Revenants and Maledictions
Reviewed by Mario Guslandi
If you’re fond of elegant, subtly disturbing dark fiction, and especially if you prefer short stories instead of the usual “important” novels, you’re certainly aware that what you’re after can hardly be found in the best sellers list provided by the mass market. Thus, you’d better take a look at the world of small imprints, where excellent writers little known to the general public keep producing extraordinary material that only the connoisseurs can enjoy, due also to the limited printout of those books.
Sarob Press is one of the best small publishing companies which offer limited editions of splendid books of high quality and British author Peter Bell (now at his fourth collection) is one of those well-hidden secrets that I’m advising you to discover.
His latest book, Revenants & Maledictions, assembles ten stories (most of which are previously unpublished) ranging from the ghostly to the quietly horrific, written in a polished, but gripping narrative style, in the tradition of great authors of the past such as MR James, Algernoon Blackwood, and Sheridan Le Fanu.
“Apotheosis” outlines the mysteries surrounding the life and death of a pastor in the Hebrides, while “Wild Wales” is a tale of exotic horror where Egyptian curses haunt an isolated house.
“Blackberry TIme” is an affectionate, nostalgic journey into childhood memories, tainted by disquieting little hints of hidden horrors.
“The House” is an eerie piece of fiction featuring three gentlemen following the traces of an elusive, ambiguous ghost story writer.
The highlights of the volume, in my opinion, are the dark, atmospheric “The Virgin Mary Well,” where ancient, unholy secrets about a mysterious well are unearthed and brought back to the present, “The Robing of the Bride,” a powerful story with an antiquarian taste about ancient gods still casting their dark shadows on today’s world, and especially the outstanding “The Executioner,” a tense story of natural horror (with just a grain of supernatural on the top of it) taking place among the forbidding heights of the Scottish mountains.
Take my advice and secure a copy before it’s too late…