November 23, 2014
Humour and horror might seem unlikely bedfellows, but it’s a combination that can be scarily effective in the right hands. Lynne Truss is best known for her comic forays into grammar though she used to write novels. Cat Out of Hell, her first in 15 years, is the latest entry in the Hammer imprint series and it’s a hoot, as well as being genuinely eerie. Alec is grieving for his wife, a fellow librarian, when he’s drawn into a feline conspiracy connected to their library’s collection of occult material belonging to the sinister John Seeward. He committed suicide in the Sixties in the grounds of his stately home, but this diabolist’s power in the mastery of moggies lives on with his disciples.
What might seem silly ends up as a minor comic masterpiece thanks to the tricksy, self-aware structure of Alec’s story, Truss’s imaginative and grisly mythology for felines, and a talking cat called Roger. We know Roger’s smart – he even got to grips with Greek ferry timetables – but he might also be dangerous. Then there’s the threat from a shadowy black cat known as The Captain, who mentored Roger in the art of immortality, and the Grand Cat Master himself (appointed by Beelzebub). Fortunately, Alec has his faithful companion Watson, a dog he addresses with dialogue from the Sherlock Holmes stories. (“You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive,” he says when the dirty dog returns from digging in the garden). The showdown at Harville Manor is straight out of Dennis Wheatley – with a dash of PG Wodehouse. For anyone who’s wondered what their cat is actually thinking, Lynne Truss has come up with some hilarious and horrible speculation.
April 18, 2013
The once-a-decade edition of Granta that names the 20 best British writers under 40 has been all over the media, as you’d expect from a list which launched in 1983 and has previously featured Martin Amis, Julian Barnes, Ian McEwan, Jeanette Winterson, Alan Hollinghurst, Sarah Waters and Zadie Smith (who gets a second nod in 2013, along with Adam Thirlwell.) Congratulations to this year’s anointed authors (particularly fellow south London bookseller Evie Wyld) in the fourth edition of this literary landmark. We’ve got the new Granta (issue 123) in stock as well as a selection of novels by the 2013 intake – click on the book covers below to view the gallery.
March 14, 2013
Now in paperback – £7.99
She turned her hand to science fiction in The Stone Gods a few years ago and now Jeanette Winterson has embraced horror in this devastating short novel about the Pendle witch trials. Winterson was commissioned by the publishing imprint of Hammer Films to portray the brutality and bigotry unleashed against women and Catholics in Lancashire in 1612, when witchcraft and popery were twin evils in the eyes of King James I.
Winterson’s fans and horror aficionados alike will enjoy this humane and at times shocking story, an unflinching portrait of the suffering and indignity meted out to a family whose poverty and disregard for authority make them easy targets. She heightens the horror by depicting the diabolical in a gripping imagined version of events featuring witchcraft, animal familiars and paranormal visions, as well as a love triangle with human souls at stake. Winterson focuses on the strangely youthful widow Alice Nutter, though her short novel has several memorable characters and she boldly works familiar names into the story, including Shakespeare and the occultist and mathematician Dr John Dee. The Daylight Gate is an unremitting, elegantly crafted tale written in a spare prose style that will haunt you – at least until you pick it up and read it again.
October 19, 2012
Jeremy Dyson’s The Haunted Book – an account of real-life ghost-hunting from the member of the League of Gentleman – is the latest volume out in time for Halloween. Our other flesh-creeping picks include Susan Hill’s new ghost story, Dolly, and a fresh edition of The Mist in the Mirror; an anthology of the macabre compiled by Roald Dahl; and disturbing new novels by Helen Dunmore (The Greatcoat) and Jeanette Winterson (The Daylight Gate) commissioned by the publishing imprint of Hammer Films. There’s also John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Let the Old Dreams Die, a short story collection from this Swedish sensation that includes the moving sequel to his astonishing vampire novel, Let the Right One In. (Ask nicely, and we might even give you a free World Book Night edition of Let the Right One In.)
A perfect ghost story is as much about psychology as the supernatural. From the solitary scholars in M. R. James’s peerless tales (available in a Penguin Classics edition) to Susan Hill’s orphans and widowers, ghost story victims are already haunted by loss or loneliness. By allowing our imagination to complete the nightmare, a ghostly tale is often more effective than a TV or film adaptation. Read James Herbert’s The Secret of Crickley Hall and judge for yourself whether the BBC’s new adaptation of the novel – due to air in November – matches the master for sadistic terror.