From Russia with Love…

This review was written by Russian journalist Ray Garraty (not his real name obviously – it appears to be a homage to Stephen King, as Garraty is the main protagonist in that author’s The Long Walk novel, published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman in 1979) and appears on Ray’s Endless Falls Up blog.

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Gary McMahon
What They Hear in the Dark

I already wrote about the books released by Nightjar Press (damn, I reviewed all their books!), launched a series of dual release of so-called chapbooks – one book /one story. All six currently published books contained the outstanding story, picking up a very high standard for writers working in the area of dark literature. Now we have yet another British publisher, who is also engaged in production of chapbooks. The first their book came out very strong.

Gary McMahon is far from the debutant, he is the author of numerous novels, as well as several collections of short stories. What They Hear in the Dark is a wonderful example of how not using the straight-line methods, you can whip up the atmosphere, reducing the fantastic element in essence to a minimum.

After the violent death of their son, husband and wife moved into a new house, hoping to start anew. House, as well as their family life, is not at its best: want to repair. A place where spouses can escape from the oppressive emptiness becomes Quiet Room. In this room there is completely darkness, and most importantly – it has absolutely no sound. In this room, the sounds do not penetrate outside and extinguished all the sounds inside. The room becomes something like a drug for Rob and Becky.

This story is not a one-time reading, although I still will not reveal further the plot. McMahon feels what often overlooked by many authors of horror fiction: the worst lives always inside the person, not outside. The author describes the reliability of the person who lost the most precious thing in my life and does not know how to live.

A promising debut of a new publishing house. We will follow what Spectral Press will present us next time.

Latest Spectral review…

The review below, this one another positive one, was posted on the Innsmouth Free Press website and written by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – also, be sure to look out for an interview with your erstwhile publisher in the virtual pages of the very same Free Press, to be published very soon!

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It’s funny how life works out. I was thinking of requesting a review copy of this title and the publisher e-mailed to see if I wanted it. Are my nascent telepathic abilities increasing?

What They Hear in the Dark is a limited-edition, signed chapbook published by Spectral Press. This strikes me as smart. With people complaining that e-books are going to eat print books alive, creating collectible chapbooks seems like an effective strategy for continuing to offer print products. Add to that the fact that it is a chapbook – which means us modern, hard-pressed-for-time folks can sample it without giving up days of our lives – and you’ve got a very good concept.

Anyway, the chapbook in question is a modern Gothic story, with a grieving couple busy remodeling a house and discovering a mysterious room that seems to muffle all sounds. And the husband feels there is something terrible living inside The Quiet Room.

I was incredibly excited to read this tale after looking at the blurb, but I think my excitement might have damped the final enjoyment. I thought it could have been a tad longer. I also kept thinking about “Don’t Look Now” and its parents trying to survive after the death of a child, and encountering the supernatural, basically the same central concept as this chapbook. This may not be the writer’s fault as much as my own, as I read the Du Maurier story not so long ago.

This minor nitpicking aside, it’s a good story. I enjoyed the sympathetic protagonists. What? A horror tale with people you like? Nooooo. This, after reading an anthology with a bunch of awful, irritating characters, came as a blessing. The prose is nice and the house, with its very special room, is creepy, so overall, it gets a thumbs-up. I’ll leave it at that, as I don’t want to give away the ending, or any more details.

I read a lot of short fiction and anthologies because I don’t want to spend much time or effort on novels (especially series, ugh). Chapbooks like this are perfect for me and I hope Spectral Press will continue its line with similar offerings.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Simon Kurt Unsworth’s Rough Music

I am pleased to announce that one of the volumes following on from Paul Finch’s King Death later this year will be World Fantasy Award nominee Simon Kurt Unsworth’s Rough Music. It’ll be available early next year, either being Volume V or VI in the series – just twiddling with schedules, as is my wont…. anyway, here’s a little blurb to tease you with in the meantime…

“Rough music: (- n) a loud cacophony created with tin pans, drums, etc,; the cacophonous ringing of bells, hooting, blowing bull’s horns, the banging of frying pans, saucepans, kettles, or other kitchen or barn implements with the intention of creating long-lasting embarrassment.

