Tag Archives: books

The Beauty Of Books

Look at that will you? Beautiful isn’t it, a pristine brand new copy of John Connolly’s The Reflecting Eye. For those who don’t know, John Connolly has recently completed a book tour of America where he decided to make this book available in an effort to support independent booksellers. You can read more info on John’s blog here but here is a snippet of why he did it –

“…when this tour was announced I decided to arrange a special limited edition of “The Reflecting Eye,” the Charlie Parker novella that had previously appeared in the NOCTURNES collection but had never been published in hardback. I commissioned artwork, rewrote portions, and arranged for it to be bound by a lovely bookbindery in Maine. The bookstores we visit are just paying me the cost of making it, and they’re keeping all of the profits. It’s a vote of confidence not just in bookstores, but in the beauty and value of the physical object of the book, something that we’ve been coming back to again and again on this tour. “

I have nothing against ebooks, I read plenty for review here but let’s face it the ebook is a soulless object, the writing may be the most soulful work on the planet but wrapped in that dull grey kindle glow it becomes disconnected from the reader, you can get joy from the writing but not from the book. This book however is a thing of beauty, immaculately produced, quality paper, wonderful artwork and it smells like a book should.  John goes on to say –

The question that those of us who care about books in any form have to ask is: will the world be a poorer place without bookstores and, indeed, without easy access to printed books? If the answer is yes – and if it isn’t, well, you’re wrong – then we all have to try to support them as best we can.”

That’s a statement I thoroughly agree with. Ebooks are all about convenience, ease of use, possibly even economy, all worthwhile values in their own right but I have yet to find an ebook that can be described as beautiful, something you can hold and cherish and know that in many years time you will still have be able to hold and cherish it and that’s the beauty of books.

Starting soon, I will be revisiting all John Connolly’s works, it’s something I have wanted to do for ages, to go back to the start and see how his writing, characters and mythos have all evolved both in his Charlie Parker series and elsewhere but rather than simply review the books I am hoping to go into more depth and look at his work in general. Consider it a John Connolly book club, so if you want to join me on the journey get yourself a copy of his first novel Every Dead Thing and join in the discussion when I post my first article in a couple of weeks time. It’ll be great to hear what others have to say about the books and hopefully we can build up the discussions as we go, either way if you haven’t read any Connolly this might be the ideal time to start.

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Silent Voices by Gary McMahon

Silent Voices

by Gary McMahon

Published by Solaris, 2012.

The Concrete Grove, the first book in the Concrete Grove trilogy, delivered and promised so much. It delivered a fantastic piece of urban horror, laced with dark fantasy that led me to describe Gary McMahon as “the outstanding British horror writer of our times” (review here). It promised so much as it gave us, what I thought were ” tantalising glimpses of a much deeper mythology” and left the way clear for the author to fully dive into his dark mythos in the subsequent books. Now we have Silent Voices, the second book in the trilogy and at last we can see if the author has kept his promise.

While the first book largely crept around the edges of the mythology of the Concrete Grove, a deprived urban area in Northumberland, this book gets to the heart of the matter. Here we meet Brendan, Simon and Marty who as young boys ventured in to The Needle, a derelict tower block at the physical and metaphysical centre of the Concrete Grove, where something happened that still reverberates through their lives today. That something haunts the boys, now men and has shaped their lives in different but always difficult ways. Brendan is the only one with a “normal” family life but is stricken by terrible, debilitating acne, Simon is a millionaire businessman but one who has troubled relationships and Marty has turned to violence competing in bare knuckle boxing after the tragic loss of his girlfriend. Simon decides to buy The Needle and get the boys back together to finally face their demons.

The first part of the book explores these troubled characters and the lives of those around them, giving real depth to both them and the area. We meet the boys as youngsters and join them as they first enter The Needle and the horrific events that subsequently haunted them are gradually revealed. But it’s the desperate state of their current lives which leads them to return to the Grove and McMahon’s powerful dark prose is perfect at describing these tragic lives and the desperation to find out what happened.

As more revelations are gained so the darkness at the heart of the Concrete Grove becomes even blacker. The boys are haunted by Captain Clickety, “the damned and damning song of their childhood nightmares” a marvellous concoction of plague doctor (see here for some fine Plague Doctor creepiness) and child catcher who along with the even more terrifying Underthing awaits the boys at The Needle.

And so everything is set for a spectacular finale as the boys re-enter The Needle and face the dark mysteries of the Concrete Grove. Once again, as in the first book, McMahon saves the best for last as he ramps up the nightmare imagery and dark fantasy to new heights. Many of the mysteries of the first book and the revelations in this book are connected as things race to a dark conclusion, only there is no conclusion, instead McMahon introduces further twists to leave this reader desperate for the final book in the trilogy.

With less of a pitch black tone than much of his previous work this book majors instead on rich and engrossing characters. Although I doubt if Gary McMahon is ever going to write a knock about comedy the tone here seems less pervasively dark (although there are certainly some very dark moments) giving the book a wonderful balance. The protagonists are well constructed yet flawed characters but it’s the antagonists who really shine here, Captain Clickety is a character to rival Stephen King’s Pennywise and he isn’t even the worst of the bad guys. So we leave The Concrete Grove again, emotions and senses suitably pummelled, and apocalyptic imagery left seared onto our eyelids and we await the final book and still we know only a few of the dark secrets, only a few of the terrible realities and even more terrible unrealities hiding there.

