The arrival of Don D’auria (ex leisure books) at Samhain Publishing has seen the beginning of an exciting new line of interesting horror including several books by Ramsey Campbell. The combination of new writing and the re-release of some older titles will give a new generation easy access to Campbell’s earlier work but how does it stand up in comparison to his more recent writing.
The plot of Ancient Images revolves around the discovery of a “lost” film starring Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. When Sandy Allan’s friend tracks down a copy and invites her to a private screening she jumps at the chance, but this film holds a darker secret and following a tragic accident (or was it?) at the screening, Sandy begins to explore it’s real history. What she discovers is a tangled connection to ancient pagan practices centred around the Redfield estate and the dangers still associated with it. The danger becomes ever more real as those around her and those involved in the film get caught up in a series of tragic events.
Ancient Images is a good horror novel but despite being a Stoker winner when first published, I found its mix of themes diluted rather than added to the threats. The strongest elements here relate to the ancient threat and its connection with the film but this is diluted somewhat by additional themes such as the new age travelers and romantic interludes which dominate proceedings at certain points.
The ending is also rather disappointing and the book doesn’t seem to address some of the plot points it raises at the beginning. The writing is enjoyable and pacy throughout and very few people can create a threatening atmosphere as well as Ramsey Campbell but ultimately, this book is merely good rather than great. As an introduction to Campbell’s writing it works but as an example of his best you should probably look elsewhere (The Grin of The Dark has a similar theme but is much more powerful). A fine slice of eighties style horror but there are much better examples of Ramsey Campbell’s greatness many of which I hope to review soon.