By John Saxton
Artwork by Carole Humphreys
Reviewed by Gary McMahon
Boasting an introduction by bestselling horror author Simon Clark, John Saxton's collection was one I was looking forward to reviewing. Having read some of his stories before, I knew that, at the very least, there would be originality here. And I was correct in that assumption.
The Shape at the Window is essentially an examination of grief and guilt, and the effects these have on a man who cannot control their intrusion into his life. The screws are tightened on the protagonist over the course of one terrible night as Saxton skilfully places a dark shadow over the most common household objects - a TV, a lamp - transforming the everyday world into a realm of nightmare.
I would class this as the only true horror story in the collection, and as such it's a bit of a rough ride, but one that's worth taking.
Amelia's Labyrinth is easily my favourite tale here. It offers a more subtle approach that is to be applauded, and is filled with a cloying sense of childhood terror. Indeed there seems to be a common thread of childhood running through the book, and this story, for me, captures very well the sense of youthful wonder that is essential for its success.
A young boy begins the term at an expensive public school, and is shown a secret that transforms him. To say more would be to spoil the tale, so I'll leave the synopsis at that and reiterate that this one is the best of the bunch.
The Achilles Impulse offers yet more glimpses of childhood, but this time through the eyes of a little girl with a special ability that some would call a gift. Christina uses her power to achieve her own immature ends; and of course, this being a genre tale, things don't exactly turn out as planned.
Here we have a neat mixture of horror and humour, and I found the final paragraph particularly funny within the context of the story.
And finally on to Troilus, Timon and Tiberius, yet another example of Saxton's winning habit of laughing in the dark. Again we have the darker side of childhood...seen through the eyes of three tadpoles in a nursery tank.
Believe me, it's as bizarre as it sounds. The story also happens to be a snappy little piece that shows how kids can sometimes be utterly heartless, and far worse than any monster.
All in all, I thought Bloodshot was well worthy of my time, and the author ably demonstrates both sides of his writing: the horrific and the tongue-in-cheek. For my money he's equally good at both.
Carole Humphreys' artwork is, as usual, uniformly good, managing to evoke the mood of each individual tale. The cover art is particularly fitting, bringing to mind Little Red Riding Hood and hinting at the warped fairy tales within.
Bloodshot, A4, 32pp, £1.00 incl p&p
For details of how to purchase, visit the Bookshop here or order from Project Pulp or Shocklines.
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