In conclusion Gary McMahon has kept good on the promises he made the reader in the first book and has successfully delivered another marvellous slice of urban horror while at the same time he has promised us even more to come in the final book (Beyond Here Lies Nothing), bring it on.

Rating 5 out of 5

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The Satyr’s Head by David A. Sutton

The Satyr’s Head : Tales Of Terror

Selected by David A. Sutton

Published by Shadow Publishing, 2012.

There’s a bit of a 70’s revival going on at that moment so look out your glam gear, platform shoes and Abba LP’s and let’s head back to the early 1970’s when David A. Sutton was busy putting together the Third volume of New Writings in Horror and the Supernatural, unfortunately the original publishers dropped the series but it was eventually published in 1975 by Corgi books and then promptly went out of print. This will be the first chance many of us have had to read some of these stories and indeed some of these authors so let’s dive in.

James Wade is one of the more interesting authors on display here, settling in Korea after the war his writing ranged from articles on music and war stories to Cthulhu Mythos tales. The Nightingale Floors is a strong start to the collection exploring the “delusions of sound and sight” on a museum night-watchman. It’s a quiet, ambiguous and very enjoyable read.

Ramsey Campbell has gone on to be revered for his atmospheric horror tales and while some of that talent is on display in The Previous Tenant, there are also signs of an author learning his craft. The dense, at times almost poetic prose, often feels overwritten, with maybe one too many metaphors thrown into the mix, but it’s still a memorable tale of obsession.

Martin I. Ricketts gives us The Night Fisherman. I’ve not come across this author before but this is an enjoyable, short and pointed story. Sugar And Spice And All Things Nice by David A. Sutton is an excellent and moving tale of a man who, faced with a monotonous job, enjoys watching the world go by his window right up until a mysterious girl shows up.

Provisioning by David Campton is a tongue in cheek tale about two god fearing hillbilly brothers, Keziah and Adam and their quest for food, its all gory good fun. Another gory tale is Perfect Lady by Robin Smyth which although interesting was one of the books weaker stories.

The Business About Fred by Joseph Payne Brennan, in contrast to the previous two stories, was rich and moving, full of pathos and sadness, as a lonely figure in a bar considers his effect on the world. Brian Lumley’s Aunt Hester takes a long time to reach its conclusion but the ending redeems any faults in the earlier pacing.

Finally we have two occult horrors starting with A Pentagram For Cenaide by Eddy C. Bertin. A prolific SF, horror and children’s author Bertin’s tale is one of the best in this collection. Another slow starter but one which certainly repays the readers persistence with a rich and involved tale of a painters obsession with the wife of a friend. Finally we have The Satyr’s Head by David A. Riley which reads like a lovechild of M. R. James and Dennis Wheatly as the occult powers of an ancient artifact are unwittingly found by Henry Lamson.  It’s an enjoyable tale but as, perhaps, the most “seventies” tale here it hasn’t dated as well as some of the others.

So turns out that as well as being great for spacehoppers and polyester the 1970’s was also producing some excellent horror fiction and this anthology give you the opportunity to revisit some of it.

Rating 4 out of 5

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News From The Abyss – 11/8/11

Book news and just out is The Eighth Black Book of Horror with names (and heads) including Mark Samuels, Paul Finch and Thana Niveau it promises to be a treat and there will be a review here soon. In the meantime you can get more info from Mortbury Press here.

John Connolly has announced his latest Charlie Parker novel, The Burning Soul will be released on September 1st in the UK. More info here, it promises to be excellent but I don’t really need to tell you that do I?

 

Regular readers will know how impressed I was by Gary McMahon’s, The Concrete Grove (it’s dark urban fantasy setting is even more apposite after the events of this week) so it’s great to see it nominated for an award. It features on the long list of the Gaurdian’s, Not The Booker Prize 2011 i.e. book’s you might actually read. I would urge all horror fans who thought the book is as good as I did to support Gary and the genre by voting now.

I don’t post a lot of info about movies on this site, there are plenty of other places that will give you coverage of that but every now and then something grabs my attention. I love a horror movie and this one looks to be my cup of tea in a Blair Witch/Rec kind of way.

Evil Things – Five college friends take a road trip out of the city in celebration of a 21st birthday. Aspiring filmmaker Leo brings his video camera along to document their JOURNEY. While staying in a remotely located country home on a cold and snowy weekend their excitement quickly turns to panic and 48 hours later they’ve all vanished, leaving investigators without a single clue….until now. What’s ultimately captured on video is not A CELEBRATION but a sinister and nightmarish descent into psychological terror. This riveting, critically acclaimed thriller — a pulse-pounding, twisting game of cat-and-mouse until its bone-chilling conclusion — will take you to the edge … and beyond!

Here is the trailer

 

And finally after the tragic events of this week I was devastated to see the trouble spreading to Scotland as proven in this terrifying video.

 

 

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