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The Witnesses Are Gone

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  42 ratings  ·  13 reviews
The Witnesses Are Gone is a first-hand account of a journey into the underworld in all the wrong places. Martin Swann, its narrator, moves into an old house and finds a box of videocassettes in the garden shed. One of them has a bootleg copy of a morbid and disturbing film by a little-known French director, Jean Rien.
Hardcover, 80 pages
Published April 1st 2009 by PS Publishing (first published 2009)
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Average rating 4.02  · 
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 ·  42 ratings  ·  13 reviews

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Jul 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Joel Lane is no longer with us. He passed away November 2013 and it’s our great loss. In 2008 Mr. Lane was a Shirley Jackson Award novella finalist for “The Witnesses Are Gone”.

In the introduction to the book Conrad Williams tells us “This is as honest and as brutal a work of fiction as you are ever likely to read”, and I have to agree with that statement. The horror and dread is so subtly layered into the narrative that the reader becomes totally immersed in this cleaver narrative, when one s
I first read The Witnesses Are Gone just over a year ago. I loved it, but found it curiously (and fittingly) difficult to review. I didn't get much further than just writing the sentence: 'I am ecstatic with the wonderful discovery of Joel Lane's work.' Having recently read and adored Lane's debut From Blue to Black, I thought this might be a good time to revisit it.

It has one of those opening paragraphs. The kind I can't resist. This is so perfect to me:

Maybe if I hadn't bought the hous/>
May 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Joel's latest - he brought it along to the group, looks great.

It is excellent. I'm completely biased of course, but Joel has pulled out another creepy, wonderful read full of great images- I like them anyway (eg 'The sea was a grey scroll endlessly being wiped clean and re-written.' or 'Crows flapping overhead like scraps of burnt plastic').
A man, Swann, finds videotapes in the shed of his new (old and rundown) house, and discovers fragments of films from a French director Jean
Justin Steele
Apr 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Last month I posted a review of Ramsey Campbell's novel The Grin of the Dark. I liked it, but felt that it would have been more effective if it was trimmed to be shorter. Otherwise, the book was an example of a "man researches lost art (in this case films) and ends up going down a rabbit hole of darkness" story . Readers of horror will have seen variations on this theme done before, and Campbell used silent film clowns and a world that is perceived to be increasingly hostile to create a book tha ...more
Stephen Theaker
Apr 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
Martin Swann finds a videotape of an old French film in his new house. He doesn't really enjoy it - it's depressing, miserable and repetitive - but he can't stop thinking about it. When he tries to discover more about the director, Jean Rien, he finds only dead ends. He makes the mistake of persisting.

Before saying how wonderful this book was, it's worth saying first that instead of spending hours searching for old magazines, Martin might have had more luck in his quest if he'd begun
Feb 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
Martin Swann has amassed little of what would be considered conventional material significance over forty years and therefore is perhaps inevitably drawn towards the seemingly nihilistic movies of director Jean Rien. I say seemingly, because these are movies which go way beyond the usual 'cult' status, being so obscure that they are almost impossible to trace, with the suggestion that Rien's ouvre is somehow limiting and/or deleting itself; frustrating attempts to obtain copies and only appearin ...more
J. P. Wiske
Feb 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Few reviews refer to the anonymously (nemonymously) published short story that spawned Joel Lane's own The Witnesses Are Gone. I find that curiously apropos in a metafictional sort of way, as the shared premise of both stories is of works that defy attempts at serial contextualization by alternately vanishing themselves from the physical world and then from memory. Again appropriately, finding "The Vanishing Life and Films of Emmanuel Escobada" is challenging but possible... and happily, as yet,

G.R. Yeates
Aug 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I was initially wary of this novella as the search for a lost film of supernatural significance has been tackled a number of times in the horror; one of the most powerful examples I can think of being Ramsey Campbell's Ancient Images. However, this novella completely floored me.

The narrative follows Martin Swann who becomes obsessed with finding the remaining films of Jean Rien after he views one on an old video cassette. It starts off bleak and melancholy and this mood permeats every page thro
Jenna Clare
Mar 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book came in an indie book subscription that I get every month.

I can appreciate this writers style and understand why he was held in such high regard, however this just didn’t resonate with me.

Would probably be helpful to discuss with a fellow reader as you most definitely have to read between the lines to understand what the book is truly trying to represent.

Tom Loock
May 01, 2012 rated it it was ok
The Witnesses Are Gone was the first book I read by Joel Lane and based on this novella alone, it was also the last. No doubt, he is a competent writer and the descriptions of the greater Birmingham area and of Paris at night are very good, and from my own experience very accurate. I just don't enjoy reading stories of miserable people who become even more miserable and paranoid.
Note: I did not actively buy this title, but received it as part of a 'book bag'-deal from PS Publishing.
Eliza Victoria
Sep 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Read this novella in one sitting. Martin Swann finds an old videotape of an unsettling film by French director Jean Rien, and becomes obsessed in finding more about the auteur. Swann experiences an unnamed terror, a terrible unease, while overseas another kind of terror escalates as the US wages war against Iraq. Loved this. The language gave the story an ethereal quality, as though it were a dream.
Peter Riccio
Jan 16, 2013 rated it it was ok
This one's more of a 2.5, too bad we can't do half stars.
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Jul 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Frankly much ado about regret through an obsession. I appreciate the five star reviews given as the short novella's theme worked fast and was gripping but I didn't get much of a kick out of the predictable outcome at the end.
Mat Joiner
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“It's odd how much our perception of cities owes to stories and films.We talk about 'Dickensian' London as if it had some real existence beyond the page. Deep down, despite the evidence of our lives, we can't really believe that anything is ever made up.” 3 likes
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