Hi res image of David John Griffin's 'Two Dogs at the One Dog Inn'

Two Dogs at the One Dog Inn (David John Griffin)

In David John Griffin’s debut magic realist novella, Two Dogs at the One Dog Inn, things are not quite as they seem. Audrey Ackerman, an elderly volunteer at the Animal Welfare Union, is summoned to a 17th century coach house following a request to investigate a strange late-night canine disturbance at the inn. She writes, in a series of emails to her manager, Stella Bridgeport, that she has been shaken from ‘crazy experiences’ and ‘frightening memories’ following her sightings of a paranormal nature. What follows is a bizarre tale that is narrated by a series ‘found’ documents that include the emails between the two women from the Animal Welfare Union and extracts from the journal and authorial notes of Gideon Hadley, a passing science fiction writer.

I saw – despite only seeing its form from the periphery of my vision – what can only be described as a ghost of a shadow. It was like red smoke, billowing and convulsing at times in the shape of a large dog which moved fast over the inner walls of the courtyard…Sometimes it was clear that this ghost-smoke shadow-creature was running, but with its legs moving in slow motion despite its apparent speed along those walls. And this apparition, or whatever it was, would vanish if I looked directly at it through a window.

Android receptionists, spectral hounds, unreliable narrators and angelic demi gods combine to create a story that is as startling as it is extraordinary. With so many elements on display in Two Dogs at the One Dog Inn it’s easy for a casual reader to lose themselves, but Griffin does well to keep the various aspects of the novel together. This being said, while I appreciated the second account of the curious events of the Two Dogs, I found that Gideon’s notes broke the flow of the narrative. Though I initially took the employment of the journal as a narrative device to be an ingenious way to disentangle and reclaim an interesting narrative from the looping clutches of the emails between the two women of the Animal Welfare Union. To some extent, I wished that Griffin had gone further in his use of found texts, including more than simple allusions and pastiches of Google and Wikipedia; perhaps emulating some of those elements found in Cynan Jones’ revisioning of the Peredur Tale, Bird, Blood, Snow, from the Mabinogian sequence. Jone’s brutal novella cunningly collates numerous related articles and transcripts to advance the drama and heighten the sense of reality.

In spite of this, Griffin succeeds in creating three distinct voices that rise above a scattered narrative. Because of the delayed replies, the emails respond as though they were diary entries and leave the reader with the sense that they are meeting each narrator at an entirely different psychological standpoint. I liked this effect and thought that the novella benefited from this unreliable narration.

Although I am a writer of fiction, all of my journal entries are based on truth. If you don’t trust me or believe what I write, what more can I say?

On the whole, Two Dogs at the One Dog Inn, comes together nicely to deliver a satisfying if predictable. Though I felt that Griffin would benefit from placing more faith in his readers; the novella ends with a rather flabby prologue that takes great pains to tie-up all the loose ends in unnecessary detail.  Still, moving beyond this, Griffin has produced an ambitious novella that should inspire readers of magic realism to look out for the two novels (The Unusual Possession of Alaister Stubb and Infinite Rooms) that he is due to publish over the course of year.

Still from The Time Machine 1960 Film

Time Adjusters (Bill Ectric)

The 1980s were a strange time for me. As much as I wanted to accept the amenities and corporate trappings, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong.

time_adjusters_cover_image_sein_und_werden

Having not spent any time at all in the 1980s, it’s hard for me to entirely appreciate the sentiment in these opening lines from Bill Ectric’s Time Adjusters. That being said, even I can tell that Ectric’s novella captures the zeitgeist of the time, incorporating themes of social and economic change alongside a wider sci-fi narrative that imagines the lengths taken by large-scale corporations to stay ahead of the game. Unusually for long-form prose, Time Adjusters achieves this by inserting elements of the cut-up technique inspired by Tristran Tsara and the Dadaists.

It’s highly likely that more people have discussed or read about the cut-up technique than have attempted to read (let alone write) a full length cut-up novel. Generally speaking, because of the mechanical nature of its creation, long-form literature created in this way suffers from a staccato structure that badly affects readability. William S. Burroughs (who popularised the technique) recognised, in 1968, that cut-ups were best used exclusively to highlight inconsistencies in an otherwise linear narrative, writing that he would henceforth employ them “as an integral part of narrative in delirium and flashback scenes”.

