Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Suicide Machine – Douglas Thompson

12 thoughts on “The Suicide Machine – Douglas Thompson”

  1. 46ED8881-A7EC-4A48-9A7B-88E3F2BD5D70THE COGNITIVE ATTIC
    “The assassination of Donald Trump.”
    A very moving account of the narrator’s dead brother and painterly words channelled between them, their barely surviving mother of 90 now vicariously channelling for her sons the vistas of the Glasgow flightpaths above their home, and this first piece of prose itself channelling towards the book’s next story that they all will now tell us, via the dead one, I guess. We shall see.

    “In surprising but enlightening connections, forged across your memory and conscience, across time and space.”
    A smoothly stylish and, for me, inspiring portrait of the shop — told by the resurrected dead brother in their mother’s attic to the surviving brother (guilt-ridden by that brother’s death) who in turn re-tells us here as part of this book — the eponymous shop which is a miraculous hardware shop run by a sterling Sikh, magically providing all your needs crucial, trivial and crazy, but only if you are the right sort of customer, a shop as a sort of Tardis with things blooming like books, a wisdom, a sense of battling with and against politics such as good and bad referenda, historic partitions, even the scourge of Nigel Farage, a Far Age of Righteous Dysfunction, I guess, all of these factors often out of keeping with your beloved homes and homelands that are intrinsic to your strength of inner and outer imagination as sown with cosmopolitan riches.

    “, a wallflower sapped by congenital anaemia, compared to its swelling trunks and swooping vines, the constant symphonies of birdsong…”
    A heady mix of connections with Escher stairways between them, connections such as a French sentence repeated from the previous story, and the shop’s Tardis like qualities transposed here, and this book’s ‘dead brother’ addressed again, and the earlier attic with its stories passing down to us, is now represented by the sieve-like irrigation from the top of this story’s House’s top storey, a house in France as a Huysmans, an arguably anthropomorphised house man with decadent or pessimistic philosophers as part of its structure. It starts as the narrator unexpectedly inherits this large rambling house in France and, with increasingly manic intent, as supplemented by another inheritance of money, he rebuilds it almost with defiant counterintuitive Green purpose towards a new Hanging Gardens. I found it a breathless journey unexpectedly revealed here. With an idiot dunce called Desmond to aid and abet the narrator.

    • Just re-discovered my original review of TOWARDS NATURE from when it first appeared in TRANSACTIONS OF THE FLESH (Ex Occidente Press / Zagava):
      Towards Nature by Douglas Thompson
      “I was encouraged by the lawyer to maintain the services of my uncle’s erstwhile housekeeper Madame Le Lancourt and her slow-witted son Desmond,”
      At the time I last read and reviewed a story by this author here, I wrote: “Whenever I read a Douglas Thompson story, I feel as if I am looking through a fiction-microscope where physically beautiful words of all lengths and mineral or jellyfish or orchid qualities shimmer or prick one into a special magic reality, then miraculously turning such microscopic visions into a vast macroscopic imaginarium that one can ‘bank’ as if within some accreting noumenon-sump that is somewhere inside yourself even if you do not always consciously remember the process.”
      — and this story does not disappoint in this light, if anything I ever write can be deemed to be ‘light’!
      This story of the first person protagonist’s inheritance of an effectively ‘listed’, ‘preservation-ordered’ Villa Duendelle and his constructive desecration of it by Nature into a wondrous Hanging Garden is a perfect gem of Decadent Literature, rest assured. It does also serve to “cross-pollinate” with Wood’s earlier pollen-in-the-pocket and the London Bridge crossing civil servant or financier (like I was once myself): “He was an odious little jobsworth in a black suit and pince-nez, exactly the kind of world-hating nature-hating petty bureaucrat that we picture the writer JK Huysmans masquerading as for most of his life in the civil service, without, of course, the redeeming imagination.”

    “…from where the mind of every living soul far above us can be glimpsed like stars in the night sky […] What do I fear most? To meet God. The light of god, falling towards me, probing out the contorted bowels of the earth, […] peering past the ruby red lips and the rotten teeth, of young and old.”
    My previous review of the next story is shown below from when it first appeared in WOUND OF WOUNDS (Ex Occidente Press), an anthology inspired by Emil Cioran and this story features a character called Emil.
    It seems highly significant that I re-encounter this story on the same day as I read and reviewed (about half an hour ago!) this co-resonant, but fundamentally different, work, THE CIRCLES OF GODS by Holly Heisey here:
    In ‘Wound of Wounds’:
    “The light of god, falling towards me, probing out the contorted bowels of the earth in search or me, his huge eye burning above me like an accursed sun,…”
    A Parisian genius loci to die for.
    The above quote and a flea market above the bowels of the earth and the beats from under the pavement, a mention of Proust, and this makes me feel at home in some Nemonymous night of my own… but, beyond this, I think I can safely say the Douglas Thompson story is a literary classic that you will remember, where Emil meets God in His deux or deus chevaux car, God who is also Bach, in charge, He claims, of all we marionettes of humanity. It is wondrously acceptable as some intrinsic poetic truth that only inspired works can own. I also happened to be listening, coincidentally, to Bach (Orchestral Suite No. 2, the famous flute solo in which is significant to my earlier life), listening to it from before I picked up this book today and started reading this its next story.
    I shall now read TORLOISK, ISLE OF MULL that seems to represent a new set of passages added to the end of ‘Bach’s Marionettes.’

