Dying Embers out now

Dying Embers out now

Monday 15 October 2018

Catching up on books I've read

Recently I've been looking at some of the books I've enjoyed over the past year or so – and in the process, it's made me realise just how many I've read! My project now is to re-visit some of these books in order to review them on here. It's interesting for me to ponder how much I've forgotten during that time: and also to consider how many books I've downloaded which I have not yet read. As ever, I tend to limit myself to short story collections, although there have been a few novels which I have enjoyed too. Below are a few which stand out for various reasons, but there are many more which I will add later. Some proper reviews will follow.

C.M. Muller's excellent NIGHTSCRIPT series of anthologies have become one of the highlights of the literary year. Number two contains superb stories by so many excellent writers – including Christopher Slatsky, Eric J. Guignard, Malcolm Devlin, Gwendolyn Kiste, Ralph Robert Moore, Christopher Ropes, Steve Rasnic Tem, Jason A. Wyckoff and Kurt Fawver. There are so many brilliantly strange tales here, which give the discerning reader a highly relevant snapshot of the very best of the genre. As ever, an absolute must-read. Available here

Not "strange tales" in the accepted sense, but William Trevor's THE COLLECTED STORIES showcases his singular talent for the short story. These are perfectly formed gems, encompassing everything from the humorous through the bittersweet to the macabre and the downright odd. This is a treasure trove of storytelling technique, essential for anyone interested in the noble art – and science – of writing. Available here

I love atmospheric tales, and Jayaprakesh Satyamurthy's fascinating book WEIRD TALES OF A BANGALOREAN took me by the hand directly to the sprawling, desperate landscape of the subcontinent. His unique prose brings these tales alive, seething with a combination of cultural and supernatural undercurrents. A brilliant debut collection. Available here

ROBINSON, by Christopher Petit, is a short novel which defies genre – and which gripped me the whole way through. Robinson is the bleakly enigmatic character who gradually draws Christo from the safe and stable suburbs into his world of depravity. Robinson, entering the dark netherworld of pornographic films, is convinced he can produce a masterpiece – but is there any way out for Christo, or will he be dragged into Robinson's own personal version of hell? Available here

Another winner from Tartarus Press, John Gaskin's THE LONG RETREATING DAY is a fine collection of ‘Tales of Twilight and Borderlands’, highlighting Gaskin's immaculate, scholarly writing style and his sense of the unexplained. These are stories anchored in the real world, but threatened by shadows and ghosts of the past. As good a collection of classic ghost stories as I've read for years. Highly recommended. Available here

COLD TO THE TOUCH by SImon Strantzas is a collection of character-driven, dramatic tales, which are finely wrought and ultimately successful in disorienting the reader; depositing him or her within the Arctic tundra of his own imagination. Strantzas approaches his craft from so many different angles that there is something here to satisfy most enthusiasts of the subtly strange and the horrific alike. Available here

Finally, for now, I have included THE HYDE HOTEL, edited by James Everington and Dan Howarth, a themed anthology from a couple of years back. I'm afraid it went under my radar at the time, but I have since re-visited it on my Kindle and I was hooked. The stories included within work especially well together, creating atmosphere effectively, each dark tale building on the previous one. The editors have done a fine job here both with their own wring for the collection, and with the consideration that must have gone into the choice of contributors, the stories themselves and their sequence, An accomplished achievement – satisfyingly strange and downbeat!  Available here

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