It is in this vein that Ectric’s cut-up novella, Time Adjusters, adopts the technique immortalised by the likes of the Dadaists, Burroughs and Gysin. Brief interstitials composed of randomised text break up the narrator’s, otherwise linear, stream-of consciousness to create an approximation the fragmentation of time and space in a world torn ragged by fly-by-night insurance corporations. The story imagines a world in which these priests of litigation have stumbled across a new laser technology that uses orbiting satellites to intercept light waves that bounced off the Earth’s surface, bend these waves forward through a series of prism & mirror relays, and back to Earth, thereby capturing reflections of the Earth’s future topography, to analyse potential sites of floods, earthquakes, and other disasters.

“Nobody who needs insurance ever has it. ‘Epidemic of bad timing’ is what they call it in the news. They think their home is covered, but as soon as they have a damage claim, and the claims adjuster goes out to examine the damage, it turns out the policy has lapsed. We suspect the adjusters are pirating Time-Light technology and triggering retro-non-renewals when they detect a future loss.”

There’s no doubt that, owing to the hodge-podge nature of Ectric’s cut-up interruptions, Time Adjusters is a little structurally haphazard, but on the whole I enjoyed it. This pleasant and adventurous novella that offers a welcome departure from some of the more mainstream offerings that you’ll find on the shelves. Expect to be confounded and entertained.

When my eyes adjusted to the bar’s dark interior, I saw two bikers playing pool under one of those Budweiser carousels in which a team of Clydesdale horses pulled a beer wagon around in circles through the snow. There must have been an electrical problem with the carousel, because the light sometimes flickered inside it and the horses lurched forward, but when the light went dim, those horses stopped in their tracks. That’s just like me, I thought. I can sit here and go nowhere, or I can walk and walk, or drive for miles, but some kind of loop keeps bringing me back to nowhere.

High Resolution image of Laline Paull's 'The Bees'

The Bees (Laline Paull)

This review originally appeared on the website of the Sein Und Werdun and I’m extremely grateful to them for posting it. 

The cell squeezed her and the air was hot and fetid. All the joints of her body burned from her frantic twisting against the walls, her head was pressed into her chest and her legs shot with cramp, but her struggles had worked – one wall felt weaker. She kicked out with all her strength and felt something crack and break. She forced and tore and bit until there was a jagged hole into fresher air beyond.

For Flora 717, ‘low of kin and sweeper of filth’, the bulky heroine of Laline Paull’s ambitious literary debut The Bees, life was never going to be easy. Born too big, too dark, too ugly and to a lowly sanitation caste, Flora’s only saving grace is that (remarkably for her species) she can talk. Marked as ‘most notable’ by a lofty priestess bee, who just happens to be passing as Flora explodes in a waxy cloud from her pupation cell; she is saved from immediate execution by the deformity police. Leaving her detested sisters behind, Flora is quickly promoted through the ranks of the hive: feeding the Queen’s revered spawn, tending her mewling grubs and is even, after proving herself courageous in a bout of waspish mortal combat, invited to attend on the Queen herself.

I enjoyed the authentically bee-like limitations felt by Flora as she learns to encounter and manage the hive-mind, but on occasion felt it to be too heavy and prescriptive a plot device to lose myself in the alien world created by Paull. As though the hive-mind itself exerted too much pull on narrative and pushed me at unnatural pace through the hive (and its surroundings) like a package holiday – sometimes it was all that I wanted to slow the narrative and have more time to explore aspects of Flora’s strange home that were only glanced at. Though, this being said, the world created for The Bees is, in all manners; it is well realised, larger-than-life and its dangers – both internal and external – are deliciously chilling.

    ‘You fled inspection.’ One of them pulled at the girl’s wings, while another examined the four still-wet membranes. The edge of one was shrivelled.

    ‘Spare me,’ she cried. ‘I will not fly, I will serve in any other way—’

    ‘Deformity is evil. Deformity is not permitted.’

    Before the bee could speak the two officers pressed her head down until there was a sharp crack. She hung limp between them and they dropped her body in the corridor.

As is the case in so many of the animal fantasies to precede it, The Bees provides a fascinating loupe through which to scrutinise human nature and the Paull’s decision to frame her literary debut in the unfamiliar insect world is inspired. As readers are gradually made aware of Flora’s maternal destiny they discover that the brilliance of The Bees is hidden within a prism of difference and racial identity.

More than anything I loved Paull’s realisation of hive-culture, of the foragers (so much like the fighter aces of the first and second World Wars) the Melissae and their enforcers, the sinister fertility police, who evoke the cruelty of prejudice and eugenics; but also their ‘Maleness’, the bloated, pompous and selfish drones, who even in the depths of their Dionysian pursuit of hedonism demand pity as much as derision.

