Ghosts Know — book reviewsComments Off
Reviewed by John Howard
Being a character in a Ramsey Campbell novel is never an easy option. Good, bad, and all shades in between: they’re all in it together and it’s usually hell – or even worse. Graham Wilde in Ghosts Know is no exception. Wilde is the presenter of a radio phone-in show. He stands up for the right things, challenging the views of his callers and refusing to let them get away with sloppy thinking or inaccurate comments. But all too often Wilde seems unable to actually say the right thing, to either his listeners or his friends. His very articulateness continually lets him down, and his rage grows. It’s Down the Line going truly toxic, barely remaining on the rails (or the air).
When a teenage girl goes missing, a psychic is brought in to provide his version of help and comfort. He also gets interviewed on Wilde’s show; the two men have something of a Past. From then on Ghosts Know develops into a narrative of the blackest humour and suspense. The novel is taut and intense. Campbell’s imagery never ceases to startle and makes sure that the reader is always kept off-balance and uncertain – just enough. Questions get answered with more questions; the main characters are always on the edge, ready to fall or get pushed by the unintended consequences of words and actions.
Ghosts Know is a story of seeing and sight. There is what a psychic sees and says he sees; what is seen through the eyes of anger, suspicion, and grief; and what can only be seen when un-regarded pieces finally and laboriously come together and understanding dawns into sight. The truth that Wilde eventually confronts is messy and ambiguous, in contrast to that apparently declared through psychic revelation. And then for our sake (as well as Wilde’s) Ghosts Know doesn’t seem to end entirely in the darkness, but rather in a new light made all the more worthwhile because of what had to be endured in order to be able to see it.
Horror Zine anthology – What Fears BecomeComments Off
“From horror masterminds Ramsey Campbell, Graham Masterton, Joe R. Lansdale, Elizabeth Massie, Piers Anthony, Melanie Tem, Cheryl Kaye Tardif, Tim Jeffreys, Scott Nicholson, Conrad Williams, Simon Clark and a host of other respected authors, poets and artists comes What Fears Become, a terrifying collection of bone-chilling, nail-biting horror that is sure to keep you awake until all hours of the night.
This anthology brings together some of the best works from The Horror Zine, an online magazine dedicated to giving you chills and thrills. Edited by Jeani Rector, each story, poem and art work within showcases an international talent that will give you shivers.”
Shadow Publishing announces forthcoming titlesComments Off
First, The Satyr’s Head: Tales of Terror, edited by David A. Sutton, cover art by Steve Upham. This is the first new edition of the long out of print Transworld/Corgi Book The Satyr’s Head and Other Tales of Terror, first published in 1975. With stories by Ramsey Campbell, Brian Lumley, Joseph Payne Brennan, Eddy C. Bertin, David A. Riley and others, this new edition will bring back into print some ten chilling tales of the supernatural and the sub-human, of ghosts and demons, strange phenomena and the inexplicable.
The Writers From the Shadows series will revive the work of some of the genre writers whose work has been overshadowed and overlooked down the years.
The first of these will be The Female of the Species and Others by Richard Davis (1945-1990). The author worked in the 1970s as a script editor for the BBC’s Out of the Unknown series and edited the first three volumes of The Year’s Best Horror Stories, published by Sphere Books, as well as editing a string of other horror and science fiction anthologies. He published a number of short stories which have remained uncollected and this new book will remedy this. Also included will be an interview conducted with the author in 1969, in which he discusses his writing, his film Viola and working as story editor for Late Night Horror and Out of the Unknown, plus a comprehensive introduction.
Next, Temple of the Fox: Writers from the Shadows Series # 2, by James Wade (1930-1983), collects a number of the author’s genre short stories from the 1960s onwards. After army service, James Wade settled in Korea and he wrote widely on music for a variety of periodicals. His symphonic and chamber music has been performed in many countries, and he completed an opera based on Richard E. Kim’s best-selling novel of the Korean War, The Martyred. James Wade’s work includes the Cthulhu Mythos yarns, The Deep Ones and A Darker Shadow over Innsmouth and others such as Temple of the Fox, which only ever saw print in Korea. His work has been anthologised by such noted editors as August Derleth, Ramsey Campbell and Herbert Van Thal. The collection will also contain an essay, The Mass Media Horror, a short article first published in 1971, plus some verse and a comprehensive introduction.
Finally comes The Shadow Book of Horror – an anthology of new and obscure short stories. No further details yet on the content or format. Writers may wish to contact David Sutton to receive writers’ guidelines when available. Please use the contact form on the Shadow Publishing website.
Horror at Chester libraryComments Off
Award winning horror writer and BFS President Ramsey Campbell will be hosting an evening of horror at Chester Library on Wednesday 19th October at 7:00pm. Ramsey is celebrating his 50th year in print this year. Come if you dare!
