An Exemplary New Voice in Horror: The Word Horde John Langan
Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters and Corpsemouth and
Other Autobiographies (Word Horde, July 5, 2022). Covers by Matthew Jaffe
John Langan is one of the fast-rising stars of modern horror. His first collection, Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters, was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award in 2008; more nominations followed for collections Sefira and Other Betrayals (2019) and Children of the Fang and Other Genealogies (2020). His second novel The Fisherman won a Stoker in 2016.
Ross E. Lockhart’s Word Horde press, which has been publishing Langan since 2016, just released his fourth collection and simultaneously reprinted his first. Here’s what Ross tells me about them:
John Langan’s first collection, Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters (2008), marked him as an exemplary new voice in horror, and an author to watch. I’m pleased to publish a new edition of this classic collection (now with an additional story), alongside John’s latest collection, Corpsemouth and Other Autobiographies. Between these two books, a reader can chart the course of John’s evolution as a writer, as well as explore the themes and threads binding his work together. Most of all, one can see that John Langan remains an author worth exploring.
This sounds like an entirely excellent way to spend the next few evenings. Here’s a closer look at both volumes.
[Click the images to embiggen.]
Previous Langan volumes: The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies (Hippocampus Press, April 2013),
Corpsemouth and Other Autobiographies (Word Horde, June 2016), and Children of the Fang and Other Genealogies
(Word Horde, August 2020). Covers by Santiago Caruso, Albert Bierstadt, and Matthew Jaffe
Bart Brunscheen at BookGasm provided a detailed review of Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters the year it came out. Here’s an excerpt.
The book is a collection of five ghostly tales, for which he did a beautiful job of reanimating classic creatures into a fresh, bumpy arm full of goose flesh.
The first encounter, “On Skua Island,” begins with a gathering of friends around the dinner table in an old house on the cape, as a storm blows in off the ocean on a cold February night. I was like a guest of the house as the eight moved with their drinks from the table to the comfy, fire-lit living room. They entertain each other discussing classic horror tales, their origins and how they tapped basic human fears. Dracula, mummies and zombies banter back and forth as movie adaptations and the creative quirks put forth into each manifestation are discussed.
One rather mute guest, having been all but silent and solitary during his visit to the cape, begins to relate a story which unveils an island called Skua, members of Britain’s MI-5 and a stone burial column with ancient Viking writing that he was called upon to decipher. The rest of the story involves the digging and finding of an ancient Viking princess buried and cursed. Trained men go missing as the teller relates his eventual escape.
“Mr. Gaunt,” the book’s namesake and my favorite tale from the grouping, begins with the audio tapings of a recently deceased father and his warning/confessions of his youth… black magic and skeletons are involved. Langan’s skeletons are not the bone-rattling weaklings of the past, but ominous and chilling, even if completely surpassed by the evil of a dark sorcerer whose self-serving nature and power are truly wicked and spine-tingling. What a wonderful read on a dark night with a glass of fine scotch…
You’re also treated to a short story involving a couple on the run from a wild pack of werewolf-type beings in a post-apocalyptic world. This is one of my favorite settings, more than likely due to my adolescent years and the threat of the Red Menace and nuclear holocaust…
There is one more pleasing nugget in the compilation: story notes. Langan has included them at the end of the book. He writes, “I’m one of those people who flips to the back of the book to read the story notes, the afterword, first. I’ve always loved the glimpse such things provide into the writer’s world. If you’re someone who feels the same way, here you go. If not, no hard feelings.”
Publishers Weekly calls Corpsemouth and Other Autobiographies “gripping… Langan [is] firmly in his element.”
Langan (The Fisherman) travels uncharted waters to explore distant shores of the weird and strange in this gripping collection of 11 eerie shorts. The subtly chilling opening story, “Kore,” in which a couple’s new house becomes a gateway for a cosmic entity at Halloween, sets the tone, pulling readers into a dark and fascinating world. In “Homemade Monsters” a boy uses a makeshift Godzilla figurine to ward off the school bully — to startling effect…. Over the course of these masterful tales, Langan showcases his profound ability to put the intimate and the unexplainable in conversation with each other, his skill for intricate plotting, and his willingness to probe the hidden recesses of recognizable worlds.
Here’s the publisher’s description.
A family’s Halloween haunted house becomes a conduit to something ancient and uncanny; a young man’s effigy of a movie monster becomes instrumental in his defense against a bully; a family diminishes while visiting a seaside town, leaving only one to remember what changed; a father explores a mysterious tower, and the monster imprisoned within; a man mourning the death of his father travels to his father’s hometown, seeking closure, but finds himself beset by dreams of mythic bargains and a primeval, corpse-eating titan.
John Langan, author of the Bram Stoker Award-winning novel The Fisherman, returns with ten new tales of cosmic horror in Corpsemouth and Other Autobiographies. In these stories, he continues to chart the course of 21st century weird fiction, from the unfamiliar to the familial, the unfathomably distant to the intimate.
Includes extensive story notes and an introduction by Sarah Langan.
Our previous coverage of John Langan includes:
New Treasures: The Fisherman (2016)
Birthday Reviews: John Langan’s “The Unbearable Proximity of Mr. Dunn’s Balloons” by Steven H Silver (2018)
New Treasures: Sefira and Other Betrayals (2019)
New Treasures: Children of the Fang and Other Genealogies (2020)
Riding the Horror Rollercoaster: Children of the Fang and Other Genealogies by Mario Guslandi (2021)
Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters was published by Word Horde on July 5, 2022. It is 228 pages, priced at $19.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Matthew Jaffe. Check out all the details at the Word Horde site here.
Corpsemouth and Other Autobiographies was published by Word Horde on July 5, 2022. It is 304 pages, priced at $21.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Matthew Jaffe. The details are at Word Horde here.
See all our recent coverage of the best new fantasy and horror here.
I just finished Langan’s *The Fisherman* this weekend—a novel I’ve been meaning to read for a long while. It was excellent. I’ve long loved Langan’s short horror stories. I’m going to have to start keeping up with his output. Excellent writer!
James — thanks for the rec! If you’re weren’t already hip deep in your YEAR’S BEST HORROR series for Black Gate, I’d pester you for a review. But I shall bite my tongue. 🙂
I bought Corpsemouth the moment I saw it existed. The Fisherman is one of the best horror novels I’ve read in ages. I didn’t like his earlier collection, The Wide, Carnivourous Sky the first time I read some of it, but I’ve since gone back and it’s fantastic.
Fletcher — Interesting. Where do you recommend a new reader start with Langan?
I’d go straight to Carnivorous Sky or Children of the Fang and Other Genealogies and then move on to The Fisherman.