Ginger Nuts of Horror
By Tony Jones
Behind a rather drab looking book-jacket lurks a truly exquisite collection of eight short stories aimed at the teen/YA market or anybody who enjoys a bloody good old fashioned scare…. And to be frank, if any adult horror writers (published or unpublished) out there want an A-Z lesson on how to construct supernatural stories for children, then look no further than this masterful anthology. Many of the tales sneakily play on the insecurities of everyday life, especially those irrational fears that put children on edge. From the outdoor light which randomly flashes on and off, to the smelly old photo album, not forgetting the strangeness of a new house or even the invisible friend who is just a tad too real. Jeremy De Quidt presses all the right buttons in building an oppressive atmosphere of darkness which permeates throughout all unique eight stories...
I believe this highly original author deserves to be much better known that he is. And if you flick through our ongoing Festive Fifty of recommended YA horror novels you’ll find Jeremy on our first list. His spine-tingling debut “Toymaker” is a real favourite of mine, and so eight years down the train track it’s an incredible coincidence to be reviewing this September 2016 release, only his third in these eight long years. In a recent conversation with the author, I was very surprised to find out that he NEVER reads horror! He is obviously a rare breed, as most top writers of horror are almost always serious students of the genre also! To steal his comment on this from our email exchange: “I just carry a whole lot of that dark ink around in my head”. He sure does….
Did I say there were eight stories? The correct answer is really nine…. As the ninth story expertly connects this anthology together, that of an unnamed boy who stupidly gets off a train at the wrong station of the title. He finds it to be completely deserted and bumps into an old man who acts increasingly sinister as he begins to reveal the stories in the anthology. These tales are interspersed with the developing story between the old man and the increasingly frightened boy who feels himself being sucked into these incredibly realistic stories which he does not want to hear.
Christmas is traditionally a great time for ghost stories, so if you’re looking to buy a collection of stories for a child, niece or nephew then I couldn’t recommend this book highly enough. Please encourage the child to look beyond the rather flat cover which is obviously trying to recreate the train station of the lost boy who interconnects the story. Virtually none of the stories run for over twenty pages and could be ideal for reading out loud, however, they are pretty scary and are not aimed at primary school kids unless they do like being creeped out. There is little violence, and much is left to the imagination, which makes them even scarier, especially for children.
Although all the stories are standalone reads I would stick to the running order of the book as the interconnecting story between the old man and the unnamed boy is terrific and as it nears its end you just know something bad is going to happen…. This brings us onto the one thing all the stories have in common – their incredibly dark endings! No elder brothers or sisters come to the rescue, and no mum or dad appears to turn on the light and give reassuring hugs. Although the stories are very modern and use technology and modern themes, they also have the style of many of the great Edwardian ghost stories of the last century at heart and could easily pass for a century in age or older.
I don’t want to go into any details on the particular plots, except for mentioning a few brief highlights because they were so cleverly unnerving…. The girl being stalked by her own mobile phone ... The girl kissed on the lips by her sly-looking little brother who is always covered in soot…. When dreams and reality can’t be separated, and your mum tells you that she loves her other son more than you…. The babysitter being stalked by the children with gigantic mouths…. I could go on; De Quidt turns everyday objects into something to be feared. These are stories to savour.
Typically when I read collections of short stories, for adult or child, I read them in batches. Not so with “The Wrong Train” starting it on a Saturday and finishing it on a Sunday, so this is very high praise indeed and if you do decide to buy it for a kid who thinks “books are boring” remember to try a story or two first yourself! I bet you’ll read them all…..