Reviewed by Ian Hunter
I didnâ€™t have a great raffle at this yearâ€™s FantasyCon, no big prizes, just a load of books, some I kept, some I left on that table next to the lift for freebies, but amongst all the books was a gem, a treasure as they say, in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. What was it? It was a CD made by The Rolling Darkness Review. Who they? you ask. Well, they just happen to be Peter Atkins, Dennis Etchison and Glenn Hirshberg, reading a story each, in between a tense framing device, and some eerie, driving music that gets on your nerves, as if the stories donâ€™t manage that all by themselves.
Hirshberg reads his modern classic, â€˜American Moronsâ€™, a story I had encountered in Steve Jonesâ€™ Best New Horror, Etchison reads â€˜One of Usâ€™, a story unfamiliar to me, so thatâ€™s a real treat, and Atkins reads â€˜The Cubistâ€™s Attorneyâ€™ told laconically from the viewpoint of a world weary lawyer, and this was another story I had encountered in the pages of the very essential Best New Horror.
I say all that because â€˜The Cubistâ€™s Attorneyâ€™ features in Rumours of the Marvellous, which brings together 14 of Atkinsâ€™s stories under one roof. Itâ€™s a nicely put together package with a great cover illustration of Atkins by Les Edwards, and some quotes by the likes of Neil Gaiman, Michael Marshall Smith, Ramsey Campbell, Nancy Holder, Kim Newman, his old mate Clive Barker, Jo Fletcher and Paul Kane among others, all telling you how good the man is, and why you should by this book. Iâ€™m not going to argue with any of them and have to confess to being a fan of Atkins ever since I bought his novel Morningstar when it was launched at FantasyCon back in the day (okay, make that some time last century â€“ was it really that long ago?), and Big Thunder is also one of my favourite reads of his.
He doesnâ€™t write enough novels or short stories for my liking — too busy doing other things in the land of movie making, I reckon — so itâ€™s a real treat to have these stories side by side as they stretch back from 2011 to 1992. I wonâ€™t spoil your enjoyment by highlighting particular ones, suffice to say that you are in the hands of one of the best and most original writers of horror and dark fantasy to come along in the last twenty years; but Atkins is also a great stylist with a truly original voice, so be prepared to be entertained, enlightened and educated in the fine art of short story writing. Oh, and be scared, really, really scared.
RotM, published as a numbered limited edition hardcover, is signed by Peter Atkins, Glen Hirshberg (Introduction) and Les Edwards (Cover art).