    • “Pareidolia, closely associated with apophenia; every writer’s illness. We see the connections in things, imagine underlying patterns…”
      Except I don’t imagine them! They emerge autonomously, whether transgressing Wimsatt’s Intentional Fallacy or not! I reveal their emergence.
      “And the dark beast is abroad again. Roaming this endless dark of self-doubt which surrounds me…”
      This TORLOISK section is a moving one about personal relationship matters, beautifully described, also with further references to his dead brother dreaming him, attic dreams, and again the guilt involved with once destroying that brother’s flying saucer. Ending with an intro to the next story that is about Trump…

    “, his perpetually grimacing face, as if chewing on a wasp, or like a well-skelped erse, as we say in Glasgow, his red baseball hat, his uncannily dainty little hands.”
    This may be the most frightening and poignant few pages you are ever likely to read, involving the eponymous nightmare arrival on the world stage (you will never know Trump to his bottom core till you read this description of him: a necessity to do this for potential catharsis, even if you don’t want to do so) and involving personal Scottish matters, such as the narrator’s mother and the death of his brother. And God’s giant eyeball, to boot, the last ace card as an attempted trumping of Trump himself?

    “What are carpets for if not brushing things under?”
    547F11F2-9121-4352-BC4B-BADF5B287962Not an elephant in the room, but St Elmo’s fire? The narrator’s father’s misstep here extrapolated eloquently and poignantly, his misstep with so-called romance, to the detriment of his wife and sons… This is the depiction by one of these sons of his father’s life, a father as misanthrope, misogynist, would be poet, stickler for standards, inconsistent, demobbed from the Royal Navy following the Second World War. At times an account of the father that is embittered, at others, stoical, rarely understanding. Along with the to and fro objective-correlative of the sea. I sense this whole book is a unique blend of autobiography and of fiction that is also an autobiography of sorts. Here, his mother’s later extended hospital stay leads to meeting, among the old ladies around her, one who tells him what is effectively this book’s title story and looks to be of novella length. I wonder if she lived long enough to tell it all?

    “For a Machine it would be no problem. They don’t need the patterns and meanings that we find to delude ourselves, to console and terrify ourselves.”
    But a Machine can live, I guess. Absorbing all these stories, processing them, hawling them by feeding back into them. Despite its deceptive size, this is not a novella; it’s just the next staging post as we read alongside the narrator, about another narrator, the written narration of a woman next to his mother in hospital, a woman, as she tells of her job clearing houses in Glasgow, then living in the house she has almost cleared, except for the eponymous hardcore machine, a thing with vents and apertures, not a storage heater or utility convector, but something that almost acts erotically or uterinely, like those people once trusted around her eventually do so, too, a surrogate father (indirectly echoing her real father’s previous abuse upon her), and a woman friend, auto-erotic or two-way sex, somehow mingled with politics like Brexit and the Scottish Referendum. And Russian spooks. And a Russian backstory of a quantum scientist into the paranormal. Who or what is in that machine, what dire effects it has, it will haunt me with this book’s intermittent Tardis quality and hardcore prehensility. Blending in with dreams that could have come from Twin Peaks, Series Three. A conveyor belt that has linear and non-linear qualities of memories and time travel … towards the next stage in this book’s auto-biography, as I shall call it, now complete with the telling hyphen. A machine that is a trope for a dead brother? This is a work where even info-dumps become part of my reviewing machine’s own feedback… make of that what you will.

    “What is that President Chump up to? And what on earth is Brexit?”
    Very moving and touches me to the core as I read this transcript. As he promised earlier, the narrator interviews his mother, in her ageing version of life’s Tardis, I guess, just as I myself once interviewed on cassette tape my grandmother about her experience of the two World Wars, her difficult marriage, birth of my mother and uncle, and later I interviewed my mother about the Second World War, meeting my Welsh father, then having me…
    Of course, I was and still am only an only child. No Ally for me. No failing stare. No falling stair.

    “Have you ever paused for a second to consider the idea that everything in the universe is about holes and interpenetration? — Not just the human reproductive system.”
    This is the epilogue to the earlier novella-length work and it is also the coda to this whole book’s symphony, its auto-gestalt of fraternal frames in painterly parental palimpsest. As that epilogue, we see things through the pervading mind of this book’s friendly examiner (Voltaire’s best of all worlds dictum), extrapolated as a Russian ‘mad scientist’, who is not mad at all if we can apply our own creative madness to his bodily array of wormhole sores as bouts of time travel making things ‘slightly better’ than worse in any one of our worlds… except we’ve ended up here today with Chump and the fastest ever neologism becoming a real word? As the above mentioned coda, we realise that the Machine Stops with EM Forster or the Hadron Collider and the Internet, and that ‘slightly better’ means a fraternal faint rather than any lethal jump into a Fallen West. A feint or counter-feint. This book is auto-personally monumental and momentous – miraculously meted out, too, for its readers. Somehow a shared journey in more ways than one. The riddle, for me, is in the sands.


