by Ramsey Campbell
Published by Leisure Fiction, 2010.
Creatures Of The Pool was originally published in 2009 by PS publishing but it’s nice to see it getting a mass market paperback release from Leisure, even if many might come to it expecting a Swamp Thing rehash. I doubt if anyone reading a horror focused book review blog needs much of an introduction to Ramsey Campbell but just in case you stumbled onto this site by mistake all you need to know is that Ramsey Campbell is Britain’s greatest living writer of horror.
Gavin Meadows runs historical ghost tours in his home town of Liverpool. His interest in the darker side of the city is shared with his eccentric father, Deryck who is pursuing his own quest to uncover a dark secret. When Deryck goes missing, Gavin picks up the trail of clues and it soon becomes clear his father was onto something but what that something was, is much less obvious. We follow Gavin as he tries to keep his work and relationships intact whilst, of course, trying to find his missing father.
Simple enough plot you might think but the plot and characters are almost secondary in this book. This is first and foremost a book about Liverpool, the whole book is filled with historical nuggets, references to songs and a deep, deep undercurrent of unsettling myth. It’s the kind of book that has you looking twice at shadows or glimpsing over your shoulder to see what that movement was whilst reading.
Campbell’s writing is like a fine wine, sure glug away and let it wash over you but take a moment to examine all the subtleties and you will be rewarded with a much richer experience. The writing makes full use of the third person narration to fully exploit the paranoia and sense of dread that pervades everything. The most mundane items take on a new significance in the eyes of somebody who doesn’t understand what is going on but fears the worst (at one point I read a description of an antimacassar that I don’t believe anybody but Campbell could have written).
Ramsey Campbell’s prose seems to float on the page, you have to concentrate in order to bring it down to earth but once you do the wonderful depth can be appreciated. Casual readers can therefore often find his work difficult, I have even heard the word boring used and sure if you came here expecting an all action battle between brawny hero and swamp monster you will be disappointed. If instead, you are looking for something that will fill you with a deep sense of unease, something that turns a well known city into a darkly fascinating myth you will love this book.
You can find out more at the publishers site here.
Rating 4 out of 5