David Longhorn, ed., Supernatural Tales 12, Autumn 2007.

Reviewed by Mario Guslandi

Once again a quarterly journal instead of an annual anthology, Supernatural Tales continues to delight the lovers of dark fiction, either endowed with an actual supernatural touch or not. Editor David Longhorn is a learned man with a knack for selecting stories of good quality apt to disquiet and entertain at the same time. Issue #12 won’t disappoint the faithful readers of this excellent magazine.

The opening story, ‘You are here’ by Simon Strantzas is a rather unintelligible piece featuring a homeless man exploring the secrets of the Underground passages. MP Lynch provides ‘Lies we tell the Trojans’, an atypical but cute ghost story in the background of a love affair sprouting from the ashes of a broken marriage.

Gary McMahon’s ‘The wrong town’ is a brief unsettling tale conveying a deep sense of loss and displacement by portraying a man trying to trace the sites of his past life.

John L Probert (definitely a new writer to watch) contributes ‘Guided tour’, plainly allegorical but as frightening as a real spook, where a disenchanted young man manages to carry on with his life after a love disillusionment.

‘Figure of fun’ is a fine example of how Gary Fry is capable of coating a simple plot ( a team of workers faces the mysteries of an old house under restoration) with a thick veneer of psychological horror. Which constitutes both the strength and the weakness of a story dragging on for too long.

Some stories are downright disappointing, such as ‘Everything’ by John Travis, a depressing tale depicting a sad case of paranoia, and ‘Final warning’ by William II Read, a Jamesian pastiche too overtly told in a tongue-in-cheek fashion to be taken seriously.

By contrast the comparatively unknown Duncan Barford offers the excellent ‘The sofa’, a very dark, effective sample of "quiet horror", in which dirty secrets are linked to an ugly sofa sitting in an old apartment haunted by the presence of a little girl.

Finally ‘As angles unaware’ by the talented Michael Chislett is a delicate but vibrant piece of religious horror taking place in a huge gothic cathedral. I understand that a special issue of Supernatural Tales dedicated to Chislett’s work is now available. I think everybody (including me) should secure a copy at any cost before it goes out of print.

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