Another blisteringly good review…

This one was posted to Paperback Horror yesterday, and was written by Colum McKnight….

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What They Hear In The Dark is a perfect example of short horror fiction done well. A horror story, for all intents and purposes, should be designed to elicit certain emotions from the reader, and this chapbook does that in spades. I dare anyone to read this and not get a massive chill up their spine. It just isn’t possible.

Rob and Becky bought the old place after the death of their son, to repair and renovate – to patch things up and make the building habitable.

The both knew that they were trying to fix more than the house, but the cracks in their marriage could not be papered over.

Then they found the Quiet Room.

In a very short 22 pages, McMahon achieves what some horror authors can’t seem to pull off in a full length novel, proving that finding chills, thrills, and absolute terror, is completely possible in short fiction. And McMahon pulls this off beautifully with incredible description and wonderfully beautiful prose. The pain and emotion of the two main characters is absolutely palpable, making this a very quick, but also very tough read (in a good way). It’s hard feeling for the characters in a story, but especially so, if the author is someone like McMahon – who seems to be able to make the subject matter so personal that you feel you’re intimately involved in their lives.

Every aspect of this story is frought with a haunting menace that barely even begins to describe the terror within. The most perfect part of this story lies in the fact that everything is almost entirely left up to the reader to imagine. Granted, McMahon steers the story this way and that in order to bring the reader on a very specific course, but he also imbues the tale with enough vague references and emotional disturbances to make you feel completely out of control, but also able to recognize the fact that the author has you safely nestled in the palm of his hand. It’s very hard to take your eyes off the page once the writer hits his stride.

The atmosphere is gloomy and dim, bringing to mind some of the darkest tales of sadness and sorrow I’ve ever read. The whole thing feels…grey. It’s almost like everything was designed to make you feel whatever you want to feel, but also directing the reader on a very dedicated path. McMahon is truly a brilliant writer, and this small taste speaks volumes as to his wonderful talent.

Don’t miss out on this little chapbook. Again, it’s a quick read, but completely worth it and very re-readable. Every read-through will bring new images to mind, taking you on a journey of sorrow, despair, and emotional terror – time and time again.

You can check out the author’s website here.

PBH.

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And finally, I found this on Chris Bissette’s blog, one of Spectral’s customers… and this last paragraph of his blog is the kind of thing that encourages me enormously:

“The imprint is invitation only. I’m going to add them to my list of people I’d one day like to be asked to write for, which includes Subterranean Press and PS Publishing. I’d best get cracking on becoming a successful writer, really.”

Now THAT’S a compliment if ever I read one…. and you can read the rest of what Chris had to say here.

And yet another satisfied reader…

I received this customer review from Clayton Stealback yesterday via Facebook… glad to read of another satisfied reader!

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“Let me start by saying that I am very impressed by Spectral’s first chapbook. The quality of the artwork, layout, and the print make these wonderful to read and essential to collect.

Spectral’s first release features a masterfully rendered story by Gary McMahon. Here Gary gets straight into the story – no messing about – setting the rather oppressive scene of a couple recently moved into a dilapidated house, cleverly describing the couple’s surroundings though their feelings and their senses to create an impressionable bond between reader and characters. So, pretty much the entire stage of the story is described in the first few pages…then the magic really starts. Upon setting up the scene, Gary brilliantly starts to delve into the character’s minds, ruthlessly peeling away their outer layers to reveal their truest, deepest feelings and the darkness harboured within. It’s very skilfully done, and there’s a kind of reflective quality about the scenes and the characters that manage to complement each other, bringing the whole story to life and making it lucid. Tim Lebbon got it exactly right when he quoted that Gary’s horror is heartfelt.

And finally, let me end by saying that if this is the kind of quality Spectral is aiming for, then I’ll be signed up for life.”

Today’s Spectral review…

This is pablocheesecake’s take on What They Hear in the Dark, posted at The Eloquent Page review blog:

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Rob and Becky bought the old place after the death of their son, to repair and renovate – to patch things up and make the building habitable.

They both knew that they were trying to fix more than the house, but the cracks in their marriage could not be papered over.

Then they found the Quiet Room.