Sir Quercus turned to the sisters.

    ‘Fortune favours me, does she not, ladies?’ And he swelled his sturdy thorax, raised his fur in three tall crests on his head, and pumped his male aroma so it rose up around him in a cloud. Some sisters swooned, and some, like Sister Prunus, spontaneously applauded.

    ‘Who will groom me?’

Paull creates a wonderfully alien world that I just couldn’t wait to get back to, in this bold and ambitious (sexy-bee) dystopia that will please lovers of Margaret Atwood and Beatrix Potter alike. This is Logan’s Run in an apiary and it’s brilliant.

Sean Scully, 'Wall of Light Haze,' 2012

The Lantern Cage (Kelly Grovier)

This review originally appeared on the website of the New Welsh Magazine and I’m extremely grateful to them for posting it. 

Kelly Grovier 'The Lantern Cage'

The Lantern Cage, Kelly Grovier’s third collection with Carcanet Press, is a playful exploration of the mysteries lurking at the margins of our perception; a collection ‘whose object / is larger than it appears’. Frequent references to 16th Century astrologers and astronomers conjure an atmosphere of mysticism in which poems appear on the page as if ‘in the language of the dream’, while visual and syntactic puns tease at the internal logic of the poems, often adding to the unsolvable nature of their subjects.

Grovier’s poetry is precise and well-crafted. Throughout the collection a combination of enjambment dropped lines are employed to great effect and lend the poems an aural quality that demands they be read aloud. In ‘Slip’ this feature evokes within the reader a sense of fluidity:

A small slip of paper,

no larger than the page

 

you are holding in your hands,

is drifting down

Oxford Street,

catching, every few steps

While in other areas this feature has the effect of reinforcing the precise composition of his poetry and additionally leaves a suggestion within the reader’s mind of a ghost of the unspoken word; such as this from ‘The Lantern Cage’ in which ‘some words stay back and some were never there’:

…After carving

 

the bluetit, we would pluck it

clean of meat

 

for sandwhiches,

boil the beast’s brittle

 

lantern cage

Rather than evoking a sense of fluidity, I found that this imposed an image of the bird’s skeletal making the poem sharper and giving it an altogether more insidious feel – as though it were a lullaby played in minor key.

However, the chief success of The Lantern Cage is found within the sustained illustration of sight and sound throughout the collection. In ‘A Short Introduction to Hearing’, the poet cannily deconstructs the process and in doing so strips the scientific syntax down to its barest syllabic essentials to reveal the musicality of the words:

vestibules of the osseous

labyrinth, its anvil

and hammer

must first transcend

a maze of nerve and muscle.

Reduced in this manner, the words adopt staccato metre that hammers at the conscious and invokes implications that meaning must be, in some manner, mined from each respective utterance. Further use of archaeological lexis reinforces the imagery of hearing in this primitive form:

every syllable [as] a ghost, every word an excavation.

In ‘The Edge’, Grovier draws upon the meditations of the Paraclesian physician Robert Fludd, finding harmony in his statement that “Earthly music is only the faint ‘tradition of the angelic state, it remains in the mind of man as a dream of, and the sorrow for, the lost paradise.’ In this poem, the speaker watches the ‘moon stream’ and draws a comparison between the orbits of the celestial bodies above him with the rotation of disks on a player; he watches as they ‘shuffle / their invisible tracks’ and appears to dream of a final element to set the scene in perfection:

all this winter evening needs

is a soundscape – notes to bind the soul

with strings, rhythm to carry it

to the very edge.

Throughout the collection these delicate touches and nuances reveal a delight in the poetic treatment of sensory expression and cast Grovier as a poet acutely attuned to the intricacies and balances of light. In Particular the ekphrastic sequence ‘Vertical Horizons’ which, taking their inspiration from a series of abstract colour blocked paintings, explore light in its different regards. Taken together, the three poems reflect each other and assume a subtle meta-narrative of their own in which they appear self-aware, the ‘selves’ of each reverberating off of each other as though caught in a mis en abyme:

Strange to hear one’s soul ask itself

how much of you is still willing

to play along with the endless

switching on of the lights …

In this way, Grovier reacts to the chequered motifs of Scully’s art and the reader is overwhelmed by the notion of ‘sense giving way / to other senses, and words’.