Tickets cost £3 for library members and £4 for non-members, please contact the library to book your place.
Chester Library, Northgate Street, Chester, CH1 2EF
Recent PS Publishing titles and the new Stephen KingComments Off
PS Publishing reports that the special limited edition numbered/slipcased copies of Stephen King’s 11.22.63 are almost sold out. This special edition contains facsimile signature plus a DVD written, directed and narrated by King which won’t be made available anywhere else. Copies are expected early in November (the official publication date is 8 November 2011). Trade copies will also be available from Hodder & Stoughton.
Also selling well are the new PS titles launched at FantasyCon:
Tickets still available for BFS/Ilkley Literature Festival eventComments Off
Tickets are still available for the BFS event at Ilkley Literature Festival on Wednesday 12 October from 7:30pm – 9:00pm.
Ramsey Campbell, Mark Morris and Peter Crowther will take part in a reading, panel discussion and book signing at the event at Ilkley Playhouse, Weston Road, Ilkley, West Yorkshire.
Tickets cost £6 (£4 concessions) and can be purchased from the festival website.
Terror Tales of the Lake DistrictComments Off
Gray Friar Press announces its latest anthology, Terror Tales of the Lake District, edited by Paul Finch.
“The Lake District — land of mountains and megaliths, night-black lakes and fathomless woods filled with spectral mist …
The eerie entity on Striding Edge
Chilling tales by Ramsey Campbell, Adam Nevill, Simon Clark, Peter Crowther, Reggie Oliver, Gary McMahon and other award-winning masters and mistresses of the macabre.
This wild, mountainous region in northwest England is famous for its towering crags, deep woods and majestic lakes. It is still one of the most popular holiday destinations in the whole of the UK, particularly for climbers, hikers, campers and yachtsmen. But some corners of it are extremely remote and even now in the 21st century remain wreathed in rural mystery and spooky superstition.
This brand new anthology, edited by master of chills, Paul Finch, contains ten works of original horror fiction all set in England’s haunting Lake District, and three classic reprints. It also features numerous anecdotal tales concerning true incidents of Lakeland terror which will ensure you’ll never regard that scenic part of the world in the same innocent light again.”
Just Behind You, Ramsey CampbellComments Off
Ramsey Campbell is the reason I joined the BFS and came to my first Fantasycon. My respect for his writing is not blinded, though: I thought his last collection from PS, Told by the Dead (2003), was very uneven – too many old, orphaned stories left out from previous collections weakened its impact.
Not so Just Behind You. I read far more short story collections than I do novels, but still of all the volumes I’ve read in the past year (be it single author or multi-writer anthologies) Campbell’s is by far the best. And the reason he’s the best living horror writer today is because he has the ability – unequalled by any other practitioner – to imbue his prose with a sense of foreboding and menace. On every single line. Of every single paragraph. On every single page. The story lines themselves are enough to haunt, but combined with his (in the strictest dictionary definition of the word) unique style causes the reader’s arms to run cold with gooseflesh.
As superb as this book is, it is notable for the absence of three recent tales, “The Decorations”, “Peep” and “The Long Way” – all selected for the annual Best New Horror anthology. Still, that only bodes well for the next collection…
Just Behind You, Ramsey Campbell, PS Publishing. 2009 £20 hb. £50 signed slipcased hb.
New Horizons #5 / Prism 2010, issue 2Comments Off
If you’re not already a member of the Society, I’m afraid you’ve almost certainly left it too late to get your hands on either of these: a last minute upswing in membership left the print orders looking a bit pessimistic!
Prism features the editor’s report on the World Horror Convention, along with dozens of reviews, an interview with Shaun Jeffrey, columns by John L. Probert, Ramsey Campbell and Mark Morris, and without a doubt the finest, most lovingly crafted Chairman’s Chat the British Fantasy Society has ever seen. Prism is edited by David A. Riley. Cover art by Howard Molloy.
New Horizons issue five, edited by former Elastic Press supremo Andrew Hook, features stories by Craig Hallam, Frank Roger, Terry Grimwood, Mark Finnemore, Allen Ashley and Douglas Thompson, and a series of bite-sized interviews by Andrew with literary luminaries at the World Horror Convention 2010, including Neil Gaiman, Ian Watson and Paul Cornell. The fantastic cover art is by George Cotronis.
