Tag Archives: Stephen Bacon

New Year’s First Grey Light


From this review just now:

What Grief Can Do by Stephen Bacon
“She clenched her teeth in an effort to prevent the rawness from spilling out.”
A powerful short short that deals with bereavement, misbegotten love and whatever else spills out, bursting through the dam of denial. A “funeral” that eventually becomes “feral” with animalistic sobs of shame as well as of grief, this way or that to exorcise life’s vile baggage. With the sky’s first light spilling out of this New Year’s Day, it makes me wonder if the world itself has a giant skeleton in its giant cupboard, a whole world’s reality with its own version of Nick’s tank under its floor?

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My favourite books of 2012

sv4I have just sat in my thinking-dome and come up with my picks of books published in 2012 (in addition to THE LAST BALCONY and THE FIRST BOOK OF CLASSICAL HORROR STORIES and BUSY BLOOD!):

The Wind Through The Keyhole by Stephen King

Dadaoism – an anthology from Chômu Press

This Hermetic Legislature (an anthology from Ex Occidente Press)

The Ten Dictates of Alfred Tesseller by D.P. Watt

The Truth Spinner – Rhys Hughes

Celebrant – by Michael Cisco

Peel Back The Sky – Stephen Bacon

The Lighthouse – Alison Moore

Motherless Child – Glen Hirshberg

At Dusk – Mark Valentine

Numbered as Sand or the Stars – John Howard

Eyepennies – a novella by Mike O’Driscoll

The Aesthete Hagiographer – Derek John

The Screaming Book of Horror

PS: Two more in comment below.


Watch out for JANE by PF Jeffery in 2013 – that, as part of the ‘Warriors of Love’ series of twelve discrete novels, I predict will, sooner or later, become a best-seller of the highest objective quality, with definite cinematic potential.


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Forever Autumn


From my 2011 Real-Time Review (HERE) of the VanderMeers’ THE WEIRD:
“The best Weird fiction can touch and tantalise you strangely, darkly, poignantly, humorously, grotesquely or with deathly finality, but, also, mellowly and fruitfully, because, from the very experience of reading it at all, one never quite reaches the winter beyond the autumn in the way that you once reached the autumn beyond the summer.”

From my 2012 real-time review (HERE) of PEEL BACK THE SKY by Stephen Bacon:
<<Forever Autumn
“…there are no seasons any more – just one long endless constant.”
When I real-time reviewed the VanderMeers’ massive ‘The WEIRD’ book, I came to the conclusion that the distilled core of its century’s worth of High Weird literature was, for me, a mathematical constant embodied by ’Forever Autumn’. I think I said this a few times explicitly in my equally MASSIVE real-time review. At that time, I had not read this story by Stephen Bacon, a number of whose stories would surely have been deserving of being included in that book. No greater compliment can I give his work than saying that. Meanwhile, this particular story, although not among his best, nevertheless makes me think for the first time that such post-virus scenarios are emblematic of a slipping and sliding of human standards since I was a child in the 1950s, towards a self-deceiving brain-numbness in authorities when trying to ’control’ the <<’soldiers’ that are us>>, a fact that yesterday’s Hillsborough findings show was already happening in the downward zombie-viral cycle as much as 23 years ago…only few of us remaining to recognise that inverted cone-spiral of verities… But that may only be because I’m well and truly within my own ‘Forever Autumn’ whereby all manner of clouded ’wool’ is being pulled over my eyes that I hope good imaginative fiction can still manage to peel off.>>

From my review of MORBID TALES by Quentin S Crisp HERE:
“I always relish dealing with Prince Autumn.”

‘The Last Balcony’ by me: The eternal last stand or simply CANDLE DREAMING?


several references to the ‘Yellow Wallpaper’ story in my fiction



Yellowish haze in Ligotti fiction and as a character called ‘Yellowish Haze’ in my ‘WEIRDTONGUE’ and as an avatar of one of my oldest internet friends.

