Sunday, July 31, 2022

The Dissolving Man by Douglas Thompson


NIGHTJAR PRESS 2022 (my previous reviews of this publisher HERE)

“A colossus of Rhodes made of grey Meccano, all mad gantries and trusses and ladders.”

Honestly a major story for our times, from the narrative vantage point of that Glaswegian crane, as well as wearing all the threatening Done men merging or dissolving as one [resonating HERE].  “Thus, he hated himself. So, I am quite sure, did Hitler.” All those Bodgers, Trusses, Trumps and Stammerers…. A story here of a singular meddler who actively meddles himself into passive quarried manipulations. As perhaps we all vainly do.

“Nothing less, nothing more. Oil, the reason for all our endless meddlings in the Middle East.” 

And a merging or dissolving of all those political so-called leaders , as conveyed by this compelling story of a policeman coping with all the plots, conspiracies, deep states, as well as losing a dear wife by his desire for a woman meddler celebrated by the TV screen everyone watched. 

On a dissolvingly different  level this work is being spread over time’s history, and becomes a spookily memorable crime story of what our narrator sees as a crime-collusive  man dissolving and undissolving, not as a Wellsian Invisibility  but something far more complex and frightening as part and parcel of the crimes and corruption in a staggering portrayal of the physical city of Glasgow which needs to be read and have its tags tattooed inside you. And a highly believable self-portrait of the narrator  himself in a conjunction of vain tension  with such subsuming factors being factored in.

“We can only be sure of our existence in relation to others, how they reflect our light back.”


My many previous reviews of this author:

Saturday, July 30, 2022

W. F. Harvey: August Heat


“Were you at Clacton-on-Sea last July?”

Well, born as I was in 1948 on January 18th as the same date on the gravestone quoted above, I have also lived in Clacton-on-Sea far longer than I have lived anywhere else and, at my age, that fact is likely to remain the case. The death date recorded in the story as being on the same gravestone I, superstitiously, shall not repeat here but, for those in the know, it is HP Lovecraft’s birthdate, if not the same year. Hopefully, knowing that will lift any curse from me, today, at the very tail end of the hottest July, just before we enter predictably the hottest August ever experienced in Clacton-on-Sea. Any curse, that is, in my having just read this brief WF Harvey story for the first time, a story that somehow seems to teem with synchronicities that usually please me when I am gestalt real-time reviewing. But perhaps not this time!

Medlar by Joanne Done


“…it mocked every hypothesis, every equation, every poem and psalm ever thought or ever written.”

I looked up references to ‘medlar’ in Chaucer, I looked up Shakespeare…. But I was wrong about Andrew Marvell. I even morphed MEDLAR DONE to ’endodermal’ in strong resonance with Bevan’s Bull Frog arguably created as a hybrid by the coupling of the two Nightjars just reviewed before this ‘shadowy third’. But this Done story has remained the first ever  work of fiction that has genuinely bletted me, left me literarily pucker-arsed. Yet I did somehow have tactilely evoked for me by it — two  girls kissing as they grew up, kissing to a mutual groaning brink, with certain men as threats, but which of these men nailed up the chicken wire?  Which the notorious murderer? Which the uncle, which the step dad? And why the dreaming spires transposed from  an inferred northern roughness? Why the specific names of women that sound like real ones, why the cream doughnuts and mandarin segments? 1970s stuff at first, while my first  era was the 1950s. And why did I read it twice? I rarely do. I may even do so a third time! Readying myself anew. The reading of a work like this is never done.

Not even DH Lawrence is helping much, something about ‘loving someone rotten’ and… 
“A kiss, and a vivid spasm of farewell, a moment’s orgasm of rupture.
Then along the damp road alone, till the next turning.”  (from ‘Medlars and Sorb-Apples’)

Friday, July 29, 2022

The Bull by David Bevan


NIGHTJAR PRESS 2022 (my previous reviews of this publisher HERE)

“Other times he would just say, ‘Hello,’ his deep voice dropping the word like a stone in a lake.”

This is a dual-timed relationship between a sporadically raging father and a daughter, as narrated  by the daughter, Chloe, whom her father called Bluebell. “Fragmentary images began to flutter in my mind. I laid them out in sequence as I walked.” — and as I read. Father and daughter more alike than unalike. Like a commonwealth of two matching friends as potential enemies, the bull emblem of which appeared last night in our own real-time? A backstory of dysfunction, a family and her baby brother. Duplicating the walk years ago with her Dad to again encounter that shed-like container in a field, a mohican cut path near the two separate reservoirs leading to her maritally estranged father, in later years, asking her, as a barber, for a mohawk…

That earlier time when clocks stopped, and another different time when her father witnessed, with subsequent trauma, a drowning of coworker in the meaty downside gory offal ironically equivalent to Gol’s snorkelling yesterday HERE.  What  did we see in that shed, alongside them then, and alongside  just Chloe today? Hints of an answer within that earlier meatiness and her dad’s motorbike’s growling brute of an engine (see the chance concurrent engines of equivalence HERE) and the later contrastive pent-up silence  that had “the solemn quality of a long-held oath…” A pent-up story in itself that will ever snarl in the mental background. Expressing somehow otherwise inexpressible emotions.

 “What? What? What?”

