by R.B. Russell
Published by PS Publishing, 2010.
With his previous collection Putting The Pieces In Place and the short novel Bloody Baudelaire, R.B Russell has established himself as a unique voice in the weird fiction genre. His elegant, classy prose is rich and as a result his work often reads like it may have been composed in a different time. Indeed, one could imagine him sharing a glass of port with Arthur Machen and Algernon Blackwood, over an opulent dinner in some old country house.
Literary Remains is his latest collection and the ten stories within it firmly establish R.B.Russell as a writer of some importance. Unfortunately we start with, for me, the two weakest stories, Literary Remains and An Artist’s Model. Both hint at eroticism but both suffer from very slow pacing which detract from the otherwise engaging plots.
Llanfihangel is a quite different beast and a very clever tale involving the meeting of old school friends. Do a series of apparent coincidences tell of some darker games afoot? Una Futiva Lagrima is a beautiful tale and one of the few in this collection to be overtly supernatural. A son finds his fathers papers following his death which reveal some hidden secrets.
Another Country is a fantastically claustrophobic tale which sees the employee of a publisher trying to track down a reclusive writer. It’s nightmarish and incredibly dark. I only hope it’s not based on real life as of course Ray Russell is also the mastermind behind publishing house, Tartarus Press.
Loup Garou is another descent into nightmare as the viewer of an obscure french film notices a series of similarities with his own life. Blue Glow is a really interesting psychological horror which isn’t so much based on identity theft as identity giving.
A Revelation is a tongue in cheek horror where a council inspector finds some unusual additions in a tenants house. Ashphodel is again based on the publishing industry but this time in the murky waters of vanity publishing.
Finally Where They Cannot Be Seen in which a group of friends rent a holiday cottage but when two embark upon an illicit affair things take a dark turn.
With Literary Remains, R.B. Russell has reinforced his status as a maturing writer. It is a stronger collection than Putting The Pieces In Place. The variety of styles and interesting plot ideas on display add up to an excellent addition to the weird fiction canon. His writing has also advanced with complexities worthy of the likes of Thomas Ligotti on show to tantalise the reader. I have no doubt that, like Ligotti, repeated readings would reward the reader with a much deeper voyage into the darker places which we may otherwise only glimpse on a first reading.
A fine collection at times reminiscent of Machen, Aickman, Ligotti and others but always with that unique R.B Russell style. Weird fiction fans are in for a treat.
Rating 4 out of 5.