    Wednesday, November 28, 2018

    The Friendly Examiner, Episode 1 – Louis Marvick


    9 thoughts on “The Friendly Examiner, Episode 1 – Louis Marvick

    1. Just read the first 2 or 3 pages, and am delighted by its structured, civilised take on the Enlightenment, mentioning Voltaire, Talleyrand and Diderot, also assuming the book’s ‘modern reader’ is female, and I thought, before I read further, I would revisit my two real-time reviews of Denis Diderot (linked below) – one of my websites being headed RAMEAU’S NEPHEW, my favourite ever book!
    2. The next few pages continue my reading delight, up to the start of M. Diderot,’s instructiions to the protagonist young man, who has just been regaled with the “real intelligence” of a barmaid regarding the Golden Tooth (“built by Folly on a bubble of Error”).
      I must take breath so as to eke out and savour this Marvickulous text.
    3. Read up to “the meal of a gigantic blood-sucking spider” on page 25
      I feel as if I have been taken back interstitially — within the time-genius-loci of the type of words and syntax — towards when the young man like this Sperling as protagonist is instructed by Diderot to cleanse the world of false thoughts and superstitions for the sake of Diderot’s mighty Encyclopaedia of Enlightenment. Here, we are treated within tales within tales within such written Diderot instructions of a human body found in the waters of a sort of health spa, and the hole eaten into it by a sort of spider, or so I think. Is this proposed cause of death to be squashed or upheld, I wonder? And why are there more and more females as victims or as movers and shakers or as members of the reading audience in this method of narration? Or am I mistaken, and alone in asking this? Am I, indeed, alone as the sole male reader of this book?
      “‘Monsieur! Monsieur!’ A strong but feminine hand is jostling him.”
      …is where I shall restart this book next time. — If there is a next time.
    4. 8BD98C16-479C-44D3-A762-A6D3A8E6DBD6Read up to: “He is only twenty-three, but he feels sixty-two.”
      I am 71 and feel 23? Ah, the relativity of age and memory. I am now fully entranced by the style and substance of this narrative, absolutely sure to become one of my all time favourite literary forays. Sperling, the protagonist, after pondering the comparative status of the serving-wench who wakes him with such delicate fingers, has a frisson of misgiving about the mission that Diderot has set him regarding the neutralising of the blood-sucking spider, a spider that would otherwise bedevil sane ratiocination. This frisson brings back childhood memories to him of being locked in the cellar by his parents as a punishment for breaking an ornament…. Also loved how footnotes put some of the text in doubt! (But is the writer of these footnotes to the text a friendly examiner of it?) This is wonderful stuff.
    5. Read up to: “In estimating relative size, one may compare mountains to molehills, but not spiders to dogs.”
      Depends on the size of the mole, I say!
      A coach journey for Sperling to the spa town that has the supposed spider — among passengers who are mediocrities plus the most unprepossessing woman he has ever seen: a woman who is accompanying or accompanied on her lap by the Queen of Burgundy, she claims. This unprepossessing woman seems naturally to become central to the story so far, with imperfect things about her described perfectly. Also I noted, en passant, the similarity of the name Sperling with ‘spiderling’. I am a friendly examiner, myself, I hope, and I don’t think that connection was intended by the writer when using the word ‘spiderling’ nor is it likely to be significant..
    6. Now read up to:
      “The situation at Heilbrunn, then, is much as M. Diderot imagined it. The simple villagers, overawed for hundreds of years by canting priests, and daunted by their mumbo-jumbo, of which the recent Reform has not erased the memory, see angels and devils behind every natural event.”
      Sperling thus has arrived at the site of his Diderot mission, after the carriage journey, debating the relative terrors of a dog and a spider with a woman! A woman who seems to best him intellectually. But Sperling is supposed himself to have the mastery over superstition by means of his rationalism, yet he sees a vague haunting shape when later on horseback in the forest, just before arriving at Heilbrunn, and this male reader at least (this book’s would-be friendly examiner) just had a sympathetic frisson of unease alongside Sperling … and he now listens to (and I read about) the Heilbrunn villagers’ tales of the strange phenomenon that have beset them…
    7. Read up to: “He cannot remember when he last enjoyed so engaging a conversation with a woman, or with anyone;”
      The earlier philosopher woman is here in town also, with her version of bees in her bonnet, transposed to other hatchlings in her hair more suitable to this account, bees in the bonnet being something of which I have often accused my own daughter and wife over many years now gone! Meanwhile, Sperling’s verbal duel and clash of personalities with the local priest is something that should henceforth be iconised as one of those significant meetings of minds in all literature. Seriously.
      I have now given up eking out this utterly compelling text. And somehow, things are getting me so involved, I shall find it difficult to clamber out again… “…a moment of marked silence that breaks the expected rhythm of conversation and conveys that the questioner has laid himself open to unfriendly review.” My bold.
    8. “‘Your Honour won’t be requirin’ the sheep, after all?’ asks Hauke.”
      Oh, after witnessing the likely deserved outcome of the pious priest’s party’s religious encounter with the denizen of Höhle or Hölle, Sperling, pedalling some sort of early seaside pedalo, ditches the sheep bait, for something or someone far more intelligent to accompany him, and thus meets kind with kind, literally and figuratively. And footnoted Reason meets head-on the ending’s thrilling Adventurous Fiction via its so-called Monster, to the expected satisfying of the Diderot mission. It seems apt that I mentioned Rameau’s Nephew as my favourite book, and judging by the lady’s uncle in The Friendly Examiner, Ep. 1, this has become another such favourite, one I shall call privately Rameau’s Niece! I am myself perhaps that very uncle in old age, once the ram pedalling the ‘eau’ with its ewe. A fitting ending with sunset kisses, almost. The only male reader of it? If so, not for long, as we all see the light together.
      This is an entertaining book that, if written ages ago, would now be great literature taught in schools and universities.
      [Gestalt Real-Time Reviewing is not wayward nor even preternatural, neither friendly nor unfriendly, this book having just taught me that this is so because such an activity is a form of Reason, in synergy with the unreasonable and/or reasonable fictions it addresses.]

