We All Hear Stories in the Dark
by Robert Shearman
PS Publishing (Three volume set, 586/628/585 pages, £90.00, April 2020)
How can a reviewer comment meaningfully on a three-volume collection featuring 101 stories? (That’s right, you read correctly). Simply impossible.
Yet this huge, unusual opus is worth a mention, and a recommendation. First, because the writer is one of the very best fantasists around, the author of excellent, critically acclaimed collections such as Remember Why You Fear Me and They Do the Same Things Different There. And second, because among these many tales you’ll find an exceptional variety of dark and strange genres, from horror to surrealism, black humor to fantasy to (even if only apparently) mainstream literature. Some of the stories collected here have previously appeared in anthologies and magazines, some are brand new.
To get lost in this literary ocean is very easy, so if you don’t feel like reading each piece in the order presented, you can follow the author’s indications and suggestions, and jump from one volume to the other according to a personal roadmap. Whatever you decide, Shearman, this modern Scheherazade, will entertain you and entice you with his uncanny gifts as a storyteller.
[Click the images to embiggen.]
As a lover of dark and supernatural fiction, I’ll simply mention a few of my favorite stories in those genres, leaving to you the pleasure of discovering (or re-descovering) the other horrific tales in this huge collection. Unless you prefer downright surrealistic fiction — in which case you will also find plenty well accomplished tales to suit you, scattered among the three volumes.
To my fellow dark fiction lovers I will point out a few masterful examples, such as:
- “The Grand Adventure,” a melancholy tale about love, heartache and the pain of getting old
- “Ice in the Bedroom,” an excellent, insightful tableau portraying family tragedies and the burden of living them
- “That Tiny Flutter of the HeartI Used to Call Love,” an offbeat, disturbing tale describing an odd marriage in which dolls play a pivotal role
- “The Popping Fields,” a memorable story of fatherly love, loneliness and sorrow, featuring a man endowed with the ability to create oddly shaped balloons
- ”It Flows from the Mouth” a superbly written piece about a strange friendship surviving beyond the grave
- “The Sixteenth Step” a terrific but bleak tale exploring the hidden paranormal stuff lurking behind our ordinary lives
- “Peckish,” a particularly sinister version of the already dark fable about Hansel and Gretel
- “Blue Crayon, Yellow Crayon,” the outstanding account of the nightmarish train ride of a man going back home for Christmas
Tempted to buy a copy of this mega-collection? I do think you should.
Get complete order details at the PS website.
Mario Guslandi was born in Milan, Italy, where he currently lives. He became addicted to horror and supernatural fiction (too) many years ago, after accidentally reading a reprint anthology of stories by MR James, JS Le Fanu, Arthur Machen etc. Most likely the only Italian who regularly reads (and reviews) dark fiction in English, he has contributed over the years to various genre websites such as Horrorworld, Hellnotes, The British Fantasy Society, The Agony Column and many more. His previous review for us was of The Pale Illuminations, edited by Michael Chislett.