Ginger Nuts of Horror
It's the 6th annual 'Women In Horror' month and thinking about new books and stories I've read that have been by women has made me realise (again) that my reading as a whole is woefully behind and less than it should be. So, all I can really do is give a quick rundown of some stuff I've read in the past that I've utterly adored and which also just happens to be written by women.
By the way, you might be wondering why we have a 'Women In Horror' month. If you don't know, or if you're one of those people who makes statements like 'Well, why don't we have a 'Men In Horror' month?', I think a little judicious use of Google searching should help you out. I'm not going to go into it here...
Okay, let's begin:
Path Of Needles by Alison Littlewood
This was Alison's second novel following the Richard & Judy choice, A Cold Season, and it's a real slice of nightmarish delirium that successfully straddles the difficult line between horror and crime. Taking as its inspiration the older, darker versions of fairytales, it manages to sustain a strong, clear vision for the entire length of its pages. I loved the voice in this, the pitch perfect prose, the imagery - it's an assured piece of work that more than stands up to that put out by seasoned veterans of the genre. I've got Alison's third novel, The Unquiet House on my big pile of 'haunted house' books, and I'm really looking forward to that one. Find my full review of Path Of Needles here:
In The Woods by Tana French
Which brings me to the first novel of Tana's I read, and one which sits comfortably in the same arena as Alison's above. The book again is ostensibly a crime novel, detailing a murder investigation by the fictional Irish murder squad. However, both the gorgeous prose and the weaving of mysterious past events (where three young boys encountered something strange and violent, leaving only one of them to be found with no memory of events, yet clearly traumatised) serve to place the book squarely in the realms of subtle horror. It's a hypnotising, sprawling book and cuts deep, just like the conundrums of its plot, some of which may or may not be explained by the close. I've read two other novels of Tana's so far, and she just gets better and better ( her second novel, The Likeness, reads like a ghost story without actually having ghosts...), but her first (and mine) will always remain, in my mind, a special read.
Nowhere Hall by Cate Gardner
Released as one of Spectral Press's chapbooks, this was my first taste of Cate's writing, and I must admit to the crime of not seeking more out despite promising myself I would. It's a wonderful short story with what could be described as a typical 'haunted house' setting; an abandoned hotel which lures an unsuspecting man into its mysteries and revelations. Yet, such is the strength of the images and the poetic prose that there is an undercurrent of illusion, hallucination. I must also admit to getting severe skin crawl while reading this, and that very rarely happens to me in a story.
Sadly Nowhere Hall is sold out
Bitey Bachman by Kayleigh Edwards
Ginger Nuts' very own contributor Kayleigh is also an aspiring writer, with a number of short stories accepted in various anthologies and some screenwriting credits to her name. I've been privileged enough to have read some of these stories and one of my favourites is a recent short she penned, about a potential zombie outbreak in a secure mental facility. What sets it apart from the plethora of shambling corpse tales is its rich vein of humour and the strong characterization in only a few short pages. I actually laughed out loud in a couple of places. She writes like a seasoned pro and has an attitude to match, and I don't doubt that she will only get better and better. I'm sure Kayleigh has a very bright future ahead. A name to watch.
The Bright Day Is Done and Equilibrium by Carole Johnstone
I first came across Carole's writing in the pages of Black Static (number 41, I believe), where they had published the original story, Equilibrium. I started reading it, not knowing what to expect and found a deeply affecting, rich tale that completely confounded any expectation my mind threw up. I was kept guessing all the way through, and by the end of the short tale, I was in tears. It was that good. Beautiful writing, not a word wasted and really packs a genuine emotional punch. It's what I think writers need to strive for, a mix of economy and expanse; reaching out and pushing through the readers mental defences to strip their core bare. I'm only halfway through her collection from Gray Friar Press, but the stories within are just as assured as Equilibrium and varied. I hope to have it finished before the end of the month with a full review up on Ginger Nuts. Wonderful stuff from a fantastic writer.
The House Of Three by Lily Childs
Lily is without doubt, one of the finest proponents of the gothic ghost story. She writes with subtlety, managing to say a great deal with only a few words. If an image is worth a thousand words, Lily manages to subvert that and paints multiple pictures with a small amount of words. This story is the quintessential 'haunted house' tale, but it also manages to be so much more. There's a deep core of emotion here, not least as it deals with the fractured, fragile and damaged relationship of a brother and sister and their painful childhood. It teases, draws you in and then gives a genuine surprising shock at the end, which nevertheless feels natural without being predictable. Lily is another writer that I really need to read more of. Check out my full review right here on Ginger Nuts:
There are many more writers of horror and genre that I've read and enjoyed, and many more I have yet to read; writers such as Shirley Jackson, Daphne du Maurier, Thana Niveau, Lisa Tuttle, Pat Cadigan, Alison Moore, Elizabeth Stott, Kathe Koja, Sarah Pinborough, Heather Nelson, Laura Mauro and many, many more...
Do yourself a favour and check out the writing of some of the above, or another writer of horror who happens to be female. You never know, you might just surprise yourself with how much you like it.
Paul M. Feeney.