Autumnology or Aeontonomy – a new approach to a late life of mellow fruitfulness…

Aeontonomy – Autumn Immortalis
He was going for the aeon…” — Rhys Hughes: at the end of ‘The First Book of Classical Horror Stories’, from his story about Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.


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Peel Back The Sky – Stephen Bacon

I’m due to start below another of my gradual real-time reviews, turning leitmotifs into a gestalt. A paperback book I purchased from the publisher.

PEEL BACK THE SKY – a collection of Stephen Bacon stories

Gray Friar Press 2012

PEEL BACK THE SKY by Stephen Bacon (trade paperback edition)

Cover art by Les Edwards

There is no guarantee how long it will take to complete this review, whether days or years.

CAVEAT: Spoilers are not intended but there may be inadvertent ones. You may wish (i) to take that risk and read my review before or during your own reading of the book, or (ii) to wait until you have finished reading it. In either case, I hope it gives a useful or interesting perspective. Also I am the original publisher of three of the stories in this collection (The Toymaker of Bremen, The Devourer of Dreams and Cone Zero) … and, not to forsake the chance of a plug, Stephen Bacon’s story, The Ivory Teat, has more recently been published by me in The First Book of Classical Horror Stories.

My previous reviews of Gray Friar Press books: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/gray-friar-press-my-real-time-reviews/

All my other real-time reviews are linked from here: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/


This book (200 pages) is a neatly scrumptious pocket-sized tome – apparently the first of a series here entitled ‘New Blood 1’ – with my only reservation being the size of the print which, at my age, means peeling each eye as well as the sky!

Last Summer

It’s strange how a particular sight can remain nostalgic even though tiny changes might have occurred in the intervening years.”

I have read and reviewed this story before [i.e. as quoted from here: <<“Bricks bounce off the side.“ This is an effective evocation of the Miner’s Strike in Sheffield in the mid-Eighties (the bitterness and personal wars between strikers and scabs and their families) in parallel with the present day protagonist’s return to his childhood at that time and in that place, and an unforeseen redemption now seen-to-be-done by exposing its gory results in this story-as-memorial. Meanwhile, I, as reader of it, can imagine the mine structures – resonating, at least for me, with the structure in ‘Easter‘ above. That seems a right comparison to make, bearing in mind the passions and emotions of that time, of that place, with which I, as someone who only watched all this on the news at the time, can now more fully empathise …. paradoxically via the truth and immediacy of fiction when compared to the disputatious facts of history. “…we are standing on the grassy incline of the pit tip, looking down into the colliery.” (16 June 2010 – another 2 hours later).>>] If anything the story has gained even more power in the interim, and now represents the ‘scab, scab, scab’ that needs to be picked or teased free from the book to find out what the rest will reveal. (10 Sep 2012 – 6.30 pm bst)

The Trauma Statement

“I scoured the small print, checked for watermarks, hunted for any address.”

A powerful story emerging from a clever idea, indeed powerful and hauntingly memorable even though the idea at first reminded me of a potential dilemma-type game for a future Big Brother reality TV show… but then, as reader, I dwelt on Big Brother being similar to this story’s ‘insane God’. So, yes, a very telling, naggingly truthful fable of guilt and regret in a 30 year old marriage, a relationship cross-sectioned — in the same way as the previous story, ‘Last Summer’, is cross-sectioned — by Time and Time’s retrocausal conundrums. (10 Sep 12 – 8.20 pm bst)

The Strangled Garden

“In the weeks following these events, reality was almost irrevocably lost.”

There is often something delightfully naive, yet deceptively or scarily meaningful, I’ve noticed about Bacon stories when they are ostensibly plain horror stories — here told to ‘gentlemen’ as a story of Time’s past events concerning a lost dog, a country house and a garden at times called Strangled at others Sunken, as if we are to be strangled by its dug-over memories as well as its vegetation.  The ending is pure creaturified horror of the Bacon sort, radiating back towards an earlier withdrawal of narrative omniscience as if we as readers have agreed to be collusive with the narrator so as to wreak as much suspense paradoxically from the coolly old-fashioned “hysteria coursing through…“- as if absorbed in the spooky stories that the characters themselves earlier shared, for real, through books. An escape through fiction … Or strangled by it? (10 Sep 12 – 9.20 pm bst)

Catch Me If I Fall

“He was determined he wouldn’t be found to be so naive.”

