by Gary MacMahon
Published by TTA Press, 2010
Gary McMahon is one of the shining lights of British Horror and also one of it’s more prolific authors. With several book deals promising a significant output over the next few years, you can expect Mr. McMahon to be appearing on a bookshelf near you soon. All the more exciting is the fact that he is also one of the most powerful writers around. The Harm is his latest novella from Black Static publishers, TTA press.
The story tells the tale of three men Tyler, Roarke and Potter who as boys were subjected to terrible abuse whilst exploring an old warehouse. Each boy has grown into a troubled soul, wracked with guilt and doubts about the abusive incident, they have all suffered at the hands of society. With issues of drink, crime and displacement from society the spectre of abuse hangs over all of them “the harm..was resposible for the fractures in every relationship.”
When the boys begin to experience strange visions and nightmares, which brings the abuse to life again, a tragic conclusion is inevitable. Rather than take the standard path of dealing with the abusive event itself, Gary McMahon has bravely dealt with the aftermath and the dark shadow it casts over all those involved, no matter how indirectly. In doing so he has created an emotional tour de force but one which is relentless in its dark intensity.
The characters are excellent and the plot simple yet pointed but it’s the prose which colours everything in the deepest black. The engagement this draws with the reader is intense. Make no mistake there is no light at the end of the tunnel here but McMahon shines a huge floodlight on the tunnels walls outlining every crack and dark corner.
If it has a problem it is only that it feels unfinished, probably deliberately so, but none the less there are questions remaining unanswered at the end. Nasty “Uncle” Grant appears towards the end but seems to have a much more significant part to play. The supernatural element is hinted at but never defined. There is no doubt there is more of the story to tell and it may have been possible to exand this novella to tell it but would it have been better then..almost definitely not. Expansion may have brought some form of closure or neat conclusion but that is almost the point of this story. For the victims (and everyone else involved) there is no conclusion, no happy ending so it is appropriate that this book doesn’t give the reader one.
Gary McMahon’s horror comes from real life. His writing is an attempt to “exorcise these thoughts” and he does this brilliantly with style and substance in The Harm. Highly recommended.
Rating 5 out of 5