The Sea Change & Other Stories by Helen Grant. Book reviewComments Off
Reviewed by Mario Guslandi
Lovers of classical , elegantly written, subtly disquieting supernatural and ghostly fiction have many reasons to rejoice when considering that the genre is effectively kept alive by a number of modern masters, some firmly established, others comparatively new , such as Reggie Oliver, Peter Bell, RB Russell, to mention a few. The only trouble is readers have to go hunting that kind of fiction in the world of indie small press, an invaluable niche where those authors are born and keep thriving.
Helen Grant is a new member of that exclusive club of writers and her debut collection (obviously published by a small imprint, the excellent Swan River Press) assembles seven of her delightful short stories , previously appeared in magazines and genre anthologies.
Grauer Hans is a dark fable presenting an accomplished German variation on the theme of the boogeyman, while Nathair Dhubh is a tense tale revolving around an unlucky mountain climbing during which a young man gets mysteriously missing.
In two instances Grant’s work is a tribute to the classical ghost stories of MR James. The Game of Bear, winner of a specific competition among Jamesian enthusiasts, completes one of the master’s unfinished stories , and beautifully portrays a man stalked and haunted by a wicked relative seeking revenge for an alleged injustice. In Alberic de Mauléon Grant provides an excellent prequel to the famous “Canon Alberic’s Scrapbook”, writing with a light touch and offering a very disturbing perspective.
The Calvary at Banskà Bystrica, an intriguing, riveting piece set in Slovakia, features a man trying to trace a lost brother, whose inexplicable disappearance seems to be linked to a distant, long forgotten past.
The title story The Sea Change is an outstanding story taking place in the world of sea divers where a man’s life is altered forever by the discovery of a wreck sitting in deep waters. The author exhibits the uncommon ability of spreading uneasiness in every page and imparts an ambiguous sepia-like quality to the story.
The Sea Change does display Grant at her best, but in each story in the book (with the exception of the semi-humorous Self Catering that I didn’t care for) she exhibits a precise, sometimes detached narrative style, and a refined prose which enhance the strength of the eerie and unsettling atmospheres she manages to create.
Rosalie Parker’s The Old Knowledge – second printing from Swan River Press available for pre-orderComments Off
In September 2011 Swan River Press published, to great acclaim, The Old Knowledge by Tartarus Press’ Rosalie Parker, and it quickly went out of print. Swan River Press is now accepting pre-orders for a second edition HERE
About the book:
In “The Rain”, Geraldine heads North for a holiday she hopes will provide a welcome break from her busy city life, only to suffer a complicated and enigmatic distortion of her usual world-view. The narrator of “In the Garden” strays into new pastures while explaining her theory of gardening (this story was chosen for inclusion in the Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 21). In “Chanctonbury Ring”, the well-meaning protagonist, helping a lady in distress, gets rather more than he bargained for. The temporary schoolteacher in “The Supply-Teacher” elicits altruism from her class, whilst, in “The Old Knowledge”, a group of archaeologists called in to excavate a prehistoric round barrow have to negotiate local interventions. In “The Cook’s Story” a Gothic country house provides the setting for a modern tale of mystery.
Do not expect blood-and-guts, wraiths or revenants: these stories hold a different kind of terror. “Their unostentatious magic is of an insidious kind; and like the protagonist of the title story, is liable to exert itself in disconcerting ways.” ‘
Cover art is by Ray Russell.
Film of R.B. Russell’s Bloody Baudelaire in productionComments Off
Entertainment industry publication Variety, and other film industry websites, report that R.B. Russell’s novella Bloody Baudelaire is currently being filmed in Portland, Maine, US by 3:1 Cinema and Fischer Productions. Directed by Francisco Orvañanos, it has the working title Backgammon, and stars Noah Silver (The Borgias), Brittany Allen (Emmy award-winner for All My Children) Alex Beh (CSI: Miami), Olivia Crocicchia (Rescue Me) and Christian Alexander (The Lying Game). The screenplay is by R.B. Russell, Todd Niemi and Francisco Orvañanos.