A disarmingly brilliant anecdote – dealing with a married couple in the Autumn of their years (cf: me and my wife!) – their touching gullibility at renewed hope, plus a study in the cruel Art of Gratuitousness as based on games and Chance in life: not a million miles from the dilemma conceit in the Trauma Statement and, dare I say, Big Brother. So much conveyed skilfully in a relatively short simple textual space: authorially self-naive in an extremely creative and touching way. One’s whole past life re-cast retrocausally without realising that retrocausality can only apply in fiction, not here in real life… (11 Sep 12 – 11.50 am bst)




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Black Static #27

I’m starting below another of my gradual real-time reviews. This time it is of the fiction stories in TTA Press’s ‘BLACK STATIC’Issue 27 (Feb 2012 – Mar 2012). Received as part of my subscription to this magazine. As before, I shall attempt to draw out all the fiction’s leitmotifs and mould them into a gestalt.

CAVEAT: Spoilers are not intended but there may be inadvertent ones. You may wish (i) to take that risk and read my review before or during your own reading of the stories, or (ii) to wait until you have finished reading them. In either case, I hope it gives a useful or interesting perspective.

All my previous TTA Press reviews are linked from here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/09/25/tta-press-my-real-time-reviews/

All my real-time reviews are linked from here: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/

Item image: Black Static 27

There is no guarantee how long it will take to complete this review, whether days or years.

The stories to be reviewed have been written by Gord Sellar, Jacob Ruby, Stephen Bacon, Simon Bestwick, V.H. Leslie.

NB: There is much else of value for the Horror reader within ‘Black Static’ in addition to its fiction: – www.ttapress.com


Empty of Words, the Page – Gord Sellar

“Whitney breathed again…”  — “February’s bristling winds had come,…”

An accessibly but cumulatively sophisticated story about obsessional love for one of one’s students – an unrequited obsession utterly felt by the reader as well as by the literature-teacher protagonist himself via the skill of the writing – the story’s writing, his own writing. And the real-life-mingled overheard *sound* of the writing in books and notes as if the curse of word-molten ebooks are already audio-beating the burning books at their own game….  I am a sucker for any story that mentions Ives, Rachmaninov, Mahler, Debussy (even Salieri) as well as Pound’s Cantos, but I am a sucker for this story *anyway*.  It eventually becomes a relentless chain letter in which we shall all one day participate (Cf: the story ‘The Chain’ that I have just serendipitously read as part of a concurrent (“Derridean“?) real-time review of a story collection by another author.). “When his fascination with the w ebbed away, he looked up.” (19 Feb 12)

Perhaps this stunning story also resonates with the world’s first blank story (published in ‘Nemonymous 2’ in 2002)? (19 Feb 12 – two hours later)

The Little Things – Jacob Ruby

One of the books being ‘taught’ to the students in the previous story was ‘Frankenstein’ by Mary Shelley.  Now we have a very powerful and often repulsive scenario that seems to factor-in a detached monstrous life towards, say, a conceptual feel of Kazuo Ishiguro’s ‘Never Let Me Go’ … here, further factored-in towards a historically poor-house-type, God-fearing ‘extended family’ co-responsibility. We share the tentative tussle of Cassie (who looks to be about 13) with the story’s reality of deadpan, taken-for-granted predicaments, as she tries to find her own self of emotions, the correct loyalties as well as the location of the street with sloughed-off familial connections amid the poignant searching for ‘care’ to give as well as to accept, for roots to watch unroot as well as take root again. Meanwhile, the mother’s own envisaged writing is factored into the story’s writing and – like the previous story’s internal writing – underpins a tragic sense of unrequitedness.  Spreading parcels of of word-text: reaching out for audibility: “This was not the first time the growths had come into the world with cries.” (20 Feb 12)

Cuckoo Spit – Stephen Bacon

“Sunlight was crowding the edges of the curtain. The clock ticked a comforting heartbeat. Timber was stretching within the structure of the building. The fridge began humming to itself, distracting her.”