    Friday, November 23, 2018

    The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors

    The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors


    Peter Coleborn and Jan Edwards 2018

    Stories by Ramsey Campbell, Storm Constantine, Samantha Lee, Stan Nicholls, Marie O’Regan, Gary McMahon, Peter Sutton, Debbie Bennett, Mike Chinn, Phil Sloman, Tina Rath, Madhvi Ramani, Jenny Barber, James Brogden, Marion Pitman, Tony Richards, Stephen Laws, Ralph Robert Moore, Gail-Nina Anderson, Keris McDonald, Adrian Cole, Cate Gardner, Suzanne Barbieri, Ray Cluley, John Grant.

    When I read this book, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

    35 thoughts on “The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors

    1. SOME KIND OF A LAUGH by Ramsey Campbell
      “Five minutes and five more and five again sent him to sleep,…”
      A poignant and dark grinniness, with Bernard working at the Bistro as a waiter, waiting for five minutes at least, if the catchphrase means anything, encouraged by the boss, for the sake of customer attraction, to exploit his likeness to Len Binn, a well-known comedian of the previous era, but still performing. 196E8404-BD76-42AC-953C-07FFFE7193D3Bernard’s wife’s relationship with him, as well as the duties of the Bistro job, conjugate a gradual descent into Binnish catchphrasitis consumingly conveyed by Campbell … and later a Binn live performance in the local area that Bernard attends as a disciple and doppelgänger whom Binn recognises from the stage. The ‘dying-fall’ repercussions make me wonder if most writers have their own doppelgängers, just slightly off-kilter, and, if so, perhaps better, perhaps worse, their fountain pen as well as their smartphone-camera reversing or swivelling between? “Can we start again?”
      A significant Ramsey Campbell work.
      My latest previous reviews of this author are linked from here:
      and odd earlier ones:
    2. 570EBAFC-4936-48BA-9518-6737815085FE
      LA TÉNÉBREUSE by Storm Constantine
      “Oh, just that the only thing inside the house was a way out but it was through darkness.”
      An engaging blend of some Reggie Oliver country houses but now in France and parts of Avalon Brantley prose, a blend no doubt dark-toned into her own unique vision by this author, or vice versa into the creation of the blend itself. A fey man called Vezi and his friend Alex as narrator (more like siblings than anything else) visit the ‘thoroughbred’ Nimrod in his French abode, a place with servants, a house as pre-dreamed by both visitors. Servants that seem imbued with the pagan atmosphere. Ambivalent sexual intentions emerge after Nimrod eventually emerges with a theatrical flourish on a horse and propositions made beyond today’s me-too constraints… people with names to die for and escape routes not to be sneered at when gothic push comes to potential shove, and Nimrod’s variations are all part of the ambiance of a place where a stairway is said to be as seductive as a woman with a ball gown. A work that is over-embroidered on dark fabric but is also something to dream about later as filtered by your own dreams into something more suitable to you. Only thinking about it made me find these things, and if I had not been due to write here publicly about my reading experience straight afterwards, it would have otherwise attenuated.
    3. THE WORM by Samantha Lee
      “, skittering along the skirting board…”
      A talking-head dramatic type monologue — or (mock-)confession following her priestly church upbringing — spoken to us by an increasingly (as-perceived-by-us-through-her-words) dysfunctional girl-woman who lost her ‘old man’ and gained a nightmarish worm with all manner of more and more worrying attributes, visited by a social worker called Ms Fenchurch, plus memories of all the dire things this talking head has done to people whom she has seen as doing her wrong over the years, including others’ skittering hands up her skirt. I can’t cover the enormity of some of these things, but it is all somehow both hilarious and disturbing. Is this a grotesque metaphor for our times: a portrait with a monster worm as an ‘objective correlative’ of such a tragic life … or is it an honest gratuitous gut-wrencher for readers of horror stories to read? Whichever, I loved her defiantly telling us at the top of page 56 that her social worker is a ‘Ms’, i.e. not the ‘Miss’ that she herself used at the top of page 52. Ironically, a small glitch compared to all the other messes of mayhem in her mind’s own foul fen. A needed backstop against a dog’s full English, I suggest.
    4. DEADLINE by Stan Nicholls
      “‘Mrs. Barker?’ the woman said.
      ‘Yes,’ April replied. ‘Well, I suppose it’s Miss now.’”
      …in more ways than one!
      April is a writer, a single mother with a toddler, but intent on her novel, nanowrimo or not, as well as on a commissioned article for a magazine, one with a deadline. She suffers a scenario that starts a process — ineluctably and, for me at my age, believably — a process of the whole accustomed world around her gradually having bits of itself go missing, as if even the streets and its services are now suffering from a human form of Alzheimer’s. Items of sheer clean demolition. Uncanny and disturbing. Reaching, as it were, I guess, the universe’s dead line itself?
    5. PRETTY THINGS by Marie O’Regan