High resolution image of James Hannah's 'A to Z of You and Me'

The A to Z of You and Me (James Hannah)

This review originally appeared on the website of the Open Pen Magazine and I’m extremely grateful to them for allowing me to serve as their ‘bespectacled resident reviewist’. 

James Hannah, a graduate of Curtis Brown’s Creative Writing course and one of The Observer’s ‘New Faces of Fiction’ for 2015, has got it all going for him, and his debut novel, The A to Z of You and Me, is a recipe for teary-eyed success in the vein of Rachel Joyce and Jonas Jonasson.

I know exactly what you’d be saying to me now.
You’d be telling me that I have to try.
To try to try.
But I want to give up. I just want to lie here, in this bed, in this room, with nothing to look at but the wall and the window, the magnolia tree beyond…Maybe the older patients are content to keep themselves occupied with parlour games. But I don’t want any of it. I’m forty. My mind’s too active. I need it deadening.

Though, that’s not to sell it short. Mainstream it may be, but simple it ain’t. The A to Z of You and Me tells the story of a young (though nevertheless dying) man, Ivo, as he looks back over his misspent youth from his bed in a hospice. Lamenting the friendships made and broken and his love for the girl that that he’ll never get back. At the suggestion of his nurse, he begins to take his mind off his anxieties and being bedbound, by playing an A-Z game, listing the parts of his body and telling a little tale or memory about each.

‘Chesticles?’ You say.
‘Yeah,’ I say. ‘Becca used to say it.’
It’s the joy in your face that takes me by surprise, and then your infectious and unfettered laugh.
‘Oh, that’s lovely!’ you say. ‘And I suppose Becca ought to know. You wait, I’m going to use that all the time.’

I found this to be a poignant tale of a life wasted through passivity. Hannah’s characters (Ivo’s friends) represent your mother’s nightmare; they are selfish, drug-addled and inconsistent. A herd of underachievers content to drift blithely through life, making their decisions on behalf of the herd as opposed to the individual. Little realising the impact that the (seemingly) insignificant decisions, like a drink here, a joint there or a drive home after might have on their lives.
Hannah navigates this well, for the most part keeping mawkish kitsch and schmaltz at arms-length. Rather than overtly playing on this glib sentimentality, he opts instead to focus on capturing the minutia within the big picture, capturing beautifully those racy twilight-thoughts in which our hind-mind reminds us of our impermanence.

As I lie here now, going over that scene after all these years, the danger I think of is his clear eyes and honest intonation, and I think, maybe I had more of an effect than I thought by simply not being around. Maybe you can’t just switch yourself off from people’s lives. Maybe I could be persuaded that he was being reasonable.
But no. No way.

It’s worth mentioning that owing to the relatively small cast and the first person narrative, The A to Z of You and Me can feel a little empty at times. While I’m not saying that I longed for Hannah to emulate a great Russian novel, I might have preferred more character interaction. Long sections of the book are taken over by Ivo’s ruminating on whether or not he should accept death-bed guests and at times I found myself wishing that he would, if only to inject a little more action into the narrative.

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Competition: Search for the next generation of Welsh Writers

This is a great opportunity for anyone aged between 17 and 24 currently in Wales. Submit, submit, submit!!

Welsh Writers' Trust

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Search underway for next generation of Welsh writers

Budding writers from across Wales are being invited to enter a competition to have their work published in a new anthology of the nations’ most talented young scribes.

The Welsh Writers’ Trust is teaming up with Parthian Books to publish an anthology which will include work by the winners of the Trust’s second Robin Reeves Prize for Young Writers.

The competition is open to writers between the ages of 17 and 24, who are asked to submit poetry, fiction, drama or non-fiction, either complete works or excerpts on the theme of Out of the Ashes: Overcoming Adversity. Within this topic, writers can explore the subject of moving beyond trauma, difficulties, or hardship which might be personal, social or cultural.

The winner will receive £500 and have their work published in the anthology.There will be prizes of £100 and £50 for the…

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Francisco de Goya's 'Saturn Devouring his Son'

The House of the Deaf Man (Peter Krištúfek)

This review originally appeared (in its entirety) within the pages of the New Welsh Magazine and I’m extremely grateful to them for posting it. 

‘I realised long ago… That the history of Slovakia boils down to proving that you were in the right place at the right time.’

Whose are the bones his son accidentally stumbles on buried in the garden?

