I'm not sure how I managed to get my hands on the first one. I was young, twelve years old maybe, and I'll probably end up blaming my dad because he brought along paperback books to read during our seaside holidays in Scarborough. It's certainly how I was first introduced to Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter adventures, a more gentle stimulus for my imagination perhaps, whereas this -
It bore a strong resemblance to being approached by that kid in Junior school who said "Hey, come and look at this!" And like fools, we did and we ended up crouching in the gutter in the rain and staring in horror at a dead bird with maggots crawling over its sodden corpse. Opening up The Pan Book of Horror Stories was exactly like that. Chock full of mad surgeons, sinister relatives, creepy museums, werewolves, cruelty, torture and gore. In a word, horrible; The Copper Bowl gave me nightmares. And yet, I went on to read the next three or four books in the series, where heads rolled and bodies rotted and some tales crept way over the line (the voyeuristic recount of the Execution of Damiens, for example). Consequently, James Herbert's The Rats and Stephen King's The Shining, both powerful and frightening, were a far easier read.
Ask me back then why I insisted on reading horror, and I would have been at a loss to explain. But perhaps I was beginning to realize the world isn't the sheltered little box provided by our protective adults. A box that begins to collapse as we enter our teenage and adult years until life comes pouring in and all of a sudden we're in up to our necks, and in some cases over our heads. Maybe it helps to enter adulthood knowing life, even at its most banal, can be a dangerous place full of loss, anxiety and exclusion, where bad things can happen and screw The Copper Bowl because I'm about to lose my job.
It's been said many times that light has a tendency to blind us and it's only when darkness has cast its shadow we're able to see the true path. I haven't revisited that mixed bag of gory tales, wrapped up neat and innocuous in a flimsy paperback; I have a re-issue sitting on my bookshelf but as yet it lies untouched. The reviews tell me it's a patchy collection at best, dated and politically incorrect and its power to kick open trapdoors of shadow (no doubt rattled loose by the likes of Dickens and Grimm) has sadly waned. But it serves as a potent reminder, and as a marker for the beginning of a journey I'll never forget. A dark in the lightness. Shine on.
Janet Joyce Holden is originally from the North of England but now lives in Southern California. She is the author of Carousel and its upcoming sequel The Only Red Is Blood, along with a growing number of short stories.
On the opening night of Luke’s art exhibition at a local gallery, a stranger arrives with a lucrative proposition. Flat broke, and on the verge of being thrown out of his apartment, Luke eagerly accepts the challenge and discovers, rather than paint on canvas, the task involves the restoration of an antique carousel horse. It is a precursor to a much bigger project and inspired by the money offered, Luke takes the commission, becomes enraptured by his subject, and in a matter of weeks he sinks deep into his art and becomes withdrawn and obsessed, much to the dismay of his girlfriend Emma, and his elder brother John.
John in particular has cause for alarm, for the brothers share a dangerous heritage, one that Luke has been kept willfully ignorant of in a desperate attempt to protect his sanity. For Luke possesses a rare and much coveted gift, a latent talent that will open doors - to strange, ravenous forests, the soulless corridors of the dead, and perhaps even Hell.
Suspicious of his wealthy patron and fully aware of Luke’s potential, John seeks to protect his younger brother from being exploited. But, as spring turns into summer, Luke’s supernatural abilities begin to awaken and he and Emma are drawn into deadly realms they never knew existed, and for John it becomes a desperate fight to protect the world from the growing threat of Luke’s art, and to stop his brother from descending into madness.
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File under Horror Book Review