      A night club story where John, now footloose and fancy free, is enticed there by a wide boy friend to go ‘babe’ hunting in the mosh pit, I infer. The woman he picks up is a tall gothic lady who would not have been out of place in the Constantine story. Or does she pick him up? Blood and masks ensue, in a dark ominous pad elsewhere. An honest gratuitous horror story, with its pale-faced tribe of pretty things making an interesting contrast with this author’s other story (a memorable one in hindsight) that I previously reviewed here:
    6. GUISING by Gary McMahon
      “She felt that a soft-blistered hand was holding hers, and even though that hand was her own it offered comfort.”
      A touching portrait of Judith of an indeterminate age, but not more than 60, widowed by cancer, and having lost her son to gang warfare through no fault of his own. They call them blisters on bubble wrap? And ‘pop’ is just another affectionate name for her husband as father?
      She is haunted, on the day before Guising, by the sight of what would come for her tomorrow, with time itself possibly being as non-linear as her age yesterday. There is more than just life’s emptiness in pumpkins that pop. More her catharsis disguised as a trick or treat? Sometimes reading a rare new McMahon is like coming home.
      My previous reviews of this author:
    7. MASKS by Peter Sutton
      “; a shared hallucination of devolution.”
      This theme of ‘shared hallucinations’ synchronously encountered in a review yesterday of a work by Chavisa Woods (here)
      Brushing lightly against the masks in the O’Regan above, too.
      Otherwise, this work’s prose monumentally presents a vision of the already shipwrecked using their instinctively crafted wooden animal masks meeting the arrival of the newly shipwrecked, rife with the Golding ‘Lord of the Flies’ type tensions…
      Seems also appropriate that only yesterday I participated in a communal play-reading of JM Barrie’s Admirable Crichton (in the latest pre-planned meeting of a local group to which I belong)!
      This Sutton work would have been a perfect ingredient in the BOOK OF THE SEA (reviewed recently here) and I intend that to be a great compliment to it.
      Let me reiterate how I am enjoying Jim Pitts’ artfully shaded drawings at the head of each story in this book.
    8. THE FAIREST OF THEM ALL by Debbie Bennett
      Despite it not being in a style of fiction that I normally enjoy, I can imagine this as an engaging story of a girl just beyond or behind the surface cusp of womanhood, her virginity lost as witnessed by the reader, her mind occupied with modern problems of the parental broken marriage, an annoying younger brother, snapchat sexting and all that, anxieties, idealism, disappointments…naive fears of impregnation. And indeed there is a Jekyll and Hyde air to those fears and a mutant maturity of delivery, a sharing of birthdays, I wondered, but with different mental ages, that encroach upon her, like a meeting of a parasitic self with the real self, all seemingly well drawn. A sort of story that was obviously not written for the likes of me, but I could objectively see beyond that. And I wondered if those who peer at each other through the words of all uncanny fiction — reader and author in a false mirror, as it were — could ever have similar links beyond the surface impression?
    9. HER FAVOURITE PLACE by Mike Chinn
      “Surface is not going to be happy.”
      I enjoyed the uncertainty of exploring this story, along with the two women, among the quadrats of experimental deep sea farming; the women in a relationship with each other as well as with their different cautious and foolhardy (sometimes uncharacteristic) temperaments here down below, with their ‘cabin fever’, with Surface as some sort of deist afterlife above, a place to which they are given excuses about not returning, Surface like their own surface source now become Heaven, where one of them dreams, as uncertain as me, of attending inscrutable loud-mouthed parties…What one discovers amid the soporific (solipsistic?) kelp and insecure images down there outside their deep sea living quarters is like a cross between white roses and desiccation. Almost a siren’s warning or temptation? A new gentle surfacing love or a cabin’s fever of potential passion in horrific embrace? Quadrats as grids or habitats for study purposes of a human history foregone or quadrants of a surfacing sphere where we once lived and hope to live again if allowed? Or both quadrats and quadrants in mutual alchemy?
      My previous reviews of this author: and and
    10. THE GIRL WITH THREE EYES by Phil Sloman
      “I don’t think she realised I knew it was there or that I had guessed the code to the safe: my birthday in reverse.”
      His mother, that is. We all have a mother, I guess. No reversal possible. This is more about HIM, though, about his view of the world today and its mores, you know the sort of things we all see around us every day from politics to snapchats, and the girl student at his American college who is all sweetness and fashion, yet with something extra he sees or imagines he sees in her, a void sucking him in like Munch’s Scream. A shocking and powerful rationale or a stab at a rationale of a mass shooting and its culprit as narrator, brave for this book to publish. Without fiction, we would lose many possible insights….and you may argue whether in this fiction we should have been granted at all a glimpse of our own potential third eye in this way? And whether there are others to blame in addition to where the guilt source lies? What or who the proximate cause? Alchemy like a filter that works both ways? The only three-way filter possible beyond its own paradox?