Ramsey’s Rant: Page TurnersComments Off
The sole book to be seen was Page Turner, the latest Turner adventure from Midas Paperbacks, bound in either gold or silver depending, Boswell supposed, on the reader’s standards” – an acerbic observation from a nineties tale of mine, “No Story In It”. As I said at the time, I had the (already late) John Brunner to some extent in mind. Years before his death, but years after the effective end of his career, John looked around the dealers’ room at a science fiction convention and was dispirited to find books outnumbered or at least outweighed by other items. He thought books were seeing their last days. They haven’t yet, and my possibly over-optimistic instinct is that they never will, but I do have a sense that some – by no means all – publishers’ editors are a little desperate to woo or keep their readership. Hence the notion that a book is good only if it keeps the reader turning the pages, and hence my old sly gibe.
To what extent is it a bad attitude? I would certainly suggest that imposing pace for its own sake on the material is bad. One editor who looked at my novel Silent Children wanted to cut out the quotations from the tale within the tale, admitting that he had also skipped those sections of Steve King’s Misery. I didn’t, and I don’t think such cuts would improve either novel. For a while some editors seemed to take the view that because the pace of life is faster these days than it used to be, readers no longer have the time to savour prose or to allow a narrative its own pace. One – in my view, wholly deplorable – recent response to this was the release by a reputable publisher of versions of Moby-Dick and David Copperfield edited to about two-thirds their length in the supposed interest of winning the books a new readership. Of course this isn’t new – the Reader’s Digest has been truncating tales for decades – but it has seldom been applied to works of this calibre. Anthony Burgess once prepared A Shorter Finnegans Wake, but I take his intention to have been to ease the adventurous reader into the full text of Joyce’s novel. By contrast, I fear that the purpose, or at any rate the effect, of the new editions of Melville and Dickens and other classics is to convince readers that they don’t need to take the time to read the original. They should.
I’m not denigrating conciseness, and a good editor is a great boon to a writer, but that relationship should be the province of consenting adults. There’s nothing wrong with making people want to read your text, but a breathless pace or rapid prose aren’t the only ways – they certainly aren’t for me as a reader, though sometimes they work. David Morrell’s novel Long Lost (good title, David!) deftly entices us further and further in with a succession of chapters that occupy less than two pages each. I don’t recall how many times I told myself I’d read just one more – it’s an addictive process. On the other hand, his novel Testament doesn’t use this method but has an opening chapter that renders it unputdownable. Similarly, the prose in the tower scene in Iris Murdoch’s The Sandcastle is the literary equivalent of Hitchcock’s editing of the attic scene in The Birds – a great many short sentences that build up considerable suspense – but (for this reader at least) the same author’s The Flight from the Enchanter and The Bell are fully as compelling in the lucidity of their prose and the vividness of the characterisation and events. A final example, and I cite myself only as a questionable one. My old tale “The Interloper” has its admirers, but I have to admit that its increasingly breathless pace owes everything to the fact that I wrote it in a single day and lost so much of my interest in the characters before the end that I gabbled the final scenes. Weirdly, the inadvertent affect seems to work. Well, you know what D.H. Lawrence said about trusting the author.
Let me suggest that while unputdownability (a horrid word, or a useful one, depending on your taste) may be contrived, it’s worthwhile only when the content itself is worth having. Let me further propose that a piece of fiction is most likely to be compelling when the author’s imagination is fully engaged by the material. Don’t take my word for it – examine the works you yourself couldn’t put down – but I’ll name a few favourites to demonstrate their diversity. The Trial is immensely readable in Max Brod’s translation of Kafka. William Golding’s Free Fall fastened instantly on my imagination and never let go until the last page was – yes – turned, and I can say the same of much of his other work: Pincher Martin, The Spire, certainly Lord of the Flies, if you even need to ask. I would say all this of Alan Garner too, above all his masterpiece Red Shift (which shares with Golding’s prose the virtues of extreme compression and precision). Few writers pare away more than Beckett, though, and his Unnameable is a book I read in a single sitting, utterly immersed in the experience. Ira Levin’s A Kiss Before Dying is the author’s first novel but still his finest, as exciting second time round as on first acquaintance. Richard Matheson’s early novels – I Am Legend (considerably better than any of the films), The Shrinking Man, A Stir of Echoes – are models of narrative suspense, and I found his Hell House more unputdownable than seemed ideal when I stayed up by myself after midnight to finish it. Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock (which he classed as one of his entertainments) is no less urgently readable than The Power and the Glory (which he regarded as a serious novel; Lawrence’s principle comes once again to mind). One more: Nabokov’s extraordinary Pale Fire, a novel in the form of a preface, a poem of nine hundred and ninety-nine lines in four cantos and a book-length commentary by the poet’s editor. It remains one of the most entertaining and compulsive novels of my experience, and yet I can hardly imagine a book less contrived to be a page-turner. The moral? Surely that there’s nothing more entertaining than great art. Let it be respected, not pre-digested, and learned from.
This article originally appeared in Prism (2010, issue 1).