Sometimes, the sounds we hear in the dark have resonances that we cannot foresee…”

More news soon… be sure to check back regularly!


Total Sci-Fi review

I’ve lost count of the reviews of What They Hear in the Dark I’ve received, but here’s the latest – posted on the Total Sci-Fi website, and written by James Skipp (says some nice things about Spectral Press, too):

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Book review 
Written by
Gary McMahon
Spectral Press
Spectralpress.wordpress.com
Release date
Out now

Rob and Becky are haunted by the death of their child in more ways than one. Is there really something sinister about their ‘quiet room’?

This short, sharp horror tale from Pretty Little Dead Things author Gary McMahon is the first of Spectral Press’s “chapbooks” – pocket-sized, signed A5 stories with card covers that are limited to 100 copies. Judging by this impressive inaugural entry, it’s going to be a horror series worth keeping an eye on.

Like many of the best chillers, What They Hear in the Dark draws from the dark side of real life – here, the trauma of losing a child. Even more disturbingly the child, Eddie, has met a violent death, and McMahon draws on horrific memories of the James Bulger case.

Elsewhere, the writing recalls Stephen King’s fast-paced, lurid prose and Clive Barker’s obsession with a terrifying other world lurking just beyond our own. McMahon skilfully weaves in flashbacks to fill in the background and help craft psychologically convincing characters, and though it may not be an entirely original horror, it’s a very readable one. James Skipp

VERDICT: 7/10
Disturbing and effective little horror that bodes well for Spectral’s subsequent entries.

A new review…

Here’s another new review of What They Hear in the Dark, this time posted on Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review… enjoy!

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Who says that horror is a dead genre? Leisure Fiction may have done their best to kill it off in the US, and the current deluge of Urban Fantasy doesn’t leave it what’s left a lot of room on the bookshelves, but it’s still there for those of us who know where to look. Spectral Press is the latest small publisher to give the genre a shot in the arm with its release of limited edition chapbooks dedicated to the ghostly and supernatural. ‘What they hear in the dark’ is actually Spectral Press’ first publication and definitely bodes well for the future…

After their young son’s murder, Rob and Becky bought the old house as a way of trying to save their marriage by building something new. It was never going to be as easy as that though, some cracks were never meant to be papered over and the couple’s relationship is at a breaking point.
Then Rob and Becky find a room in the house that was never in the plans, a room that swallows all sound and leaves you with only your own thoughts for company. A room where demons can either be exorcised or given free rein…

I’ve never read a chapbook before so was interested to see that ‘What they hear in the dark’ is only twenty-one pages long. The shortest books I normally read are around the three to four hundred page mark so it was a real change to read something that would literally take as long to read as it would take to have a cup of coffee (I drink coffee that I make very quickly!)

What they hear in the dark’ initially came across as very rushed with the ending arrived at before you’ve had a chance to get acquainted with the beginning. I’m writing that off as my unfamiliarity with the chapbook format though, it is only twenty-one pages long after all! A second read through really paid dividends though.

You may not have much of a chance to get to find out much about Rob and Becky but what McMahon does do is build up an oppressing ‘haunted house’ atmosphere in a very short space of time, working this around Rob and Becky’s very differing feelings over their son’s death. Things are sign posted very clearly but this somehow adds to the overall tension that arises as things progress. You know what’s happening, Rob and Becky don’t, but there’s nothing you can do to stop it. The ending is particularly chilling as one of the couple finds out the worst possible consequences of bringing your own ghosts to the Quiet Room. It was at this point that I was literally holding my breath and McMahon cruelly ends the story in such a way that I had to release that breath just after finishing.

Gary McMahon is fast becoming a horror writer to look out for and ‘What they hear in the dark’ is a fine example of his natural skill in this field; a tale that creeps up on you and has it’s claws in you before you know it. Grab it if you can.

Nine out of Ten

P.S. I wouldn’t normally post links to buy books but these chapbooks are very limited edition (only a hundred at a time being printed I think) and you will miss out if you’re not careful – I think I might have to take out a subscription.