Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Back From The Dead

Part two of my Real-Time Review of Johnny Mains' 'Back From The Dead' - The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories (Noose & Gibbet 2010)

Continued from here:

A Good Offence by Myc Harrison
"Whispering was a way of life when you lived in a small town..."
Boyhood sexuality is an open goal, perhaps, for some. Cruelly conceived, but arguably justified, this is Charles-Birkinite revenge horror. An ice for an ice.
Tightly written, succinct, to the point. Meanwhile, taking a punt, quite irrelevantly perhaps, I mention that Hockey-sticks do jolly well look like giant keys.... (7 Apr 10 - three hours later)

Gallybagger by Roger Clarke
"Only in the ground for a year and then treated like old bedsteads and baths."
In some ways, I'm a literary snob. In other ways, I'm the complete opposite. Against all my initial expectations, this impressive anthology is continuing to satisfy both these aspects of my 'reading' character. And often satisfying both simultaneously! This story, following the complicatedly embedded thing in the previous story, tells of the prising out (unlocking) of another complicatedly embedded thing: a pipeline in the Isle of Wight and its literal entanglement with wartime remains in the ground and, more figuratively, with some Wightian mythos of the Gooseberry Wife and scarecrows... This is the stuff of dream, where, cleverly, any surrealism is made real by being tangibly embedded in tangible things with implicit ley-lines veining real honest-to-goodness earth under the feet of man (wight). And is it any coincidence that the protagonist is named Coates (the composer of 'The Dambuster's March')? I think not. See what you think. (8 Apr 10)

Spinalonga by John Ware
"The graves were no longer than three feet, so that the joints of the corpses had to be broken and the skeletons bent double to get them in."
Another island, more grounded embeddings, an ikon and other disinterred matter reminding me of the keepsake and 'earthkill' in the previous story.... This book's stories (independently written and unnconnected other than by this book) continue to seem - whether by intention or accident - to flow in and out of each other like mutual filters.
Tourists on a Greek Leper Colony Island (the I-protagonist and his wife Angela) - and a 'priest' who reminded me of the Angel in 'Angel' or Peter Hopkirk in 'The True Spirit' .... while 'Spinalonga' itself is how I remember the Pan Book of Horror Stories, Britishly charming as well as insidious with an ending that we, in our early days, thought to be so refreshingly nasty. But, sadly, today, nothing's nasty any more because all is nasty. (8 Apr 10 - two hours later)

The Forgotten Island by Jonathan Cruise
"I have levered from its bed of moss and peat, the great iron boiler used a century ago for the rendering of fat of elephant seal and king penguin."
Another island - and a journal of 'Swiss Family Robinson'-like narration mixed with Jules Verne and 'The Lord of the Flies" ... but not flies, as such. If you're a cat-lover... No, if I say what I want to say, it will have the potential readership of this book halved! "Cats are 'The True Spirit'", I'd say instead!
A wonderful tale of a shipwrecked yachtsman on an Antarctic island called Solitude (not forgotten at all!), with his loved one Ailsa. And it is as if the pipe from 'Gallybagger' squeals inside with feline terror...
You'll have to read it to find the tale's moral. And which creatures finally win out, be they human or animal. (8 Apr 10 - another 4 hours later)

Dreaming the Dark by J P Dixon
"If you're a shapeshifter why stop at forms that already exist. What you are is limited only by your own imagination."
An important novelette, I suggest, in the history of Horror Literature. No connections with the rest of this book for me to adumbrate this time, because this work is the island, the hub or heart, from which all "chameleons" and "baroque monstrosities" of "language-from-imagination-into-truth" do spread. Serendipitously, throughout the whole of this reading experience that was 'Dreaming the Dark', I was listening to Bach Cello Suites - serendipitous because the language, too, was as easy, free-flowing, going down like the darkest, smoothest syrup - while, in contrast, its consonants and edges ripped reading-muscles with their high graphic descriptions. This is Horror. No pretension to anything else. It just is. And it was almost as if I, the erstwhile horror writer, glimpsed something I've never glimpsed before - I have my own drawer in my brain I dare not pull out and look in, for fear of becoming what the words actually say (phonetically, graphologically, semantically and syntactically). (8 Apr 10 -another 3 hours later)

The Little Girl Eater by Septimus Dale
"It was dark and silent beneath the pier. Thin banks of concrete criss-crossed the sand, the upright girders were built solidly into these banks."
More embeddings - and a man trapped (or literally locked) by the rising tide under the pier and afraid of drowning to the extent of considering cutting his throat with a rusty tin lid nearby. Apt for me, because I obtained this very book I'm reading in sight of a seaside pier. I now live too by a different seaside pier. I was born near yet another seaside pier. This is archetypal Pan Horror from my own memory of it in the early Sixties. It now reminds me of British black and white films from that era, like "The Taste of Honey", or perhaps more aptly again, "Whistle Down The Wind" - where a more (to use that word again) archetypal Angel meets its own imagined version of Peter Hopkirk (extrapolating from earlier stories in this book)? And, incredibly, they sing together! (9 Apr 10)

Mr. Golden's Haunt by Christina Kiplinger
"Mr. Golden swerved his car to miss hitting a tan and white cat that ran out into the street. Hearing a loud 'meow', the driver put his foot farther down on the gas."
A poignant tale of a man growing old, put out to grass by his life-career of an employer, now to spend all his time with his wife... A couple similar to that 'in "The True Spirit". Mr. Golden has a mortality-malaise even to the extent of seeking out Death itself so as to get to know it better ahead of its due time of arrival. Mr. Golden's own Angel? Or his Null Immortalis? I should know. (9 Apr 10 - four hours later)

This real-time review now continues here:

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