[Stephen Bacon is a rising star of the Horror genre whose work appeared on three separate occasions within ‘Nemonymous’  from 2008.  So very pleased to see his work synchromeshing with ‘Black Static’]. An atmospheric, well-stylised, often effectively poetic Cumbrian tale of feral concupiscence — conveying a similar (but equally different) relationship between a daughter (Megan) and her mother to Cassie’s relationship with her own mother in the previous story, both relationships containing parallel senses of detachment by creatures or outgrowths or ‘were’-nesses acting as vehicles for humanity, and vice versa. The relationships here are also well-drawn and any metamorphoses are sufficiently subtle-haunting without allaying their head-on power as horror images.  No mean feat. And the cuckoo spit’s conceit as salaciousness is another subtle but striking momentariness of realisation.  And, arguably, the metaphor of the cuckoo as occupier is present here. Who is the occupier? The animal-human parasite/host symbiosis? Or simply Megan subconsciously assuming control of the house just before her mother’s ‘departure’? Not even the characters always know their own motives because, in my experience, any author is often powerless to help such characters’ eventual puzzlings-out of self (thankfully). And that lack of ultimate control works for me here, even if Bacon may not have consciously intended to relinquish any authorial control for creative purposes.  [Me brainstorming:- In tune with the chain of cause and effect: the empty page from the first story above: awaiting some unknown force to start writing upon it — so as to help alleviate those challenging tentative tusslings that most writers (old and new) have when beginning a story from scratch or claw. That unknown force is ‘occupying’, in micro, this portrait of Cumbria or, in macro, the fluid-glistening White Noise of ‘Black Static’ itself?] (20 Feb 12 – three hours later)

The Churn – Simon Bestwick

Two employees’d already been sacked for ‘churning’ – instead of amending a policy because details’d changed, you cancelled it and incepted a new one, in order to claim a sale.”

Not that I was guilty of it myself, I know all about that meaning of the word ‘churn’. But before today, I had not really related it to the word ‘chain’ – nor does this story do so explicitly, but the idea as used here certainly resonates with the ‘chain letter’ conceits above and resonates again – serendipitously – with my concurrent real-time review, I mentioned above, here: and the plot resonates strongly, too, with the title story reviewed there: ‘Nowhere to Go’. Meanwhile, it is an original plot here of a middle-aged lady who is subject or subjected to encroaching ‘Gaslight’ (Ingrid Bergman) or ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ (Mia Farrow) types of paranoiac fear – in a very effective and shuddery way – cumulatively a masked ball to share your dreams. Occupied or occupier, mad or enmaddened, one never really knows for sure. (21 Feb 12)

Family Tree – V.H. Leslie

People shouldn’t be so scared of embracing their bestial natures.”

This is a telling outcome of the gestalt of ‘Black Static #27’ stories in the form of, for me, a hilarious account of the human-animal ‘chain’ in the sheer explicitness of reaching its own Bestwickian mid-‘churn’ of a “missing-link” – here upon the brink of some challenging form of ‘Cuckoo-Spit’ stickiness and symbiotic feral ‘were’-ness.  ‘The Good Life’ sit-com’s fashionable mock-sophisticated natural food and self-sufficiency – in family form – taken to the logically absurd gap-jumping along its chain of cause-and-effect, with the schoolboy protagonist (on the brink of going out with girls) coping with the reaction of his peers to the sudden revelation (after their ball is kicked into the long grass) of a highly  embarrassing incident in one of their regular “parent share” evenings at his own house (NB: the Jacob Ruby story’s own ‘parent share’ concept as an illuminatory comparison!). Yes, hilarious: potentially repulsive, too – but with a skilful sense of thought-provoking seriousness as it touches on ‘mental illness’ in a similar way to ‘The Churn’ and, familially, to the Jacob Ruby story with its treatment of bodily-change and family-links via a semi-genealogical ‘Tree’ of sloughed-off connections. The ending allows our protagonist to make a sudden absurd jump which is, in the context, perfect: making me, in a vaguely metaphorical parallel way, proud openly to read Horror fiction, whatever people think of me.  But does Gord Sellar’s ‘Frankenstein’ conceit come into it?