      My previous review of this author:
    11. LITTLE PEOPLE by Tina Rath
      An engaging story mixing Allegra’s sardonic humour (with choice nicknames for everyone in her life) and emotional tension as she and her daughter Bel-Bel are abandoned by her husband to some ‘dormitory village’ (“I don’t like my bedroom”) — abandoned for another woman who produces the son he always wanted…
      The hauntings in their new home may be a mixed blessing though, as well as haunting us, too, as a by-product of further encroachment by literature, not only Swift’s Lilliput but also Don Marquis’ Mehitabel and John Dryden’s Achitophel… as further enforced marches to Spain or elsewhere ensue for mother and daughter. Self-harming as an adventure in retribution, blamed on others?
    12. TEUFELSBERG by Madhvi Ramani
      “What can I say? It’s an anomaly. A coincidence.”
      A German town where, if you keep turning left, you don’t get back to where you started. A place to change trains in and get lost in, as, I wonder, in that non-existent Poliakoff film that some of us have watched. We follow the steps of a journalist here to regain his reputation for truth, or does he still embroider it here about the eponymous town? Something that nags at us. This is a story, within which he himself becomes trapped, mistaking statues for a forest and much more, meeting a man whom he had already promised to have a drink with should they meet for a second time; in fact, alcohol overshadows this work, too. One that traps the reader with enchantment, despite some over-convenient info-dumps about the town and its history, an enchantment of dark eyes and other mysteries.
      A cloying entrapment that, although of a different substance, is akin to the Chinn. Even the Sutton. Perhaps due to slough off as in the Nicholls, too?
    13. DOWN ALONG THE BACKROADS by Jenny Barber
      “, the song of the Wilds stays a-thrumming in your veins.”
      …as if, also, Jenny B has put spikes and syntacks on her words, and left dents and scuff marks on my mind as I read this. I soon got used to the different characters, if not fully, as they are deliberately beWilded or bewildered into different actions of rote and instinct. As groups of travellers and hitchhikers meet at the rest stop of this story’s ill-kempt, prop-strewn stageset, a motley of those who had avoided killing roadkill even further with their rust-bucket vehicles, and sensitive to the living force of the Wilds around them, encroaching, ever encroaching. I mixed in with them and they did not notice me. It didn’t matter. It was rather an exhilarating, if itchy, experience. Loved it, sort of. Don’t know fully why yet. No amount of turning left got me anywhere, let alone to where I started in the previous story.
    14. THE TRADE-UP by James Brogden
      “Pronouns get sticky in these situations.”
      Down along more than just backroads, Charlie suddenly sees what appears to be his own car overtaking him on the motorway, overtaking with “lazy insolence.” Compelling narrative arriving at a telling fable about one’s life and how one is living it. The Sloman third eye now become four? More Ouroboric Brogdenness?
      My previous review of this author:
    15. THE APPLE TREE by Marion Pitman
      “— a good looking man with no conversation —“
      …someone who helps Julie with a bit of lugging. Julie is researching a woman who used to collect folks songs, some of the more risqué ones purported to be in a black box that had been destroyed or lost, but she manages, with some interesting narration, to track it down, amid the social background of her fiat mate and the flat mate’s new boy friend, an older man who turns out to have been one of Julie’s fleeting exes. Well, it all gets tied up in a sensitive lighting of a darkly singing and guitar playing of the eponymous ditty, an outcome of musical togetherness that should, for fear of dire repercussions, have been made impossible. That song the Apple Tree. Not sure how or why, but I found the plot’s pointlessness strangely engaging.
      My previous reviews of this author:
      “It is impossible to be with me; I make rooms impossible.”
      — Elizabeth Bowen
      From ‘The Apple Tree’ 1934
    16. THE GARBAGE MEN by Tony Richards
      “A third eye had been inked there centrally.”
      This book’s second Third Eye. Will there be a third? A writer who inks words himself, once a student from posher areas, now an outsider himself in a town of outsiders, a place of urban deprivation and chaotic lives where plans were abandoned almost as soon as the sporadic minds of the people moved on to other plans. Dark alleys and rats. Children with chants of the Garbage Men, matching the effect of the Apple Tree song just before this story of the workmanlike writer. Except the apples have now rotted. An observer or snooper of outsiders, concealing his observations, only to be found out at the end. His theory of the Garbage Men, why this Americanism in what I deem to be Brexit Britain? I do not go with his theory that he was eventually saved as someone special; he was not saved, as he thought, from the town’s thugs, not saved, for the reasons he assumed, by those dark alley brooders in the title of his own forthcoming story. The writer was saved for further suffering, I opine. As we all are. Till we are ungarbed, naked unto death. Or garbed for some glory?