Through a child’s eyes the reader experiences the petty tensions and conflicts that are played out within a rural Slovakian family amidst a violent period of national upheaval, economic stagnation and social displacement. The narrator, Adam Trnovsky, spurred on by the mysterious human remains he uncovers in his childhood home, attempts to reconcile himself with the truths he learns about his father’s life. The House of the Deaf Man hurtles through the twentieth century, documenting the effects of four (very different) political regimes, the Jewish Question, the political trials of the 1950s and the secret police that came after 1968.

But whose are the bones his son accidentally stumbles on buried in the garden?

If you want to read the full article go to the NWR online shop where you can buy an individual issue or take out a subscription, saving up to 40% off the cover price. Prices start at £16.99 for four issues via Direct Debit, including p+p (UK only).

'The Stone Bench in the Garden at Saint Paul Hospital 1889' by Vincent Van Gogh

Local Therapy (Soleïman Adel Guémar) and Ham & Jam and A Pearl (Childe Rolande)

This review originally appeared on the website of the New Welsh Magazine and I’m extremely grateful to them for posting it. 

Hafan, from the Welsh word meaning haven, sanctuary, asylum, is the imprint run by Tom Cheeseman to raise funds and awareness for the Swansea Bay Asylum Seekers Support Group. Together, Soleïman Adel Guémar’s Local Therapy and Childe Rolande’s Ham & Jam and A Pearl demonstrate the quality of work produced by Hafan Books and, by extension, the Swansea Bay Asylum Seekers Support Group.

Cover art of Soleïman Adel Guémar's 'Local Therapy'

Unavoidably political throughout, Guemar address the everyday agonies of contemporary Algeria.

Soleïman Adel Guémar worked as a freelance journalist in Algeria, investigating human rights violations between 1991 and 2002, before claiming political asylum in the UK following threats to his life. The stories in this collection demonstrate a fighter’s spirit in Adel Guémar’s prose, often visceral and provocative. Each addresses with perfect clarity the everyday agonies of contemporary Algeria. Unavoidably political throughout, if Local Therapy is brutal or hard to bear, it’s worth remembering that fictions take their inspiration from the darkest experiences of a nation.

However, despite the miasma of despair that understandably pervades Local Therapy, the stories reflect a philosophy that passionately enforces the dignity of the people at the heart of Adel Guémar’s collection. ‘The Poet’s Garden’, a fable reminiscent of Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Selfish Giant’, offsets certain horrors of Algerian life with Adel Guémar’s typical injection of dark irony and the fantastical Utopian paradise of his hero, The Poet. In a city driven by commercial desire and the worldwide business fever ‘hafmorstuff’, a poet establishes his own slice of heaven only to be accused by the political elite of exhibitionism, but meets resistance when the political elite acknowledge that he operates ‘outside of their own circle of brains’.

Cover of Childe Rolande's 'Ham and Jam & A Pearl'

Loquacious and near nonsense, Rolande’s poetry experiments with poetic form.

Childe Rolande is the Arthurian pen name of Langollen-based concrete poet Peter Noël Meilleur. English born and raised in Quebec, Rolande’s poetic inheritance can be found in the works of Dylan Thomas, the Dadaists and the Surrealists; Ham & Jam and A Pearl is his first book-length publication by a Welsh Press.

Told through its constituent parts, Ham & Jam and A Pearl is a clever piece which locates itself somewhere in the cultural landscape between the terrains of an Edward Lear nonsense and the theatrical worlds of Becket and Barker. The pieces take their initial inspiration from Act II Scene 2 of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, in which Polonius seeks to determine Hamlet’s feelings on certain matters asking ‘What are your plans for the future of the planet, my lord Hamlet?’ From this point Rolande constructs a dynamic verbal soundscape around the phoneme ‘-am’, off which Hamlet bounds, unpredictably displaying a loquacious flair and great verbosity that is juxtaposed by Polonius’ interrogative repetition of his initial question.

Conversely, in A Pearl, Rolande constructs a mirrored world for his characters. Still bound by the constrictions of his imposed speechscape, Hamlet appears before the reader as a prisoner bound in his repetition of an ideal: a pearl. In this extension on the last, Polonius has Hamlet, feigning madness, as his victim. The latter is found seated in a chair, parts of his body wired to a hand-cranked field telephone which emits an electric shock whenever Polonius is dissatisfied by a pearl. These repeated pearls are set against each other by meanings implied through Polonius varied interrogation:

‘ – What will save us from perdition / – A pearl / – What will you be remembered for? / – A pearl / What will I be remembered for? / A pearl.

