childhood. While this territory may be familiar what follows is anything but.
The present is used like a framing device for two strands set in the past. The writing in the first part is haunting and beautifully written. It’s the kind of opening to a book that power companies love, as it’ll keep bedroom lights on all night across the country. Spectral visions, mysterious relatives showing up unannounced and terrifying events build to a horrifying crescendo. Then we’re swiftly transported back to the 1970s and meet a group of young boys daring each other to enter Mire House.
This is where we follow the path of the dark woman who haunts the house and the adjoining cemetery. We also follow Frank and his little brother Mossy. This Yorkshire childhood of the 1970s is so well observed it reminded me of Bill Naughton’s tales of childhood. But Alison Littlewood never allows you enjoy the exploits of these young scamps for too long without reminding you of the ghosts that lurk and the dangers they pose.
Reaping the Dark is like a chop shop muscle car of a novella. Part gritty crime, part Satanic occult and part siege horror. These hybrid parts are fusReaping the Dark is like a chop shop muscle car of a novella. Part gritty crime, part Satanic occult and part siege horror. These hybrid parts are fused together with precision by Gary McMahon to bring us a short but fantastic read.
The book begins with a drug deal which leaves all but the leader of a crime gang dead and the getaway driver speeding off with a bag of stolen money in the footwell. This is gritty and taut crime writing works due to McMahon’s ability to write well observed and believable characters. He places these people in unforgiving circumstances and their actions are realistically observed.
Clarke, the driver, now has the chance for the ultimate getaway. With the bag of stolen money he realises he can take his pregnant wife and start a new life driving in the movies in Hollywood. But this dream is stunted when gang leader McKenzie kidnaps Clarke’s wife as a way to regain the loot.
Whitstable may read like Stephen Volk’s billet-doux to Peter Cushing at first, but it’s not long before we discover this is a profound and layered talWhitstable may read like Stephen Volk’s billet-doux to Peter Cushing at first, but it’s not long before we discover this is a profound and layered tale of human frailty. A story of a man looking for a meaning to life and a reason to live it.
The novella’s setting is an astute choice by Volk. It’s a time of grief and introspection for Peter Cushing, recently widowed, doubtful of his talents; a perfect time to introduce a real life horror. Though the monster here is not the sort we associate with the late actor’s films. Volk replaces the Kensington Gore with the poisonous bile of real monsters that prey upon the weak and vulnerable.
The author transports the reader onto the windy beaches of the small town in Kent in 1971 where we meet the grieving Cushing. When a child approaches the actor and confuses him with his much loved Hammer character, the vampire hunter Van Helsing, the decision of using a real person as a protagonist makes perfect sense. Of course Whitstable isn’t biographical so the Cushing we meet is part real and part Volk’s creation to fit the story. The author has captured a Peter Cushing fans will recognise while adding real life attributes and a good dash of fictionalisation to suit the tale.