“It’s body horror mixed with easy sex and sharp blade violence.”
Breaking News … There’s a woman standing in the street in a raincoat holding a carrier bag saying, ‘He seemed like a nice man. Always kept to himself.’ Phil Sloman’s new novella, Becoming David from Hersham Horror, is a tale that would be reported on the news exactly like that. Except in this alter ego story Richard can’t keep himself to himself. He’s struggling to keep himself from his other self, the titular David, a menacing inner monster pushing to escape. He’s the quiet man killer that always shocks his neighbours.
Sloman tells the tale in focused and restrained writing when dealing with the brutal events of serial killer Richard/David. This style adds to the unease, as though the mindset of the killer duo is acceptable. It’s almost prosaic. And that’s the glory. This is the Clive Barker technique of ‘Books of Blood’. Make everything appear normal then hit the reader. It’s body horror mixed with easy sex and sharp blade violence.
Richard struggles with the guilt of his actions while David tries to overpower him and take over, though the author makes you feel they both enjoy murder to some degree. One question the story poses is; do serial killers create alter egos not to escape their horrors, but to somehow renounce blame?
And this is a horror story. It’s gruesome at times, unnerving throughout and fills the reader with dread. The clever device of using both the killer and his alter ego works perfectly for this situation. When past crimes are uncovered and new ones acted upon the story really begins. Richard’s cleaning woman is the target of an unsuspecting attack, though fights back for all her worth. The fight scene is confusing to Richard as David drops in and out. Though the reader is left in no doubt through clarity of writing.
From this moment on, the introspective story beats with a faster heart. When the police call around the reader will see Richard and David are not too dissimilar. The thrill is trying to figure which will win out.
Psychological thrillers have the capacity to pin back the human consciousness and ask where do all the demons lurk. It’s a Freudian journey that makes us question ourselves and our own actions. Though we hope never as dreadful as Richard/David.
Sloman refers to himself as a “Nuts and bolts writer”, and we tend to agree. He has all the twists and turns of a craftsman with the right tools to construct a great story. His sharp style and gift of building tension within his horror stories makes Sloman a writer worth keeping an eye on in the future.
This novella is a next step for Phil Sloman, not his big step but one towards the inevitable higher exposure and praise. It’s not often you get two protagonists for the price of one. But the Mr Hyde tinted new novella from Phil Sloman is a buy-one-get-one-free you can’t refuse.
Publisher: Hersham Horror Books
Ebook: (84 pp)
Release Date: 24 September 2016
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