Another great statically dynamic group of blackstories. (21 Feb 12 – two hours later)



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DARK MINDS – including an original story by GARY McMAHON

I’m due to start below another of my gradual real-time reviews, turning leitmotifs into a gestalt. 

And it is of  a paperback book that I have just purchased. It is entitled DARK MINDS: including an original story by GARY McMAHON on front cover and on spine of book.

DARK MINDS: An Anthology of Dark Fiction on title page inside the book.

Published by the Dark Minds Press 2011.

There is no guarantee how long it will take to complete this review, whether days or years.

CAVEAT: Spoilers are not intended but there may be inadvertent ones. You may wish (i) to take that risk and read my review before or during your own reading of the book, or (ii) to wait until you have finished reading it. In either case, I hope it gives a useful or interesting perspective.

All my real-time reviews are linked from here: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/

Authors: Gary McMahon, Benedict J. Jones, Stephen Bacon, Ross Warren (and the book’s editor), Shaun Hammell, Anthony Watson, Colin Hersh, Jason Whittle, Colin Drewery, Joe Mynhardt, Clayton Stealback, Carole Johnstone. Cover image: Vincent Chong. Interior Artwork: Will Jaques.

Dark Minds Anthology

The Ghost of Rain – Gary McMahon

“…to hear it was to draw closer to something numinous…”

This story is classic McMahon, so utterly McMahon in fact I feel I almost hold his soul in my hand.  One can never complain about a McMahon story. This one deals with a sound-file download that then, via an MP3 player, permeates and corrodes-in-backtrail the life-trodden protagonist with a spiritual tinnitus (my words not the book’s).  Essential reading for the ever-growing number of McMahonites, threatening to swarm in torrents “…raging at the walls...” (22 Mar 11)

Berlin Sushi – Benedict J. Jones

“…victorious soldiers always want the same things.”

A brief but powerfully written story about the shocking brutality of war in post-victory peace, told from the point of view of a 15 year old girl Berliner.  A “feld grau” mezzotint of 1945 subsumed by a visualised carnal-ibal aftermath … as nations as well as men fail to shuffle off their meat-coloured lusts…. (22 Mar 11 – two hours later)

[As an aside – although, so far, there have been no obvious typos, I feel the book’s paragraph/tab and line-spacing aspects have not been perfect.]

The House of Constant Shadow – Stephen Bacon

“He also raised the index finger, creating an obscene V, and waved that in front of her face, ‘ – bacon and eggs.’ “

A football stadium here, almost gratuitously, acts as an intangible metaphor – as the [for me, Cern Zoo image] lion did in the previous story.  This is a very sad story. One where human beings (like animals in a random zoo) wreak pleasure and vengeance by turns, susceptible to all the mishaps of life – the temptations, the comparisons, the crude bodily outlets, bodily misalignments, all of which are so inextricably mixed with a desperate need for love as well as escapism – in an English terraced ‘inner-city’ scenario where Skegness is the only break-point. This is not a Horror Story. It is an effective human story, and that means it is also a horror story beyond any genre. (22 Mar 11 – another 4 hours later) 