Written by Gary McMahon What They Hear in the Dark is an intimate tale about love and loss. Rob and Becky have suffered a terrible tragedy and are trying to put the past behind them and continue with their lives. They have a new home, and hope to make a new start. It quickly becomes evident, however, that neither of them has been able to move on. When the story begins Becky and Rob have reached the stage where they are barely able to communicate with one another. The spirit of their murdered son seems to hang in the periphery of their lives. The story takes a turn when they discover a strange windowless room in their new house that is utterly quiet. Becky and Rob have very different perspectives of the Quiet Room. Becky is reassured, feels at peace and closer to the spirit of her lost child. Rob, on the other hand, is repulsed. He is trapped by the memory of the teens responsible for his son’s death.

The author’s writing reminded me of when I first read Clive Barker.What They Hear in the Dark could easily be an entry in The Books of Blood. Though the story is short there is a wealth of insight into the couple’s relationship. There are brief glimpses of Rob and Becky in happier times and this makes their current situation that much more tragic. McMahon handles what is very delicate subject matter with aplomb, and I was thoroughly engrossed by Becky and Rob’s story.

Kudos must also go to Spectral Press for their first release, and I look forward to the next.

Another satisfied customer….

Here’s what a good friend of mine, John Boden of Shock Totem magazine, said about What They Hear in the Dark, (and posted on his blog) after reading it… chalk up another satisfied customer…

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What They Hear In The Dark” by Gary McMahon (2011 Spectral Press)

I read this in half an hour. Which is a perfect chapbook, if you ask me. I will start by saying that this is a sharp looking booklet. Nice artwork and sharply done…Nice collectible feel…and then we get to the actual story. I am not familiar with McMahon’s work, but I am good friends with Spectral Press founder Simon Marshall-Jones, and know him to be a stickler for quality. This is a superb tale about a haunting. A couple buying an old house to renovate and work through a personal tragedy only to find themselves haunted by emotions heavy and horrifying. McMahon’s descriptions of the emotions at work here are fantastic. I am eager to check out more of his work…and extremely anxious to see what is next from Spectral Press.

Spectral Volume II

And so here it is, the cover to Spectral Press Volume II, Gary Fry’s Abolisher of Roses – again it’s been designed by the inimitable Neil Williams and based on a beautiful photograph by my good friend Branwyn Reeves:

©2011 Gary Fry/Spectral Press - cover design ©Neil Williams - cover photo ©Branwyn Reeves

“It’s not always the guilty who have the darkest secrets . . .

Peter has been married to Patricia for nearly thirty years. He’s a practical man, the owner of a thriving factory and the father of two fine lads.

He also has a secret mistress.

One day, his wife takes him along to an outdoor arts exhibition involving some of her paintings, staged in a dark, deep wood. The fact that Peter would rather go for a pie and a pint and to watch the match is something he keeps very much to himself.

But his are not the only secrets in this marriage. And as Peter strays off the only path through the woods, he soon realises that Patricia  has quite a few revelations of her own . . .”

“Fry is a writer whose technique is as accomplished as his intellect and imagination are powerful.”–Reggie Oliver

It’s available for pre-order now for £3.50 (inclusive of p+p) – email Simon Marshall-Jones at spectralpress[at]gmail[dot]com for more details.

Yet another new review…

This is the sixteenth review, again a very positive one: this one’s from Sheri White and was posted at the Rise Reviews site:

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After their only child, Eddie, is murdered by a group of young boys, Rob and Becky buy a house to fix up, hoping it will help them get through the agony of losing their son. While renovating, they find a room that is not in the plans of the house. They call it “The Quiet Room,” because the room is completely sound-proof. Nothing can be heard in there, not even the sound of one’s own voice.

Rob starts dreaming about the room and comes to believe there’s something evil inside. But Becky believes her son is in the room, so she starts spending a lot of time in there. Rob worries for Becky’s mental health and safety but she refuses to accept there is anything wrong with the room.

What They Hear in the Dark is a sad tale of grief and loss, with elements of dread throughout. Although he believes “The Quiet Room” is evil, Rob is drawn to it despite himself. At the end of the story, Rob unfortunately finds out just what lives in the room.

I enjoyed this story very much. Gary McMahon’s words flow beautifully; you can feel the emotions the characters are experiencing. And while What They Hear in the Dark is a bit depressing, it is also creepy and chill-inducing at times.

