Where the Time Goes by Jeffrey E. Barlough

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017 | Posted by Jackson Kuhl

Where-the-Time-Goes-smallerWhere the Time Goes
by Jeffrey E. Barlough
Gresham & Doyle (337 pages, $14.95 trade paperback, October 2016)

If you’ve been looking to jump into Jeffrey Barlough’s Western Lights series, his ninth and latest installment makes a good diving board. The books are set in a post-apocalyptic alternate history where woolly mammoths and monsters from Greek and Etruscan legend rub elbows with ghosts, spirits, and worse, but Where the Time Goes adds a third genre to the cake batter: time travel.

Philip Earnscliff, a junior partner in the firm Bagwash and Bladdergowl, has been summoned to the country estate of the elderly Hugh Calendar to put Calendar’s affairs in order; Calendar has been in a coma for some weeks and appears unlikely to recover. The lawyer spends his hours paging through Calendar’s papers, gazing out the window at a neighboring estate called the Moorings — abandoned and ruined following an accident during Calendar’s youth — and taking nightmare-plagued naps. Earnscliff has no reason to think anything is amiss, at least not until he walks in upon Miss Carswell, Calendar’s young and attractive acquaintance, with a syringe full of sleeping elixir stuck between Calendar’s lips. Soon enough Earnscliff finds himself back in time, trying to repair the tragedies of the past while, as a side quest, solving the mystery of a local serial killer that strikes every six years.

It’s been a long strange trip for Barlough’s Western Lights since their 2000 debut, Dark Sleeper. The early books with Ace were sinister and Gothic, yet since moving to Gresham & Doyle they’ve generally trended toward cozy mysteries with supernatural elements. 2011’s A Tangle in Slops was more Midsummer Night’s comedy than horror; and the last two installments — What I Found at Hoole and The Cobbler of Ridingham — could have been written by the lovechild of Agatha Christie and M.R. James.

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Future Treasures: Where the Time Goes by Jeffrey E. Barlough

Sunday, October 16th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

where-the-time-goes-small where-the-time-goes-back-small

Back in July, Fletcher Vredenburgh reviewed the opening novel in Jeffrey E. Barlough’s Western Lights series here at Black Gate.

I’m not exactly sure what made me buy Dark Sleeper… I’m thinking it was more the Jeff Barson painting of woolly mammoths pulling a coach across a dark, snow swept landscape. Whatever the reason, I’m happy I did, as the book turned out to be a very strange and often funny trip through a weird and fantastical post-apocalyptic alternate reality.

In Barlough’s fictional world the Ice Age never fully ended. With much of its north covered by ice and snow, medieval England sent its ships out around the world looking for new lands… With great cities such as Salthead and Foghampton (located around the same places as Seattle and San Francisco), the western colonies flourished and expanded. Then, in 1839, terror struck from the heavens… Something crashed into the Earth, and almost instantly, all life except in the western colonies, was obliterated and the Ice Age intensified. Now, one hundred and fifty years later, the “the sole place on earth where lights still shine at night is in the west.”…

For nearly twenty years now Barlough has been creating a truly unique series that has seems to have escaped too many readers’ attention… If you have the slightest affinity for the works of Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, or the steampunk works of Tim Powers and James Blaylock, then I highly recommend Dark Sleeper.

The ninth novel in the series, Where the Time Goes, sees Dr. Hugh Callander return home to find the town of Dithering gripped by fear. Livestock are being lost, and townsfolk are mysteriously disappearing. Is it poachers, thieves or murderers? Or might the ancient tales of a ravenous beast in the nearby cavern of Eldritch’s Cupboard be true? Where the Time Goes arrives in trade paperback from Gresham & Doyle on October 31st.

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Dark Sleeper by Jeffrey E. Barlough

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_265522dm2u1J6BLooking back, I’m not exactly sure what made me buy Dark Sleeper (1998), the first volume of Jeffrey E. Barlough’s ongoing Western Lights series. Perhaps it was the Tim Powers blurb on the front cover, but I’m thinking it was more the Jeff Barson painting of woolly mammoths pulling a coach across a dark, snow swept landscape. Whatever the reason, I’m happy I did, as the book turned out to be a very strange and often funny trip through a weird and fantastical post-apocalyptic alternate reality.

