Dark Entries by Robert Aickman
“A very eccentric, British version of Kafka!“
Aickman’s stories are constructed immaculately, the neuroses of his characters painted in subtle shades. He builds dread by the steady accrual of realistic detail, until the reader realises that the protagonist is heading towards their doom as if in a dream.
Dark Entries was first published in 1964 and contains six curious and macabre stories of love, death and the supernatural, including the classic story ‘Ringing the Changes’.
Why we’re excited about this book: It’s the centenary of Robert Aickman’s birth this year and as a result Faber & Faber are reissuing several of his books, the first of which is his debut solo short story collection Dark Entries. It’s hard to know quite how to describe Robert Aickman’s stories to those who haven’t read him. He didn’t call his work ‘horror’ but ‘strange stories’ and no one’s ever really bettered that description of his work. But let’s give it a go: A very eccentric, British version of Kafka? Ghost stories without the ghosts? A literary David Lynch without the pie and diners obsession?
Okay, maybe we’ll stick with ‘strange stories’.
And strange they certainly are, as well as being beautifully written and filled with a sense of lingering unease. Within these stories you’ll find people drawn into situations that they, and we, only partly understand. A typical Aickman story proceeds with a logic all its own, layering strange detail after strange detail to build to a horrific or baffling climax that leaves the reader thinking long after finishing it. He’s quite simply one of the best there’s ever been, and Dark Entries is the perfect place to start. Another collection, Cold Hand In Mine, is to be rereleased later in the year and that one is also fantastic. Some of you are about to discover your new favourite writer.
This book will appeal to: people who like to read a short story, only to immediately want to reread it because it was that damn good.
Look Out For… Mr Mercedes by Stephen King
“Seriously, has Stephen King got some kind of phobia about cars?”
A cat-and-mouse suspense thriller featuring a retired homicide detective who’s haunted by the few cases he left open, and by one in particular – the pre-dawn slaughter of eight people among hundreds gathered in line for the opening of a jobs fair when the economy was guttering out. Without warning, a lone driver ploughed through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes. The plot is kicked into gear when Bill Hodges receives a letter in the mail, from a man claiming to be the perpetrator. He taunts Hodges with the notion that he will strike again.
Only Hodges, with a couple of misfit friends, can apprehend the killer in this high-stakes race against time. Because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim hundreds, even thousands.
Why we’re excited about this book: A new Stephen King book. For a lot of you that’s probably reason enough to be excited.
But maybe you’re a bit finicky and need to know more? Okay – well for starters King has described this as his first ever hard-boiled detective book. But this is no period piece, it’s a hard-boiled story for the twenty-first century – set in our modern world of random violence and economic downturn. It tells of a retired cop trying to solve one of his unresolved cases, where a car ploughed into a queue of people at a jobs fair, killing a number of them. (Seriously, has Stephen King got some kind of phobia about cars? Christine, From A Buick 8, that bit in Cujo when they’re trapped in a car with the dog outside… and now this.) And even if you’re not excited by the plot itself, just think of the fun to be had spotting all the inevitable oblique references to King’s other books – little Maine towns where other stories have been set, perhaps, or hints that the villain of this piece is yet another version of the Walkin’ Man or…
Or maybe you’ve already decided you don’t like Stephen King, in which case you’ve probably stopped reading long before now and we’re talking to nothing but the ghosts here.
Wouldn’t be the first time.
This book will appeal to: about 75% of horror fans in the Western hemisphere.