Bloody Baudelaire was first published by Ex Occidente in 2009, and has recently been included in the reprint collection Ghosts (Swan River Press, 2012). Both are currently out of print. Ray Russell’s agent, Artellus Ltd, is currently looking for a mainstream press to reprint the novella.
Strange Epiphanies by Peter Bell. Book reviewComments Off
Reviewed by Mario Guslandi
I’m warning you: anybody who has the opportunity to read a story or two by Peter Bell in some journal or anthology is bound to ask for more. That has been my fate, so much so that I’ve been eagerly awaiting the debut collection by this new writer and have been sorely disappointed by two false starts when the book was announced and then cancelled first by Ex Occidente Press, then by Ash Tree Press. At last , thanks to Brian J Showers’ far-sightedness and sensitivity as a publisher, here we have a beautifully produced volume assembling a handful of reprints and a couple of brand new tales penned by Bell. The stories are fine examples of top notch dark fiction , written in an elegant style, to be enjoyed in all its nuances.
The weaker tales are simply good, the best ones breathtaking and just extraordinary.
If ‘The Light of the World’ is a fascinating medley of religion, travelling experiences , Italian landscapes and marvels of art within the frame of a rather inconsistent plot, ‘A Midsummer Rambling in the Carpathians’ is the intriguing report of the fictional discovery of a lost diary by Amelia B Edwards describing a trip in East Europe, full of disquieting allusions to the local vampire myth.
In the Aickmanesque ‘Resurrection’ a woman just recovered from a state of depression finds a new interest in life in a mountain village during the celebrations of its annual ceremonies, while in the hazy and enigmatic ‘M.E.F.’, set in the island of Iona, a man obsessed with the mysterious death of the former inhabitant of the place is haunted by her ghostly presence.
‘Inheritance’ is a superb, very dark tale of madness and evil involving a couple of hideous, malevolent dolls bringing misfortune to their young proprietress. Creepy in the extreme, the tale is a veritable masterpiece of horror fiction.
In the deeply unsettling, unforgettable ‘Nostalgia, Death and Melancholy’ the dangers of going back to the places of childhood and of unearthing memories best left alone blend with the power of evil art.
Finally ‘An American Writer’s Cottage’ is an outstanding story, perfect in every way: uncanny atmospheres, admirable characterization, gripping and exquisite narrative style.
While I strongly recommend you to secure a copy of this splendid collection before it goes out of print, I’m pleased to inform you that a second collection of Peter Bell’s short fiction will be available very soon from Sarob Press. Take note.
Curfew and Other Eerie Tales by Lucy M Boston. Book reviewComments Off
Reviewed by Mario Guslandi
Mostly remembered as the author of a series of children’s novels set in a haunted manor (Green Knowe), Lucy M Boston (1892-1990) also penned a bunch of supernatural tales which are now assembled and published by Brian J Showers’ Swan River Press.
Boston’s tales are written in a solid, classical narrative style, in the tradition of the great ghost story writers. A typical example is the title story, “Curfew”, a gripping ghostly tale set in a farmhouse on the outlying land of an old manor. In “Blind’s Man Bluff” Boston draws with a steady hand the portrait of a haunted man who must pay his dues to a vengeful enemy. In the vivid, enticing “The Italian Desk” she depicts the evil effects of a haunted desk on people’s sanity of mind. “Many Coloured Glass” is a disturbing story taking place during a ball, featuring an emotionally troubled young lady. “Pollution” is a great tale of terror, tense and atmospheric, where a tutor in a secluded country house recalls frightening events concerning a bleak water tower and mysterious, unearthly insects.
The best story in the volume is, in my opinion, “The Tiger Skin Rug”, an excellent, terrifying tale of supernatural dread set in a previously quiet country house after a peculiar rug has been bought and installed therein. The collection also includes “The Horned Man”, the only play ever written by Boston. Aimed to expose the bigotry and the ignorance behind any witch hunt, the work has a distinctly sinister undercurrent, disclosing how evil itself can be the fuel of human intolerance and falsity.
In short, a charming book unearthing forgotten gems and apt to delight any ghost story lover.