The Rat Catcher’s Apprentice – Ross Warren

This story is in the generally excellent “stories told by gentlemen around a log fire in an olde worlde Gentleman’s Club during a storm” tradition – vaguely reminiscent within this tradition but otherwise different to Charles Black’s story The Coughing Coffin with, in The Rat Catcher’s Apprentice, a character called Charles and another with the surname Black. Despite, I felt, some infelicities of style, there is much to admire of the gory and strange in the Warren where the Rat Catcher shows off his métier. A rumbustious shape-shifting tale corseted in civilised garb, with a slightly oblique or obvious ending. The Theatre of the Absurd mixed with the Theatre of Grand Guignol, all watched from the Vault of Evil. Despite a few shortcomings, I enjoyed its panache. (22 Mar 11 – another 4 hours later)

The Anchorite’s Daughter – Shaun Hammell

The pungent rot of dead wood and understory would surround him like a warm breast,”

It’s not often that I encounter a writer whose name is new to me and, immediately, vow to watch out for more work by that author. This story – let me be frank – is a major reading experience, a substantial, almost collage-like, journey through  some of the strongest ‘humanity’ horror (foreshadowed by the Bacon story) that I think I have ever read. It blends extremes like Mike Philbin and/or Bizarro with styles of literary figures like Graham Greene, Lawrence Durrell, John Updike….  The language is stunning in many ways and conveys a nightmare or two that will haunt and sicken and nag at the strongest mind-stomachs of seasoned readers in all parts of the Horror genre world.  A new “feld grau” mezzotint thrown into the mezzanine of your mind like “jagged anarchal glass” to cause many gradual-merging colours of emotion to spill out all over you. (It must have been quite a nightmare, too, to prepare this text for publication and I compliment the presentation of it, despite a few accidental infelicities that I feel were not noticed by the editor.) (23 Mar 11)

Gehenna – Anthony Watson

“Men fall to the ground, some gently, as if simply lying down to sleep, others jerking violently…”

They keep coming. This is an impressively accomplished and memorable vision of Passchendaele, the trenches, the deaths seen from the Wilfred-Owenesque vantage point of those dying – but, above all, it fulfils a worthy goal of Horror Literature, here another ‘humanity’ horror in perfect metaphor provided by history, i.e. with the language of strong images, it conveys a Fable (as Berlin Sushi also conveys a Fable from another 20th century War), conveys it aptly as it does for us when the news today is full of Gaddafery and human shields etc.: a Fable obliquely akin to the Swiftian one in  ‘A Modest Proposal‘ where Swift recommends the Irish should eat their babies to attack the Famine problem from both ends of its evil. “Man’s inhumanity to man provides our succour.” (23 Mar 11 – ninety minutes later)

Last Laugh – Colin Hersh

“Life isn’t unfair, it’s just life. It is what it is.”

Cumulatively within the context of this book so far, this story possibly represents the noumenon that is humanity horror fiction (a new genre?). It is a fiction-enabled monologue that would otherwise have been impossible, i.e a monologue by a stroke-stricken grandfather who has lived his life (including yet another different 20th Century War), who cannot communicate or move, peed off (in more ways than one) by the way his family treat him: it is so compelling I felt I was, am him (especially as my turn is nearer in time than many other people reading this story, I guess!). As in the previous story, it is a poignant visualisation of seeing death coming while you are still conscious but helpless… [I had my own visualisation just a few days ago].  He is left too long in the sun. I hoped that the “cloud brothers“, even “asocial clouds“, from the Hammell story, or the rain from McMahon’s, would rescue him…  However, I’m not sure about the ending of this story (that I shall not impart). It may work, it may not. I am in two minds. I’d be interested to hear other readers’ views on this specific point.  Maybe it was the author’s own ‘last laugh’ to fool or foil my expectations of another (better?) ending? (23 Mar 11 – another hour later)

The World Shall Know – Jason Whittle

“They should be vigilant in ridding the world of the Jew, and the talking ape, and the sodomite,”

