Ginger Nuts of Horror
Horror while being a genre that is in a constant state of innovation, is also a genre that likes its staples. Just go and check the shelves, you will find numerous zombie novels, and numerous vampire books. You will also find what is probably the Granddaddy of all horror staples, the Haunted House story. When you consider the heritage and the vast period of time that these books have occupied a space on your dusty bookshelf it is surprising that these books still have the power to unsettle a reader. Perhaps it is because they deal with a real fear. Our home is our castle, and the fear of it being invaded by either natural or supernatural forces is one that sits deep down in everyone’s subconscious. You may not be aware of it but this fear is there in all of us, and when a book or a film manages to tap in that fear, and elicit an icy chill that rises in the pit of your stomach, then you know you are onto a winner.
It is 1976 the country is in the middle of a scorching heat wave. Film score composer Christopher Norton and his family have just moved into their new home. An oppressive Victoria house, a house which Christopher believes will be the ideal setting for Christopher to build his own recording studio.
Not long after moving in a knocking sound begins, Christopher’s wife Laura can hear them through the spaces in the static on their baby monitor, Christopher is convinced the knocks are just an artefact the old house, then the voices start. Christopher starts to become obsessed by them starts to work on a symphony one that will feature the recordings of the voices. But is his obsession and recordings drawing the voices source ever closer to their home. Is he inviting something terrible and frightening into his home
Most horror doesn't really scare the reader, yes it can shock, and it can disgust, it can upset a reader. However a lot of the time this is achieved by simply being gross, by going to the lowest common denominator. When this done right it these books are whole lot of fun to read. For a book to be terrifyingly scary it needs to move away from the cheap scare tactics, and through the use of an ever increasing sense of dread, draw the reader into the book to the point where they are completely immersed in the book, then subtly play on the readers fears.
The Voices, is one of these books, it is a masterful example of a horror novel that has the ability to really scare the reader. Superbly written, The Voices, draws the reader into a slow burner of a novel, where, thanks to perfectly pitched sense of ever building dread will chill the reader to bone.
The use of the scorching hot summer of 1976 is a backdrop to the novel is an excellent narrative tool, the hot and oppressive nights serve as a perfect backdrop on which to hang this claustrophobic and suffocating story. This narrative twist really helps to up the fear quotient. Another way in which the narrative excels is in the use of the voices. The way in which the voices ever encroaching march into our reality mirrors the increasing distancing of Christopher and his wife’s relationship is a joy to read. The voices are talking but our protagonists are not. A man who can communicate emotions through the power of his music is unable to communicate properly with his family. When the actual source and back story of the voices is revealed the chill factor of this book goes into overload as Tallis preys on another extreme fear of a parent.
Relentless in its ability to pile on the chills The Voices is one of those novels that has a real ability to scare. As you get ever drawn into the story it won’t be long until that mysterious creaking noise, your house has been making for years, will start to have you praying that you left the upstairs hall light on. The haunted house novel has a new owner, why don’t you knock on his door, I think you find him to be a perfect host.
In the scorching summer of 1976 – the hottest since records began – Christopher Norton, his wife Laura and their young daughter Faye settle into their new home in north London. The faded glory of the Victorian house is the perfect place for Norton, a composer of film soundtracks, to build a recording studio of his own. But soon in the long, oppressively hot nights, Laura begins to hear something through the crackle of the baby monitor. First, a knocking sound. Then come the voices. F. R. Tallis' background as a clinical psychologist sets his writing apart. He knows exactly how to scare you . .