Coming Soon -

The Terror by Dan Simmons
Strange Tales Vol III ed by Rosalie Parker
In The Courts Of The Sun by Brian D'Amato
Creatures Of The Pool by Ramsey Campbell

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Conjure by Mark West

by Mark West
Publisher : Rainfall Books, 2009.

There is a tradition in Britain of the seaside holiday. For years people from the cities packed up and left for a few days in the sun at their local seaside resort. Unfortunately these thriving holiday havens have suffered from the availability of cheap package holidays abroad. Now they are left, desolate and slightly grim, unused and rundown. So when Rob and his girlfriend Beth win a weekend in one of these towns, it’s seen as something of a booby prize.

Beth is pregnant, however, so relishes the prospect of some time away so, determined to enjoy themselves, they set out for Heyton. Unfortunately within the town, there is an ancient wrong that needs to be put right and the solution lies in (yes in) pregnant women.

Mark West has created a marvelously enjoyable short novel which captures some of that faded glory of the seaside resort. Add to that the complex relationship of a young couple who are about to have their first child and all the stresses and joy that comes with it and you have a firm base for the tale.

Throw in some ancient and dark history, some interesting (and disturbing local characters) and a large dose of supernatural power and the story works well. It’s a strangely British tale and reminded me of something that may have been produced in the seventies by Hammer or part of Tales of the Unexpected but very much updated with modern quotas of brutality and gore. It’s closest in style to the likes of Bill Hussey or Adam Neville.

If it has a fault it is only that it is quite short and could easily, I think, have been expanded into a full length novel. It’s the first I have read from Mark West but he is definitely a name I will be looking out for in the future.

Rating 4 out of 5
(This post previously appeared on Highlander's Book Reviews)

Monday, 28 December 2009

The Pines by Robert Dunbar

by Robert Dunbar
Publisher: Leisure, 2008.

Ah! The Pines, surely a novel about the beauty of the great outdoors, wandering amid the dappled shade of the mighty Pine trees, celebrating nature in all its glory.. err....not quite.

The Pines of the title are not quite the lofty ancient trees you may imagine (and that the cover might lead you to believe) no these are twisted, gnarled, wasted pines growing in the pine barrens. Oh, and there is something else living in those pine barrens, something even less pleasant.

First published in 1992 The Pines was Robert Dunbars first novel and has been republished here in a new uncut edition. The novel follows the lives of a group of people who live on the edge of the Pine Barrens, a desolate, haunted place inhabited by the pineys. The characters in this novel are without exception troubled and shaped not just by the normal difficulties of life but also the influence of the location.

When people start disappearing, rumours of an ancient legend surface and whilst the finger of blame points firmly at the Pineys there are a few who recognise the sign of The Jersey Devil at work.

So, all in all, this sounds a bit like a mixture of the X-files with Deliverance and a large dash of Southern Comfort (the movie) but that would be seriously underselling this book. The book develops such a rich and bleak feel that it becomes much greater than its component parts. The gradual shift from deliverance type horror to a much deeper supernatural threat is gripping and the character development makes it even more powerful.

This could so easily have been a book full of cliche but instead it's a fine addition to any horror library and comes highly recommended.

You can read more about Robert Dunbar here.

Rating 4 out of 5