In Barlough’s fictional world the Ice Age never fully ended. With much of its north covered by ice and snow, medieval England sent its ships out around the world looking for new lands. Some of the most successful colonies were planted on the west coast of what we call North America. Devoid of people, it is instead home to great megafauna such as smilodons, megatheres, teratorns, and mammoths.

With great cities such as Salthead and Foghampton (located around the same places as Seattle and San Francisco), the western colonies flourished and expanded. Then, in 1839, terror struck from the heavens: “Then it was a great disaster struck, a tragedy of near-incomprehensible proportions.” Something crashed into the Earth, and almost instantly, all life except in the western colonies, was obliterated and the Ice Age intensified. Now, one hundred and fifty years later, the “the sole place on earth where lights still shine at night is in the west.” For a fuller, more detailed explanation, just go here.

Dark Sleeper opens on a very foggy night; a deliberate homage, I suspect, to the equally mist-shrouded opening of Bleak House.

Fog, everywhere.

Fog adrift in the night air above the river, creeping in through the estuary where the river glides to the sea. Fog curling and puffing about the headlands and high places, the lofty crags and wild soaring pinnacles, fog smothering the old university town in cold gray smoke. Fog squeezing itself into the steep narrow streets and byways, the roads and cart-tracks, into the gutters and shadowy back-alleys. Fog groping at the ancient timbered walls of the houses — the wondrous, secret, familiar old houses — and at their darkened doors and windows, filling the chinks and cracks in the masonry and coaxing the tightly fastened surfaces to open, open.

Not your common ordinary fog but a genuine Salthead fog, drippy and louring…

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New Treasures: The Cobbler of Ridingham by Jeffrey E. Barlough

Monday, February 16th, 2015 | Posted by Jackson Kuhl

The Cobbler of RidinghamWinter is the best time to appreciate Jeffrey E. Barlough, perhaps none more so than the current brutality we’ve been experiencing in New England. Day after day of snow blowing past the windows makes it easy to imagine oneself in Barlough’s alternate history of an ice age that never fully receded; and a fire in the grate and a cup of hot coffee at hand while the wind howls beyond the lattices blurs the distinction between this reality and living in a separate megafauna-filled America settled by Victorian doomsday survivors swaddled in coats and mufflers.

In Barlough’s latest novel, The Cobbler of Ridingham, Richard Hathaway comes to Haigh Hall to examine some letters penned by Pharnaby Crust, an overlooked composer whom Hathaway intends to rescue from obscurity with a thorough biography. While studying in the Hall’s library, Hathaway observes a lurking shadow without source and is soon immersed in the curse of Crispin Nightshade, the infamous cobbler of nearby Ridingham. Nightshade used something known as haunted leather to fashion shoes which, when placed on the feet of corpses, could make the dead walk again. There are bumps in the night, unexplained footprints, a boot found in a snow bank, and more, all involving Barlough’s typical cast of well-sketched characters from upstairs and down.

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Vintage Treasures: Strange Cargo by Jeffrey E. Barlough

Saturday, January 24th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Strange Cargo Jeffrey E. Barlough-smallI didn’t know quite what to make of Strange Cargo when I received a review copy over a decade ago. The cover grabbed my attention immediately, as did the synopsis, but I didn’t immediately realize it was part of Jeffrey E. Barlough’s ongoing Western Lights series, set in a world where the Ice Age never ended and only a narrow sliver of civilization survives along the Pacific American coastline.

The vast majority of review copies I received a decade ago are already long forgotten. But Barlough’s fame has steadily grown as Western Lights, a delightful series in which Victorian society exists alongside saber-toothed cats and woolly mammoths, continues to attract new readers. Strange Cargo was the third volume, following Dark Sleeper and The House in the High Wood; the most recent are What I Found at Hoole and The Cobbler of Ridingham.

Something wicked this way comes…

Nantle is the destination for the wealthy Cargo family. A mysterious heir has been named in their grandfather’s will — and they have traveled a long way by sea to find him.

Mr. Tim Christmas journeys as part of his apprenticeship, seeking the mechanism behind a strange set of seemingly magical stones. On her twenty-first birthday, Miss Wastefield is given an odd gift, which she keeps locked up in a giant chest at all times — a keeping place from which she receives dire threats. In Nantle, she hopes to find the one man who can rid her of this evil.

It is in this old cathedral city that their paths will converge. And where they will find themselves at the mercy of a mighty and vengeful power.

