Monday 25 June 2012

Jolly Good Chaps...

There I was, all ready to post up a piece about how chapbooks are the saviours of horror fiction when someone else goes and does it before me. This piece on the excellent This is Horror website pretty much sums up my feelings about the current crop of high quality chapbooks available to all discerning readers of horror fiction. (And I wholeheartedly agree with the point that they're the perfect length to be enjoyed on a commute to work). This is Horror have started their own line of chapbooks to which I've eagerly subscribed, and if they're all of the same quality as the first - Joe and Me by David Moody, then it's a decision well made.
I haven't read anything by David prior to this but Joe and Me has certainly whetted my appetite for more. It's a slow burner of a story, a first-person narration from Si, the "me" of the title, about his relationship with wife Gill and 8 year old son Joe. Si is a house-husband, Gill is a research scientist, developing an airborne vaccination against potential biological weapons. When the military take over the research it's clear that things are going to go badly - and so it proves.
This is a cleverly written story, apocalyptic but small scale at the same time, focussing on the family unit. The characters are all well drawn and entirely believable so that when the story reaches its conclusion, and a choice has to be made which will have profound effects not just for the family but the whole world, the decision arrived at is entirely believable too - and incredibly dramatic.
This is a great start to the This is Horror chapbooks and I look forward to the next issue in the subscription. That's going to be Thin Men With Yellow Faces by Gary McMahon and Simon Bestwick - which is pretty much my definition of a dream team.
The second chapbook I had the pleasure of reading on the train this week was The Eyes of Water by Alison Littlewood, the latest publication from Spectral Press. As with all the other publications from Spectral, this is a classy piece of writing. Subtle and understated, it delivers its horrors slowly and atmospherically.
Set in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, it tells of traveller Alex who and his old friend Rick - a diver who has been exploring the cenotes, flooded underground caves. When Rick's body is found with horrific - though somewhat inexplicable - injuries, Alex is called on to identify the remains by Rick's sister, an act which leads him to explore the circumstances surrounding his friend's death.
This exploration leads Alex into the flooded caves himself where he discovers... Well, that would be giving away too much, suffice to say that, like Joe and Me, a decision has to be made at the end of this story too which will have profound consequences...
The Eyes of Water is beautifully written, evoking a wonderful sense of atmosphere and creating well drawn characters. It's another quality production from Spectral and more than maintains the high standard already achieved.
Next up for Spectral is What Gets Left Behind by Mark West, pretty much a cast-iron guarantee that those standards are going to be maintained prospectively.
Can't wait.

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