      My previous reviews of this author: and
    17. Pingback: Synchronicity rampant… | DES LEWIS GESTALT REAL-TIME REVIEWS Edit
    18. GET WORSE SOON by Stephen Laws
      “the man’s upper moustache covered his mouth so completely that none of his facial muscles moved when he spoke”
      Who’s heard of a LOWER moustache? This story segues with the Americanism of Garbage in the previous story, here ‘five and dime stores’ as forerunners of our burgeoned Poundland shops; in this story, they are called Quidstore, a phenomenon as part of the urban deprivation and sporadic social madness also depicted in the previous story. It also segues with Pitman’s Black Box, here a Purple one bought in Quidstore by Colin because he could not fathom what it meant by the title ‘Get Worse Soon’ on the cover. Turned out to be an interesting novelty in itself and a novelty — as original conceit — for literature of which this story is part. But there all sanity in my mind ended. The repercussions of sending out these purple reverse Get Well Soon cards divert into absurdist directions, and the so-called plot twist at the end seems contrived, as was the method of getting Colin’s unwanted return address on the back of the envelope. Mad and contrived. So much so, it worried me. And horror stories, as well as aiming to horrify or terrify readers (which this one didn’t to me), also aim to worry readers, and it sure did worry me, in a similar way that the previous story I read by this author, ‘The Swan Dive’, worried me stiff, as I explained here last year: … worthy of the Pan Book of Worry Stories. Or Get Worried Soon.
    19. PEELERS by Ralph Robert Moore
      “May be worrying.”
      Another RRM classic. Worrying taken to the nth degree, where the madness is cool and clinical like some surgeons appear to be. …”fleeing across lives”, “From worrying, or from the cancer that might be inside her?”, and a spider made to have seven legs, parsing phrases where words are often turned back to Latin or simply morph their meanings? Seeing eel eyes as people in the street, peel people, too, not only straight from Sickman, but also reminding me of the now seemingly reverse-dressed car driver earlier in this book overtaking you in your own car that appears to be you driving it — or sitting now in a RRM cockside restaurant when you pass that man to go to the restaurant toilet for a peel. The eponymous peelers, not self-harming so much, as rejigging bodily. You won’t easily forget some lacerating passages in this work, nor the two women you peel off from, one because they want your babies or peeling off from even someone who generally loved you but cannot get her orgasms from you. This story is now – is us – is everything – and how can anyone publish it with impunity, I do not know. Except I would have been very annoyed if they hadn’t published it. A Nicholls deadline mingled with a Sloman shooting, Latin verb.
      My many previous reviews of RRM:
    20. AN EYE FOR A PLASTIC EYE-BALL by Gail-Nina Anderson
      “There was an ominous thump that got heavier and more complex,…”
      A beautifully described account – worthy of Elizabeth Bowen – of a man who is given the job of house-clearing the biology-lesson props of an ancient teacher from his old school. Full of menace and a blend of scientific and magical, bodily and spiritual symbioses.
      Mining, like Pitman, the past, and, for me, hawling up by pulleys a meticulously crafted world of old ones wreaking vengeance on modernity.
    21. REMEMBER by Keris McDonald
      “I don’t like fiction myself though I’ve got lots of books in my flat.”
      Once remember, remember, the fifth of November,
      But now a longer period from October to December!
      An impervious period of shocks and frights to stir pet animals, here dogs in a logistically imaginable map of kennels, with wire windows like loosening teeth, cared for by various kennel keepers, one being this narrator, who tells us an old fashioned bogeyman story regarding the Gestalt of fireworks and frightened animals, humans now included, and of an insidious fundament of life that mixes industrial waste with humanoid baggy limbs… At one, straightforwardly, and evocatively, written traditional horror, but also something as a new fear ignited fit to haunt or put a rocket up even a hardened horror reader with too many books like me.
    22. BROKEN BILLY by Adrian Cole
      “You mend things, she thought. Now you need someone to mend you.”
      A gestalt kindred spirit with the previous story of things made from a crude mix of fabrication and redemption — like Christ on a cross of a scarecrow’s frame and then mended or amending? This is the story of Bran from boyhood and beyond, and it seems appropriate that Bran uses a barn, yes, a barn, as his route to Secret Hill, a sort of magical meadow that only he knows about on the family farm, the backstory of his parents being vital to his future. I remember myself with tin soldiers and other toys, some not even looking like humans, into whom I imbued human souls, and so I could empathise with Bran as he did the same. Later, he made corn dollies, then migrating to scarecrows for his Dad’s fields, then to keeping some of them in the secret meadow. He grows up with visits from another child, a girl called Tracy, and we follow them into adulthood. And the scarecrows… I won’t spoil it for you. This is a powerful story, only part of which I have intimated here.