This chapbook will sell out shortly after it’s published, I predict, so get a copy as soon as you can. You won’t regret it. (My emphasis)

New review…

Another great review, this time from author Dave Jeffery:

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When a young boy is murdered, his devastated parents attempt to rebuild their shattered lives by ploughing their efforts into a renovation project. The process is meant to be cathartic, a process of healing the wound left in their lives. Yet as they work they find a room. They call it the Quiet Room, a façade hidden behind aged paper, a place where time seems to stop and space seems to have no meaning. But even this strange and ethereal place reflects the disparate nature of their relationship. Both Becky and Rob feel different when they are held in the room’s dark embrace. A mother senses her lost child. A father senses only hate and malevolence. Insidiously the place that is meant to bring them together only drives them further apart.

What they Hear in the Dark is the first publication from Spectral Press. In McMahon Spectral has found an author who knows his craft and has the wherewithal to weave a story that creates horror in visceral and cerebral layers. But it is more than this, whilst the story certainly contains content that will leave any parent either counting their blessings or recoiling in horror, it is also delicate, a tale of loss and despair that is both beautiful and deft.

A wonderful introduction to Spectral Press and a privilege to read;What They Hear in the Dark comes highly recommended. (My emphasis)

Spectral news…

Just a very small snippet of news today – just so you can join me in welcoming two more writers to the Spectral roster!

First up is PAUL KANE, author of such novels as The Afterblight ChroniclesThe Gemini Factor, and Of Darkness and Light, the critically-acclaimed study of Clive Barker’s hellish vision in The Hellraiser Films and their Legacy, as well as numerous short stories, collections and novellas. Paul’s webite can be found here.

Please also give a warm welcome to WAYNE SIMMONS, the author of Flu and the Drop Dead Gorgeous trilogy – the first in the series, Drop Dead Gorgeous, is just about to hit the shops in paperback on the 2nd of February. Wayne’s story, tentatively titled Loving the Dead, will be set within the DDG universe, and promises to add a quieter, spookier dimension to the post-apocalyptic world Wayne has created. Look out for that one sometime in 2012, hopefully. In the meantime, Wayne’s website/blog can be found right here.

Keep checking for more news on publishing schedules, and titles.

And the winner is…

We have a winner of the Spectral Press Prize-draw and we have a name:

JOHN HOWARD of Birmingham!

Congratulations to John, and I will be contacting him shortly about his prize… which is a framed and signed edition (by both Gary and I) of the first chapbook and annotated, signed ( by Gary only) manuscript of the story, plus a one year extension to his subscription.

Many thanks to everyone who subscribed before the 31st December and got entered into the draw – your support for Spectral Press is very much appreciated!!

Another Spectral review

Here’s what author Angela Slatter said about Gary McMahon’s What They Hear in the Dark – the original review can be found on her website:

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I’ve just read the first offering from Simon Marshall-Jones’s Spectral PressWhat They Hear in the Dark, by Gary McMahon. The blurb goes thusly:

‘Rob and Becky bought the old place after the death of their son, to repair and renovate – to patch things up and make the building habitable.

They both knew that they were trying to fix more than their house, but the cracks in their marriage could not be papered over.

Then they found the Quiet Room …’

The idea of parents recovering after the death of a child has been used frequently, but as with all fiction it’s how you recombine the ideas and ingredients that makes your work stand out. Gary McMahon’s work stands out.

Horror stories can either be subtle or slashy and to my mind the more insidious and disturbing form is the subtle one. A truly talented writer will engage a reader in her/his character’s tragedy by picking out a few tiny, painful details – the sort that pierce your heart with their indelible ordinariness – because that kind of ordinariness echoes our own lives, our own tragedies. McMahon does this with Rob’s memory of his son’s ever-so-slightly imperfectly shaped skull, the feel of it under his hand when Eddie was born, the skipping of the parental heart worried that it might be a health issue.

Similarly, the fractured relationship between Rob and Becky is also finely and subtly and believeably drawn. When a reader begins to care about the characters, then any threat to those characters can be felt more keenly, the terror heightened. As this is a short story, I won’t give anything else away, but this chapbook is certainly worth a look. McMahon manages to create an atmosphere both potent with fear of the unknown and yet grounded in the everyday cares of wounded people.

Suggest you keep your eyes out for the next offering from Spectral.

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