The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors

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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…

14 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: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/ramsey-campbell/

    and odd earlier ones:
    https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/08/17/ghosts-and-grisly-things-by-ramsey-campbell/
    https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2011/11/20/the-weird-8/
    https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/08/10/beneath-the-ground-edited-by-joel-lane/

  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: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2018/02/21/great-british-horror-2/#comment-11779

  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: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/746-2/

  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.

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