Whitstable by Stephen Volk. Book review

WhitstableWHITSTABLE by Stephen Volk

Spectral Press, p/b, £15.00, LINK

Reviewed by David Brzeski

I was familiar with Stephen Volk as the writer behind the TV series, ‘Afterlife’, which I’d been telling everyone who’d listen they absolutely must watch for a few years now. This is the first piece of prose fiction I’ve read by him.

I loved ‘Afterlife’ so much that there was a real danger that my expectations for the author’s subsequent work might be too high. I needn’t have worried. In fact, my only problem in reviewing this book is that I may gush to an embarrassing extent about how wonderful it is.

‘Whitstable’ is an interesting amalgam of fact and fiction. Much of the book is based solidly on real events in the life of Peter Cushing and it’s written with such palpable love and respect for the man and his work that I found it greatly moving to read.

It’s set during the darkest period in Cushing’s life, not long after the death of his beloved wife. Stephen Volk has a talent for portraying sadness and grief, without having it make the whole work so oppressively bleak that it’s hard to read. It’s so beautifully written that I had cause to wipe my eyes on more than one occasion.

Peter Cushing strolls along the beach in Whitstable, having been forced to go out to avoid the constant pain of sympathetic calls from well-wishers. He meets a boy, who recognises him as ‘Van Helsing’ and desperately needs his help to stop a monster.

There are no supernatural happenings in this book. The “monster” is all too human and real. The way in which Stephen Volk parallels the events regarding this monster, with the scenes from one of Cushing’s horror films is simply brilliant writing.

I’ve occasionally written a review, in which I’ve stated that the book in question ought to win an award, but this one is SO good that I am willing to go out on a limb and say that it will not only definitely get my vote, but it WILL win awards for the best in its category for 2013… even though there are still another 8 months to go as I write. I was given a .pdf copy for review purposes and as soon as I finished it, I ordered a copy of the book. I NEVER do that!

I almost pity Mr Volk, as he is now in the unenviable position of having to follow this truly inspired piece of work.

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