Strange Cargo was published by Ace Books on August 3, 2004. It is 481 pages, priced at $14.95 in trade paperback. It has never been reprinted and it currently out of print; there is no digital edition. The cover is by Gregory Bridges.


Vintage Treasures: The House in the High Wood by Jeffrey E. Barlough

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The House in the High Wood-smallJeffrey E. Barlough’s first three Western Lights novels were published in trade paperback by Ace over a decade ago, beginning with Dark Sleeper (2000), and followed by The House in the High Wood (2001) and Strange Cargo (2004). All three are highly prized today. Barlough began to publish them though his own Gresham & Doyle press beginning with the fourth volume, Bertram of Butter Cross (2007). I recently acquired the second book. Back when I was running SF Site, I recruited the author Victoria Strauss to write for us; here’s what she said about it the year it was published:

Framed in good Gothic style by ante and post scriptums in which a nameless narrator encounters the teller of the main tale (a somber, haunted Oliver Langley, 11 years later), The House in the High Wood is a homage to such classics of the Gothic genre as The Monk and Woman in White, replete with mystery, madness, illegitimacy, ghostly visitations, ancient ruins, brooding forests, sinister dwellings, and supernatural terror. Like the first in the series, Dark Sleeper, it’s a neo-Victorian pastiche, with an agreeably verbose 19th-century prose style and a large cast of eccentric characters. But where the previous book was as much digression as story, devoting entire chapters to character study and whole pages to the description of the contents of a single room, this novel is much more a straight-ahead narrative of suspense, proceeding grippingly from plot turn to plot turn, with moments that are genuinely bone-chilling.

The Western Lights novels have steadily been gathering acclaim (and readers) over the last few years. Jackson Kuhl reviewed the fifth volume Anchorwick for us in 2011, calling it “A Victorian Dying Earth —- gothic and claustrophobic yet confronted by its inhabitants with upper lips held stiff… It’s P.G. Wodehouse with woolly mammoths.” More recently, we covered What I Found at Hoole (2012) and the eighth volume, The Cobbler of Ridingham. We published an interview with him in 2013.

The House in the High Wood was published by Ace Books on August 1, 2001. It is 336 pages, originally priced at $14.95. The digital version is $17.99. The cover art is by Aleta Jenks.


Future Treasures: The Cobbler of Ridingham by Jeffrey E. Barlough

Saturday, August 30th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Cobbler of Ridingham-smallJeffrey E. Barlough is one of the most gifted and ambitious fantasists at work today and his seven volume Western Lights series is unlike anything else on the shelves. In his review of the fifth volume, Anchorwick, Jackson Kuhl sums up events as follows:

Eugene Stanley has come to the university at Salthead (a parallel Seattle? Vancouver?) to assist his professor uncle in preparing a book manuscript. One night, while working in a deserted turret room at the college…  Stanley is accosted by a phantasmal form. This ignites a definitive search for the missing don as Stanley and friends uncover lost civilizations, ancestral curses, whole companies of ghosts, monsters from Greek myth, and a few red herrings, all told in rich, dryly humorous style. It’s P.G. Wodehouse with woolly mammoths.

Those who complain that there’s nothing new in fantasy today aren’t looking hard enough. And they’re definitely not reading Jeffrey E. Barlough.

The eighth volume in the Western Lights series, The Cobbler of Ridingham, will be released in November and it features Richard Hathaway, who previously appeared in Bertram of Butter Cross and the short story “Ebenezer Crackernut” (from A Tangle in Slops).

A creeping shadow, a bump in the night, a thing in the trees — these are but a few of the surprises lurking in the pages of The Cobbler of Ridingham… The new work relates a curious adventure that befell Richard Hathaway while visiting at Haigh Hall, the home of a family acquaintance, Lady Martindale, on the marshes outside the picturesque old country town of Ridingham.

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Cataclysms, Ghosts and Monsters: An Interview With Jeffrey E. Barlough

Sunday, January 13th, 2013 | Posted by Jackson Kuhl

what-i-found-at-hoole-smallThere’s nothing out there on the shelves like Jeffrey Barlough’s Western Lights novels. The series — called such because “the sole place on earth where lights still shine at night is in the west” — is a bouillabaisse of mystery, ghost story, and post-apocalyptic gaslamp fantasy. His seventh and most recent book, What I Found at Hoole, was published in November.

Dr. Barlough, who moonlights as a veterinary physician, kindly spoke to me about the world-building of the Western Lights, his latest project, and which Ice Age animal he’d most like to meet in a dark alley.

