Monday 11 January 2016

The Hyde Hotel

The Hyde Hotel is an anthology of stories set in, and around, the titular establishment. It’s published by Black Shuck Books and edited by James Everington and Dan Howarth with the latter also providing one of the stories and the former and introduction and epilogue (“checking in” and “checking out”). Hotels, of course, are classic venues for horror, a resource that has been mined on numerous occasions most famously (perhaps) in King’s (and Kubrick’s…) The Shining and recently with one of my favourite hotel-horrors, Stephen Graham Jones’ The Elvis Room. James himself is no stranger to the location, check out (see what I did there…) his story The Other Room for evidence.

I have to say, this is an impressive collection of stories and one that provided an excellent start to 2016. It begins with The View From the Basement by Alison Littlewood which introduces the character of the hotel itself – something that features in many of the stories. More than just a building (of course) its disorienting architecture and atmosphere can influence and coerce. Staffing problems are non-existent, turnover is minimal but carried out smoothly and efficiently as demonstrated in Iain Rowans Night Porters – of all the stories contained herein the one which perhaps most directly references The Shining.

Other hotel staff are the subject of Dan Howarth’s Tick Box – a group of individuals whose task of karma maintenance produces almost enough blood to fill an elevator. The red stuff is used to good effect in Alex Davis’ Something Like Blood, where metaphor becomes reality in a tale of confusion and identity.

The fabric of the building itself (and possibly its inhabitants too) provided the starting point for Amelia Mangan’s The Edifice of Dust, an enigmatic piece that spans past, present and future and which really gets under your skin.

Lost and Found by S P Miskowski sees history repeating itself in a series of diary entries charting an American tourist’s attempts to follow in the footsteps of her favourite author Muriel Watson. An author named Watson? Nothing good could ever come of that. It doesn’t.

Hotels are of course a magnet for suicides – where better to end your days than somewhere impersonal and anonymous? Such is the subject matter of Ray Cluley’s Housekeeping – an obtuse little story (it’s the shortest in the book) which demands a repeat reading. Possibly even this won’t be enough to reveal all its secrets and hidden meanings. Maybe a third reading is necessary. (I’ve read it three times).

The Coyote Corporation’s Misplaced Song is the least strange thing about Cate Gardner’s story. It’s a real slice of surrealism involving a suicide bomber who is terrified of children and an explosive device called “Lullaby”. I’m not usually a fan of stories which are weird for weird’s sake but I really enjoyed this one, having the odd chuckle to myself along the way.

Simon Bestwick’s The Wrath of the Deep has possibly the loosest connection to the hotel theme (a key scene plays out in a hotel room early on but other than that it’s a bit tenuous) but the nastiness of the characters inhabiting the story and the narrative that unfolds make this a minor quibble, providing a very entertaining tale of double-crosses and revenge.

Those unsettling conversations that drift in from hotel corridors and adjoining rooms play a big part in Mark West’s The Sealed Window – a beautifully paranoid experience that leads to a twisty ending and a cracker of a last line.

The wallpaper may not be a Gilmanesque yellow but the effect of staying in a room in the Hyde Hotel is comparable, at least as far as Gwen is concerned as VH Leslie sings the blues to end the collection. The Blue Room provided a strong finish to wrap up a hugely satisfying anthology. James and Dan have done a Grand job here. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay in The Hyde Hotel and I’m sure everyone who graces its doors will too. You can check out any time you like of course, but be warned – you just can never leave.

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