Friday, 14 January 2011

The Power of Three - 9th Installment

It's that time of the week again, when a quick coffee break may be lightened (or darkened, depending on your viewpoint) by three more random selections from my locker of unspeakable fiction.

Here are three more masterly tales which it would be well worth your time looking up. This trio are all relatively modern, but they represent very different zones within the horror spectrum. The only common element is that they will chill you to the marrow.

The Children of Monte Rosa by Reggie Oliver

A man recalls a childhood holiday in Portugal, when he and his parents met a curious English couple, were invited to lunch at their secluded villa, and there encountered a very strange little boy.

As always, Reggie’s elegant style lulls you into a false sense of security with this truly horrific tale of murder and black magic. There’s nothing graphic or offensive here, but there is lots of understated unpleasantness, and the slow-building sense of evil quickly becomes overpowering. The final ghastly revelations are no surprise after what’s gone before, but they are bone-chilling in the extreme, and their supernatural consequence makes a delightful pay-off.

First published in DARK HORIZONS 51, 2007.

The Crawl by Stephen Laws

In a remote part of northern England, a tired motorist and his unaffectionate wife fall foul of a malevolent scarecrow, which, for no reason known to God or science, grabs up its scythe and begins to chase them.

Perhaps the ultimate foray into ‘pursuit’ horror. A pair of relative innocents encounter a malignant and relentless foe, who proves unstoppable as he follows them over fen and moor. Steve Laws is one of the most versatile horror writers in the world, well known for the cleverness of his ideas, and this one is no exception. No explanation is given for what is apparently unexplainable, but in the end none of that matters. The sole purpose of this visceral adventure is to survive – at any cost.

First published in DARK OF THE NIGHT (pictured), 1997.

Night They Missed The Horror Show by Joe R. Lansdale

A couple of roughneck high schoolers cruise the streets after sundown, looking for trouble – and find a whole heap of it from a bunch of ‘human bowling balls’.

Another of those Lansdale dissertations on ‘white trash’ communities soaked with drugs, booze, porn, racism and the sort of casual, mindless violence that sends folks to the chair. As usual, the fluidity of the great man’s prose, the authenticity of his dialogue, his sultry southern atmosphere, and the complex nature of his characters, who are nowhere near as one-dimensional as the rednecks we see in the movies, combine to belie any suggestion that this is little more than a video nasty on the written page. That said, when the brutality starts it really is gut-wrenching.

First published in SILVER SCREAM, 1988.

1 comment:

  1. I whole-heartedly agree with the recommendations. Reggie Oliver's story is one of my favourites, Stephen Laws is another great mystery as to why & how his collection got-out-of-print, and Lansdale's one is a classic, almost a template of his works.