An Interview with Jeffrey E. Barlough

Conducted and transcribed by Jackson Kuhl, January 2013

Black Gate: The world of the Western Lights is technically an alternate history — the last glaciation never ended and British civilization has colonized North America’s western coast — and yet the timeline is so divergent — an environmental cataclysm, ghosts and monsters from mythology — that it might as well be a secondary world fantasy. Where did the disparate ideas for the Western Lights come from? What inspired you to write the first book, Dark Sleeper?

Barlough: Dark Sleeper resulted from combining three different projects I was working on at the time. One was a sci-fi story set in Ice Age California, another was a relatively straight-forward “Dickensian” mystery, and the third was a tale of the supernatural concerning an immortal Etruscan who turns up in 1920s Santa Barbara! At one point, I realized that combining these various elements into a single storyline might produce something unique. The backstory of the series was filled in by extrapolation from these differing components. My interest in Victorian fiction and paleontology dates from my childhood, while the Ice Age setting in particular was inspired by my time as a volunteer excavator at the famed Rancho La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles.

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New Treasures: Jeffrey E. Barlough’s What I Found at Hoole

Saturday, November 10th, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

what-i-found-at-hoole-smallJeffrey E. Barlough’s Western Lights series may be the best fantasy books you don’t know about.

I didn’t know about them either, until Jackson Kuhl’s review of Strange Cargo in Black Gate 8. Jackson has called Barlough “a wonderful yet unappreciated fantasist… a talent I invite everyone to sample.” In his review of Anchorwick, the fifth novel in the series, he summarized the intriguing setting this way:

In a world where the Ice Age never ended, a cataclysm has reduced humanity to a slip of English civilization along North America’s western coastline. It’s neither steampunk nor weird western; the technology is early 19th century. It’s kinda-sorta gaslamp fantasy, except there doesn’t seem to be any natural gas. Barlough’s creation is best described as a Victorian Dying Earth — gothic and claustrophobic yet confronted by its inhabitants with upper lips held stiff. As the books are fantasy mysteries, the less said about their plots, the better… mastodons and mylodons mixed with ghosts and gorgons? Yes, please.”

Now the seventh novel in the series, What I Found at Hoole, has arrived in a handsome trade paperback from Gresham & Doyle. It picks up at the end of the second volume, The House in the High Wood, which was a nominee for the 2002 Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel.

Mr. Ingram Somervell has been called to the remote village of Hoole, in the uplands of Ayleshire, to inspect some property bequeathed to him by an uncle he had never met. Almost at once he finds himself plunged into mysteries that confound him. Why had Clement’s Mill, a dilapidated old mill that did no milling, been left to him… Why had his uncle ordered the old chapel on the fellside and its coffin-crypt sealed after the arrival of Miss Petra, his ward and heir? What was the ghostly yellow light that had been seen on Cowdrie Beacon? And what to make of the frightful dreams hinting at some unimaginable catastrophe plaguing young Somervell since he came into Ayleshire?

These novels, with their oddly pastoral cover art — the cover to this one, F.H.Tynsdale’s A Country Cottage and Church, is from the 19th Century — are an entertaining mix of genres, blending fantasy, gothic mystery, and even a dash of period comedy straight out of P.G. Wodehouse. Don’t miss them.

What I Found at Hoole was published by Gresham & Doyle on November 1st. It is 259 pages and priced at $14.95 in trade paperback. There is no digital edition.


In the Hot Seat: The Reviewer Gets Grilled: An Interview with Fletcher Vredenburgh

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

Fletcher Vredenburgh-small

Fletcher is no stranger to the readers and fans of Black Gate. His articles and reviews are not only well-written, insightful and entertaining, they are extremely popular, as well. He is the “reviewer extraordinaire,” and his reviews have led me to read many books. I trust his opinion and his taste in what makes for a good novel. Fletcher is also one of the most voracious readers I have ever met; even in my prime, when I was reading about 2 books a week, I couldn’t top him. Tireless and energetic, Fletcher amazes me with his wonderful reviews, which are also very well written. He is not a “book critic,” however, as you’ll find out when you read my interview with him. He is a reviewer of books. A Master Review Writer. I’m happy I met him through social media, proud to call him my friend, and grateful to him for his great reviews of my books.

So let’s begin, shall we? Let’s see if we can find out what makes him tick, what he likes to read and his whole process for reviewing a book.

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