Hamlet’s entrapment can be viewed as an extended metaphor of the subversion present within the court at Elsinore. It’s clear that together Ham & Jam and A Pearl represent Rolande’s manifesto; with both pieces he entreats the reader to be wary of slavery to language. Here Rolande demonstrates a playful and revolutionary approach to form and confronts the arbitrary materiality of linguistics.

High quality image of 'An English Ghost Story'

An English Ghost Story (Kim Newman)

This review originally appeared on the website of Neon Magazine and I’m extremely grateful to them for posting it. 

Kim Newman, the man who brought us Jago and the star-studded Anno Dracula series (if you haven’t read them, do), after a considerable break from full-length novels, returns with An English Ghost Story. A skilful work from a writer steeped in the lore of his genre, it is a novel that bathes, like an eager hipster, in a wash of pop-culture and horror-fanboy references. A truly traditional ghost story that plays unwilling home to a dysfunctional modern family, greeting them as they escape from their city-bound relationship problems and begin life in the classic country idyll.

Readers join the Naremores as they set out with trepidation in a Mercedes A-Class “Hunchback” to begin a search for their “new” home. As is the way with these things, to begin with, none will do. The family progress through the countryside like a kind of nuclear Goldilocks “each storing up blame for the other to shoulder” leaving a trail of rejected and ill-fitting houses in their wake. Until, as if by magic, a man named Brian Bowker introduces them to the Hollow. Cue thunderstorms.

The house stood on raised stone foundations… and was an obvious patchwork of styles and periods. Matched follies, the towers seen from the road, rose to either side, above a greenish thatched roof, topped by hat-like red tile cones with Rapunzel windows. Aside from the towers, it was a farmhouse built at twice life-size. The ordinary scale front door looked tiny. Ivy had been encouraged to grow, perhaps to cover the jigsaw-sections of red brick, white plaster and grey stone. Over the centuries, parts of the house had been replaced when they collapsed or people got tired of them. It had grown independent of any architect’s designs or council planning permission, evolving to suit its inhabitants.

Upon this viewing, the Naremores find themselves in a state of unusual harmony and consequently rush the sale through and find themselves settling quickly; their hurts and bruised spirits stymied by the Hollow’s unconventional allure.

The Hollow, an apple orchard in Somerset, we learn from the pages of a history book cited in the novel, is “the most haunted spot in England.” Once the home of Louise Magellan Teazle, a Blyton-esque author of children’s ghost stories which, in the words Mrs Naremore, were “old-fashioned even then [when she was at school], but we all read them”, occupies an exalted place of mystery amongst its twee country surroundings. Like a (hopefully benign) poltergeist Newman teases out traditional themes of hauntings and establishes the Hollow as a ubiquitous place of haunting as opposed to creating an arbitrary haunted house. The former works much better for An English Ghost Story and I found myself reminded frequently of Robert Holdstock’s Ryhope Wood Series, specifically Mythago Wood in which a damaged man returns to England from the Second World War to find a ghostly forest risen from the long-dead myths of a nation.

The haunting experienced by the Naremores is (for the most part) one-step removed; they are as much the subject of the haunting as the object and readers will be aware of the degree to which they are a part of the happenings. Nevertheless, reading An English Ghost Story it’s hard not to get caught up in the spirit of the thing. It’s clear that Newman must have had a good deal of fun throughout the writing process. Larger than life characters with the most fabulous and quintessentially “English” names (Louise Magellan Teazle, Veronica Gorse and Bernard Wing-Godfrey) fall between cult film references and comfortable cliché as they and the Naremores attempt to understand (and eventually appease) the Hollow.

The opening and the finale are both well realised, but I felt that Newman handled poorly the shift between the two. At around the midway point (as the Hollow ceases to be a welcoming place for the Naremores) the novel takes an odd turn and characters begin making decisions that appear inconsistent with their past behaviour and obstruct the otherwise steady flow of the plot. Though, it must be said, Newman soon pulls this round for a satisfyingly dramatic denouement.

This is a novel that is filled with the kind of nostalgic warmth that gathers its arms around the reader and welcomes them around an imaginary mind-fire with a measure of vintage ghost-whiskey. A story that is as much about the act of reading oneself into the fabric of a landscape as it is a collection of penny dreadful scares. An English Ghost Story is ideal for the long dark nights.

To us, to the Naremore Family, and to our new home. We would like to thank the Hollow for having us, and we hope that it will keep us always.

Time Adjusters by Bill Ectric now available