    23. THE FULLNESS OF HER BELLY by Cate Gardner
      “Cushions with doll parts sewn into them littered the floor, many buried beneath the weight of their siblings.”
      “We all share madness here.”
      An emblem for this increasingly great horror anthology. Here a truly kindred spirit story with the previous one, the imbuing by Ella of souls into dolls being that of phantom pregnancy. But these cushion-babies are more than just phantom and beyond the words that describe them. Her support ‘group’ of others with personal phantoms and hang-ups, tellingly GROUP without definite or indefinite article, play a part and are subsumed by their own phantoms, too. This becomes incredibly strong material, of which this book should be proud of pulling the strings from within us, as a catharsis for our times, the world of each of us individually and in gestalt.
      My previous reviews of this author:
    24. IN THE ROUGH by Suzanne Barbieri
      “There was a myth in my culture of a snake goddess who carried a diamond in her forehead.”
      …being this book’s earlier anticipated third Third Eye?!
      Another incredibly strong work, here, amid opiates, taking forward as diamonds the ‘babies’ that weighed down upon the woman in the previous story, this woman now a prisoner in her own body, and later acting like one of RRM’s Peelers to become herself again. You couldn’t make it up! Not only giving birth to diamonds from her tears, but also explicitly from this book’s alchemical processes! A story of man’s exploitation of her skills as a Goddess producing valuable diamonds from her body, even though she attached herself to two of these men. Eventually a tale of feminine catharsis as an overcoming, after being Goddess, Devil, Art, Snake and Wisdom — a bodily and spiritual apotheosis of such writers as Kristi DeMeester, Gwendolyn Kiste, Damien Angelica Walters…
    25. BLUEY by Ray Cluley
      “…still gripping a fistful of insults.”
      …as opposed to a ‘compliment sandwich.’
      This review is no compliment sandwich, it is a genuine appreciative critique about this book, now about a story that will in future be known as the Cluley Bluey, a momentous vision of teaching today in Brexit Britain, the need to give all the right ticks in the Ofsted boxes as well as in the kids’ exercise books. But nobody gives the right ticks to the teachers themselves, and here we follow Shaun as teacher (being reprimanded by a female headmaster who is younger than him, a situation that gives a new context to the previous story’s apotheosis), Shaun as teacher dealing with modern youth, with their madnesses and social media manners, and he creates the eponymous paper-model prop of a person to teach them how to bully it and insult it, as a genius counterintuitive experiment in teaching them a lesson about their own similar behaviour to others. The results are tragically and expletively frightening. And a lesson for us all. Including drawing pins of self harm and words that morph, not into RRM’s Latin verbs, but into Cluley’s quotes from Shakespearean tragedy. Essential reading for everybody (from pupil to prime minister), everybody who is sleep-walking through the education system as well as life itself in our times, every single tattered limb of it. The Rath of Little People. Lost in the Brexit Backroads. A great horror story, too, in itself, without my adornments to it.
      My previous reviews of this author:
    26. TOO LATE by John Grant
      “…the quieter alleys and side streets abroad are always much more frightening than those at home.”
      A haunting coda to this book’s symphony — and enticed by this story I started listening to Rautavaara’s Symphony No 7 while reading it — not that composer’s famous birdsong music as one might have thought when here recommended by a bird watcher…
      A story of a failing marriage, depicting the attempted revival of their sex life by the couple holidaying near Santander in Northern Spain. The blonde girl pupils in the Cluley Bluey just now were described as doppelgängers of each other. Here, the birdwatcher’s wife seems to evoke herself in an identical villa within his binocular-sight…. and I was impressed by everything about this story, without being able to define exactly why. It has the easy relative pointlessness of the earlier Pitman, here mining loyalty and betrayal amid the changing light of the terrain of this foreign genius-loci. If indeed constructively pointless, there was a punch in its tail. It did not seem to matter at all that it was predictable. It went with the music, with that angel of light.
      “— why is it that binoculars and telescopes slip out of focus even when they haven’t been touched? —“
      My previous reviews of this author:, and he was in CONE ZERO, too.
      A mammoth horror anthology of new stories, a book — as based on my experience — that creates the strong impression, from page 1 to page 391, of potentially becoming a great memorable example of a such anthologies. And it is enhanced, for me, by the sense of a gestalt I found in it, whether intentional or not — a sense I hope I have managed to convey above. And, finally, if that were already not enough, it is perfected by the Jim Pitts adornments at the top of each story.