It's no secret that John Llewellyn Probert is one of my favourite authors. His stories bring a huge smile to my face; you can clearly see John's love for classic horror films in these books. They are intelligently written books full of wry humour, gloriously over the top villains, dashing heroes, and more importantly a joyous sense of fun, that is so infectious, they should be a notifiable disease.
However with Differently There, his latest novella from Gray Friar Press, John has dramatically changed the tone of his writing.
Gone are the dashing heroes, and spectacular villains, to be replaced by a gut wrenching, emotionally charged story, that is so personal you can't help but feel you are seeing deep into the heart and soul of John Llewellyn Probert.
Opening with a wonderful description of the drabness and minutiae of every hospital room in the country, John imbues the room with its own personality. Written almost like a one camera tracking shot through the room, there is a lightness of tone that belies the darkness to come later on in the story.
For this room is to play host to Paul Webster a 41 year man about to undergo major surgery for a particularly aggressive and nasty form of cancer. Already uptight and on edge about the upcoming surgery, little does Paul know that the night before surgery, will prove to be a battle whose outcome will be more important than life itself.
Attached to a blood pressure monitor, Paul is in for a restless night. His dreams have invaded by something sinister and insidious. It's after something, something that only Paul can provide, and something that Paul must decide if it is worth fighting for.
As the story unfolds we are given a powerful look into the heart and soul of Paul, and I believe in many ways John himself. With each dream the reader is drawn ever more into Paul's battle, and drawn evermore into shedding a tear. Yes this story is that powerful. So much so that when Paul reaches the endgame of this battle you will be begging Paul to do the right thing.
This may sound odd, but never in a million years would I ever have thought that a blood pressure monitor could be considered to be a fascinating "character" in a book. The way in which the machine grounds the fantastical elements of Paul’s dreams, by interrupting them with its monotonous functionality is a stroke of genius.
Differently There, is a moving look at the power of memories, fear and love, deeply personal, but with a subtle, and light touch of humour, this is perhaps John's finest hour so far.
File Under Horror Novel Review