Another Fable in the mould of ‘A Modest Proposal’: a SFtopia where ‘Scriptures’ and/or a previous plague involve anyone whose temperature exceeds 103 degrees being decapitated.  A world of cynical self-satisfaction – but a world containing those who struggle to transcend the unwelcome Alternateness of an Alternate World and its Fantasy.  And the only way to transcend such Fantasy is perhaps ironically by means of Horror.  I am continually impressed by the standard of the stories in this Small Press Horror publication where its stories – many of the authors of which I’ve never heard of before – are generally exceeding (by far!) all my literary as well as Horror genre hopes when first approaching this book. This story included.  Again, though, I’m not sure of its ending. (23 Mar 11 – another 3 hours later)

Blood Loss – Colin Drewery

A story of a ruthless debt collector in a gangland bordering, I guess, on the type of ambiance in the English streets portrayed in the Bacon story, also conveying a vision of encroaching death by the one dying, as in some of the other stories above. But here with a twist intrinsic to the Horror genre. This story has a style of language and plot that is not normally to my personal taste, so it was good to find it a workmanlike, sufficiently enjoyable page-turner – leaving me intriguingly with an abiding intangible image or metaphor (to compare with the lion and football stadium earlier): a floating “orange orb”… (23 Mar 11 – another 90 minutes later)

Vengeance of Hades – Joe Mynhardt

“A cold, rotten grip seized him, its blunt teeth tearing into his neck.”

A knifegun-gory companion-story to the previous one, and here another classic Horror leitmotif eventually takes centre stage – contributing, from yet another angle, towards this book’s ever-growing gestalt of the death process as seen by the dying.  Humanity as Horror, in people’s actions and reactions to their own humanity and its loss.  Here in a workmanlike and eventually poignant style. I’m again in two minds. Two dark minds. [And one or two typos.] (24 Mar 11)

Under a Setting Sun – Clayton Stealback

“‘Eluses are you here?’ he whispered.

‘Yes, I am,’ hissed Des Lewis (with “enormous face“). In many ways, this substantive text is an outrageous vision, one with crude, wild, sometimes gauche, yet admirable, enthusiasm for Horror clichés, yet the whole story definitely embodies tangible evil amid a Hellish, Boschian, Lovecraftian vision that follows an exorcism gone wrong.  It works for me.  It works for this book. It works within this book and this book’s now identified gestalt eschatology. In other ways, it is a companion to the Hammell story, i.e. two points-of-view protagonists in collage or synergy and a configuration of a dual soul (two dark minds) culminating in the Stealback with an image that would work for both stories: “Hanging above the church, a wild vortex had opened up, spinning colours of the most vivid purples and reds around its circumference.”  [‘Vivid purples’ contrasting with my own stoic, sullen ones?] “Never converse with a demon; that was one of the golden rules.” Wow! (24 Mar 11 – four hours later)

Bury the Truth – Carole Johnstone

“We are all of us afraid of death. It is the human condition.”

Yet, the Hersh would have us know that “Life isn’t unfair, it’s just life. It is what it is.”  [And in both the Hersh and the Johnstone there is someone with a catheter…]  Those two quotes are important to this book. In fact the Johnstone – something I could never have predicted till I just finished reading it a few minutes ago – is the genuinely perfect coda to this book’s gestalt.  I am astonished. But in the last two years or so I have become a fan of Carole Johnstone’s fiction, so I already expected something special with this story. And it is. But it is even more special thanks to someone’s skills in ‘building’ this book, whether the result was intentional or not.  An imperfect book (I wouldn’t have wanted it perfect). It is perfect for what it is, for what it tries to be in all innocence. And the Johnstone is your vision of what your own death process is like as a delivery, when the mid-wife is yourself (my words, not Johnstone’s), with insidious things like Their or Them or They — all in upper case like God with His ‘He’ and ‘Him’ — waiting to share your witnessing of your own death in and out of character.  A League or Company of those in the Dantean know… The Johnstone is extremely frightening, yet fulfilling, as a separate story. I need say no more, I feel. Other, perhaps, than that there was a “blank television screen” in the Stealback, and when I finally myself steal back from life to death I expect first to experience the static, then the hiss of McMahon’s rain. (24 Mar 11 – another hour later)



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