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Black Static


Black Static #62 - Bonus Material

9th Mar, 2018

Author: Peter Tennant

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In the current issue of the magazine (#62) I review Reggie Oliver's short story collection Holidays from Hell, which contained seven stories I chose not to discuss as I'd already reviewed them previously.

For the sake of completeness, I've decided to post my reviews of those stories as they originally appeared.

From my Black Static #47 review of The Spectral Book of Horror Stories edited by Mark Morris:-

'The Book and The Ring' by Reggie Oliver contains the confession of a composer who double-crossed a witch and used her magic book for his own advancement. It is splendidly readable, as with nearly all of Oliver's work, but has nothing much to offer beyond the plot outline, no real insight into human nature or satisfying twist, seeming mostly like a by the numbers supernatural piece.

From my Black Static #47 review of Terror Tales of Wales edited by Paul Finch:-

There's an Aickmanesque feel to Reggie Oliver's tale of two women cyclists putting up at the unusual inn known as 'The Druid's Rest'. Our feelings of unease steadily mount in this wonderfully understated piece, as events escalate until it is impossible to deny that something very strange is going on, though we can't exactly put a finger on what, with a chilling denouement.

From my Black Static #53 review of Horrorology edited by Stephen Jones:-

'Possessions' by Reggie Oliver has a man inheriting the property of his deceased uncle, who was a famous photographer back in the day, and inspired by the painting of a beautiful former girlfriend to learn more of his uncle's life and what went wrong for him. It's an engrossing and meticulously plotted story, with each step leading surely on to the next, and then delivering a final twist that comes completely out of left field and yet seems entirely appropriate given what has gone before.

(NB: In Holidays from Hell this story is retitled 'The Prince of Darkness')

From my Black Static #56 review of Uncertainties Volume 2 edited by Brian J. Showers:-

Finally we have the longest story in the book 'Love at Second Sight' in which a man is given the chance to once again fulfil the romantic dreams of the woman he loved in youth, even though he didn't fully realise it at the time. With its double entendre title, this story is a typical Reggie Oliver vehicle, an assured and measured account of the outré set in a cultured and urbane setting. The protagonist's desire to revisit his past in the wake of his wife's death is eminently believable, while the train of circumstances that lead to his meeting with Anna, grounded in reminiscences of their past relationship, only stretch credibility a tad. What follows makes sense of them though, and events unfold in a way that unsettles but doesn't seem entirely illogical or unnatural, until Oliver pulls the rug out from under our feet in the final reel. It was a wonderful end to a superior collection, one that affirms the ghost story is alive and well and in capable hands.

From my Black Static #61 review of The Sea of Blood:-

In 'Absalom' a scholar uncovers the terrible truth behind the death of a debauched student back in the seventeenth century, the story almost a textbook example of how to tell a Jamesian ghost story, replete with accumulating details, old documents, and the hint that in some ways the evil may linger into the present day, with some things that only the reader can truly grasp.

Oddball characters inhabit a guest house where 'The Rooms Are High' and the story's protagonist ends up finding out that not all is as it seems. With some wonderful touches of characterisation and an unhealthy sexuality underlying the narrative this is another superbly sinister outing from Oliver.

Finally we have 'Trouble At Botathan' with a student on an academic retreat learning about the inglorious past of the house at which he is staying and its former owner through the means of lost documents and visions of a drowned girl. At the heart of the story is past attitudes to mental illness and the shame that families felt when one of its members went astray, this in turn leading to a kind of abuse and much worse. Intercut with all this, as in so many of these stories, is a sense that there is far more to reality than we know or dream of, that though these things manifest in a minatory manner they also prove the potential for the miraculous and other dimensions to our existence.



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