Thursday, July 28, 2022

The Golden Frog by David Bevan


NIGHTJAR PRESS 2022 (my previous reviews of this publisher HERE)

“In pride of place over the old gas fire, he had stuck a Slayer Angel of Death poster.”

I don’t know where to start to do justice to this tactilely powerful piece. The less said probably the best, so its word spawn won’t be spoilt or contaminated by me. But I will mention the narrator (with a dog called Max) whose evocatively depicted central character is someone he calls by various shortenings of Gollum, the character’s nickname when they were at school together. I knew a similar epitome of sad at school whom we all called Dogsbody in the 1950s. In real life, Gol is a window cleaner, a prying job that somehow cleaned the glass for this vision. And here, the inferred clear-sighted vision is [POSSIBLE SPOILER] Gol’s wondrous transcending of  life’s boggy conduit leading to the eponymous trophy in the prestigious bog-snorkelling championship via the earlier storing of regurgitated frog eggs for later ‘mad science’, I guess. But not so mad at all.

Now I seem to have said more than I intended, because I evolved into wanting to convey at least a soupçon of what I have just read. But, I must also add that I can now empathise, if not sympathise,  with the protagonist in yesterday’s Nightjar story (HERE) where he left money out for the window cleaner because he did not want to have a conversation with him. (From two lakes to a single bog, an irony?)

The Lake by Livi Michael


NIGHTJAR PRESS 2022 (my previous reviews of this publisher HERE)

“There was even a forum for somniscribes in which one member claimed to have set up email accounts in his sleep and to have emailed abuse to himself.”

A touching story of bereavement, additionally a mutual synergy with yesterday’s Nightjar story bearing the same title, as reviewed HERE, literature ever being a helpful gestalt should one expose oneself to it with a fearless faith. This story conveys a man’s ordinary daily living, such as brown rubbish bins, window-cleaning matters, resoling shoes thriftily, and a diary kept of such things disarmingly to replace a dead wife! With the circumstances of her death blocked by denial and guilt. Somehow I will not leave a spoiler in this real-time diary of what I have just read, but merely state that what is ostensibly depicted may not be so pragmatically mercenary as it seems and it also leaves you with a fearless faith not only in fiction but also in its preternatural  forces  if not fully in its supernatural ones. Whatever forces there were tugged down at me, though, like the foreign land beneath its surface, after I was enticed into it by clues written by the author in the text, although, I suspect,  they may be disowned as ever having  been consciously written at all (or they actually even appeared in it by other means after sending it to be published?)

“…punctuated by a chup-chup-chup call I could not identify,…”


My previous reviews of this author:

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

What Was It? by Fitz-James O’Brien


“With the exception of two timid persons,—a sea-captain and a returned Californian, who immediately gave notice that they would leave,—all of Mrs Moffat’s guests declared that they would accompany her in her chivalric incursion into the abode of spirits.”

The jollity of being haunted, invited  lock, stock and barrel as Mrs Moffatt’s boarding-house guests, to another home at a house numbered “No. —“, a no. — repeated several times in the story text, yes, a no  number, a dash for nothing, a house once owned, we are told, by a famous bank fraudster….

Money in the bank is nothing, too, except one’s belief in it as a number representing a degree of wealth. The paper and coins that one often sees have a weight but are not the money itself as a wealth. The  real meaning of wealth or wealth of meaning is a belief or faith in your mind that we all agree to exchange and barter something for nothing and vice versa. Not unlike meaning and words. To the infinite degree of maths in today’s crypto currency. (My ramblings, not necessarily the story’s.)

The narrator and his friend Hammond in the new house enjoy opium on the quiet, leading to positivity and beauty in their minds, until it doesn’t! Then the narrator and Hammond, amid melting streets, are beset by the thought of defining the greatest terror possible, and it’s a nothing shape that eventually terrifies the narrator like an invisible incubus, one  that needs to be tied in knots or in what I have long called ligotti. (“Hammond stood holding the ends of the cord that bound the Invisible, twisted round his hand, while before him, self-supporting as it were, he beheld a rope laced and interlaced, and stretching tightly around a vacant space.”) A discoverable shape, though, this invisibility, with weight and movement, but, still yet, terrifyingly, it is nothing at all!

But this nothing-at-all was also  a means for O’Brien to earn money, I guess, by frightening the . . . . out of  his readers who would avidly seek this story to harvest its terror for themselves, even more than they sought Crowe’s ‘The Night Side of Nature’!


 Meanwhile, as an aside, these two passages from the story  somehow terrified me even more than the nothing of what-it-was, as terror can work in different ways…

“Once the black butler asseverated that his candle had been blown out by some invisible agency while he was undressing himself for the night; but as I had more than once discovered this colored gentleman in a condition when one candle must have appeared to him like two, I thought it possible that, by going a step further in his potations, he might have reversed this phenomenon, and seen no candle at all where he ought to have beheld one.”

“…beholding, as I once did, a woman floating down a deep and rapid river, with wildly lifted arms, and awful, upturned face, uttering, as she drifted, shrieks that rent one’s heart, while we, the spectators, stood frozen at a window which overhung the river at a height of sixty feet, unable to make the slightest effort to save her, but dumbly watching her last supreme agony and her disappearance.”

Terror, or other emotions, from the weight of words….


My review of O’Brien’s THE DIAMOND LENS:

My other reviews of miscellaneous horror literature: