The Golden Hour in Best British Horror – and two real-time reviews for Uncertainties III

20180924_184825I’m pleased to announce that The Golden Hour, originally published in Uncertainties III, has been selected by Johnny Mains for the 2019 edition of Best British Horror. Though I had honourable mentions from Ellen Datlow in 2016 for The Lady in the Yard and Meat, Motion and Light, this will be my first appearance in a ‘best of the year’ anthology. As with any reprint, it is lovely to know that not only one – but two – editors liked a story enough to publish it.

Here’s  the table of contents. I’m thrilled to find myself among such a distinguished and exciting bunch of writers.

CAVE VENUS ET STELLA – Anna Vaught
WORMCASTS – Thana Niveau
THEY TELL ME – Carly Holmes
DISAGREEABLY HITCHED – Gary Fry
PACK YOUR COAT – Aliya Whiteley
VOICES IN THE NIGHT – Lisa Tuttle
THE FULLNESS OF HER BELLY – Cate Gardner
MAW – Priya Sharma
TEUFELSBERG – Madhvi Ramani
THE OTHER TIGER – Helen Marshall
SENTINEL – Catriona Ward
THE WORM – Samantha Lee
THE ADJOINING ROOM – AK Benedict
THE GOLDEN HOUR – Rosanne Rabinowitz
THE PERFECT DAY TO BE AT SEA – Kayleigh Marie Edwards
THE HARDER IT GETS THE SOFTER WE SING – Steven Dines
THE DEMON L – Carly Holmes
BY SEVERN’S FLOOD – Jane Jakeman
FISH HOOKS – Kit Power
OLD TRASH – Jenn Ashworth
BOBBO – Robert Shearman

I thank Johnny Mains for selecting my story and I also thank Lynda E. Rucker, who edited Uncertainties III. The Golden Hour is one of three stories selected from this anthology; the other two are Bobbo by Robert Shearman and Voices in the Night by Lisa Tuttle.

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And while I’m talking Golden Hour, I’ll also post two ‘real-time’ reviews of Uncertainties III. One comes from Des Lewis, which I somehow missed when it was in progress over September and October 2018. The other appeared in Supernatural Tales, which ran a review over several weeks.

Des writes that the anthology is “crammed with unforgettable observations of our imaginarium, our past country that is LP Hartley’s as well as a future rapture when the present is finally transcended.” He concludes a rundown of all the stories with comments about my own contribution. I particularly appreciate the way Des put the story in context with my other work and its recurring locations.

“An effulgent work amid this by-line’s characteristic stamping-ground of 20th interfaced with 21st century inner South London. Working people in interface with rapture and haunting, to try shake off the thrall others have put on them… As a photographer myself in recent years, I cherished the description of this art herein. And the whole ambiance of this equally free-flowing text positively subsumed any of my negativity today.”

David Longhorn’s review of this “nifty new anthology” in Supernatural Tales starts on 27 October : “Uncertainties means just that – the moments when we are unsure if we have glimpsed a ‘little slip of the veil’, exposing us to something that may be supernatural, or at least unknown.” He goes on to review each story and concludes with a look at The Golden Hour.

“The story is strange, and rather wonderful, but it is rooted in the sheer oddness of friendship – how people come together, how they drift apart. Friendship is more mysterious than love, in some respects, and the author explores this mystery while conjuring up a London as numinous as anything in Machen.”

These are the kind of reviews I need to reread if I get downhearted. Thanks very much, David and Des.

 

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Too large for your letterbox

20180924_184634It’s one of those frustrating non-events of the writerly life when you come home from work on a Thursday evening and find a card from the postie informing you that a package was ‘too large for your letterbox’ and you just know it’s your contributor copies for a long-anticipated anthology. Then the form on the Royal Mail website won’t let you book a redelivery until Monday

Finally, Monday arrives… And the package in question does indeed contain my contributor copies for Uncertainties Volume III. Edited by Lynda E Rucker, the anthology presents fiction by Matthew M Bartlett, SP Miskowski, Adam LG Nevill, Joyce Carol Oates, Robert Shearman, RS Knightley, Lisa Tuttle, Ralph Robert Moore, Tracy Fahey, Julia Rust & David Surface and Scott West. In addition to stories by these very fine writers, it also includes my tale “The Golden Hour”. You can order Uncertainties from Swan River Press.

20180924_183804The title of my story refers to the hour before sunset or after sunrise when light is indeed golden and transforms appearances – and perhaps much more. It seems to capture and hold moments, infuse them with layers of meaning that are otherwise lost. It’s the sense of timelessness during the golden hour that inspired my story.

The story also reflects my move to an upper floor in my block and the new perspective it gave me. I became much more aware of the movements of sun and moon, changes in the quality of light and its effect on the cityscape. As for the cityscape itself… I found it glorious, while I was also aware that certain half-built structures reflecting the sunset so beautifully will become empty shells for investment by international cartels. These are sprouting alongside buildings that have been homes for many years. Much of this is social housing, fought for and now contested, touched by the same light. I started to speculate on ways the transfiguring light could affect the people living within those buildings.

When my copies arrived I was inspired to take photos of the books during the actual ‘golden hour’ on a clear autumn day, getting full-on arty-farty with photos of the book as the afternoon shifted into various stages of golden-ness. On that first day I admit that I spent more time photographing the book  (often along with my thumb) than reading it.

However, I’ve now read about half of the book and I’ve been mesmerised and entertained; I’ve also found that this is the kind of anthology I read continuously from cover to cover, when I often dip in and out of them. I’ll add that dipability is a good thing too and dipping in and out of anthologies has been a major pleasure of my reading life. I enjoy both of these qualities. I’m not sure what makes one anthology a ‘dipper’ and another anthology one that is devoured. Could it be the way the stories flow into each other, even when it’s not a themed anthology? Something to ponder. In any case, editing is always a factor in how an anthology works and Lynda E Rucker did sterling job with this one.

I recommend an interview on the Swan River Press website with Lynda where she talks about the experience of editing this book. I’ll end with this cogent observation from Lynda on how the field of horror and weird fiction is perceived:

“My view of horror is that it is a very broad church. It encompasses everything from the subtlest and most enigmatic of tales to the full-on Grand Guignol… I think arguments about labelling literature are incredibly tedious, but it does bother me when people try to insist that something isn’t horror basically on the grounds that it is well-written or well-made, that it has depth and resonance and fine prose or is character-driven or has a political consciousness or whatever.”
Uncertainties Volume III spread

 

Certain about Uncertainties III, plus R&R review

grande_uncertainties3I’m excited to announce the publication of Uncertainties III, edited by Lynda E Rucker and published by Swan River Press. It will be out in September and it is now available for preorder. This anthology contains my story “The Golden Hour”, alongside stories by eleven wonderful writers. Here’s the table of contents:

“Monica in the Hall of Moths” Matthew M. Bartlett
“Warner’s Errand” SP Miskowski
“Wyrd” Adam Nevill
“Wanting” Joyce Carol Oates
“Bobbo” Robert Shearman
“Before I Walked Away” RS Knightley (Rachel Knightley)
“Voices in the Night” Lisa Tuttle
“It Could Be Cancer” Ralph Robert Moore
“The Woman in the Moon” Tracy Fahey
“TallDarkAnd” Julia Rust and David Surface
“Ashes to Ashes” Scott West
“The Golden Hour” Rosanne Rabinowitz

This looks like a wonderful line-up and I thank Lynda for bringing us all together. I am certain that Uncertainties III will be a very special book. When I had The Book of American Martyrs signed by Joyce Carol Oates at the Dublin Ghost Story Festival I had no idea that we’d be rubbing shoulders on the same TOC.

And in case you’re wondering, the ‘golden hour’ refers to the hour just after sunrise and the hour before sunset when the light is indeed golden and transfiguring…

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A bell of the Harelle!

Meanwhile, Resonance & Revolt has received a new review from Deborah Walker on GoodReads and Amazon.

“As well as the fine stories, I was struck by the coherence of the book, which danced with the theme of Resonance of emotion, of music and of Revolt expressing what it is to take action and move beyond the constraints of what is expected of us.”

She mentions a favourite: “The story which wormed into my brain was Bells of the Harelle, a story blending 14th century rioting, heresy, and eroticism with humour and scientific mystery.”

So if you want rioting (be it 14th century, 21st century or somewhere in between), head-banging heresy, eroticism, humour and scientific mystery you just might enjoy R&R.

 

 

 

Dorian’s doing well!

grande_scarlet1Here’s a very nice review of The Scarlet Soul in Lovecraft Ezine, which praises the quality of all ten stories and the physical production of the book. Acep Hale also describes my contribution to this anthology:

“Rosanne Rabinowitz’s “All That Is Solid” is another story from The Scarlet Soul that has stuck with me. It is the story of two friends, Gosia and Ilona, living in London after the passage of Brexit. As both of them have Polish backgrounds uncertainties start to creep into Gosia’s psyche as more and more overt examples of British nationalism start happening around her. Ilona passes on the number of a counselor who suggests that since Gosia is a freelance designer art therapy may help? I feel that Rabinowitz displays an acute sensibility with “All That Is Solid” that is as respectful as it is chilling.”

Last thing I heard, Dublin-based Swan River Press said that they were down to their last five copies of The Scarlet Soul. So to quote Janis Joplin, get it while you can!

Swan River does put out some very fine books, concentrating on strange and supernatural fiction with an Irish connection. I look forward to meeting editor Brian J Showers and others in person this summer at the Dublin Ghost Story Festival. And if any readers of this blog happen to be attending, I look forward to meeting you.

Meanwhile, I’ve set up a new page for R&R. It includes a table of contents that links most of the stories with a related post or review giving background or thoughts about the story. I’ve also linked to the blogs of Lynda E. Rucker and Mat Joiner, friends and fellow writers who’ve contributed to this book.

The paperback edition of Resonance & Revolt will be released on the very appropriate date of 1 May. You can pre-order it from Eibonvale or from Amazon. Keep an eye out for news about a launch event and an ebook edition.

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“As the dawn was just breaking he found himself close to Covent Garden…”

I’m pleased to announce the publication of my story “All That is Solid”grande_scarlet1 in The Scarlet Soul from Swan River Press, a collection of stories inspired by Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray and its themes of art, obsession, love, lust and sorcery.

Editor Mark Valentine suggested we all choose a quote from Wilde’s novella to kick off our stories. Dorian had gone strolling in Covent Garden; so does my protagonist many years later. It’s the summer of 2016 and she hears a bunch of lads singing: “Rule Britannia… Britannia rules the waves, first we get the Poles out then we get the gays”.

The title ‘All that is solid melts into air’ comes from a quote by Karl Marx. That solid thing melting into air can be the ground beneath our feet when we think too much about the space in its atoms; it can also be the ground beneath our feet when our right to live in the place we call home is threatened. So what does this have to do with Dorian Gray and his famous portrait? More than we might think, especially when anxiety and art therapy are involved…

I’m in the company of nine fine writers – Lynda E Rucker, Reggie Oliver, Caitriona Lally, John Howard, DP Watt, Timothy J Jarvis, Derek John, Avalon Brantley and John Gale. I look forward to seeing how they’ve approached the theme.

cover_1_resonance_th

I also have more news about my forthcoming collection, Resonance & Revolt. The pre-order page is up at Eibonvale Press, including a preview of the cover. We’ll be adding more images to the mix, perhaps a flying gefilte fish or two (in reference to The Matter of Meroz). Who knows? It’ll be exciting. I’ll write more about this project in the next few weeks.

In Scarlet Town

murder-balladsMurder Ballads is now available for preorder from Egaeus Press, producer of dark and imaginative books. My tale “In Scarlet Town” will mark my second appearance in an Egaeus anthology. I’m proud to be included among a host of fine writers such as Angela Slatter, Reggie Oliver, Philip Fracassi, Helen Marshall, Timothy J. Jarvis, Alison Littlewood, Daniel Mills, Avalon Brantley, Stephen J Clark, Lisa L Hannett, Louis Marvick, Brendan Connell, Colin Insole, Rhys Hughes, Charles Schneider and Albert Power.

When editor Mark Beech sent me the guidelines, I took many trips down my musical memory lane. There’s such a wealth of material. I found my interests gravitated towards the more contemporary(ish) side of the genre. I considered PJ Harvey’s Down by the Water, Neko Case’s Furnace Room Lullaby and Inkubus Succubus’ The Rape of Maude Bowen with its angry chorus:

“Now here is a tale, a story to be told
Of a young girl but fifteen years old
Impaled as a vampire, her mother burned as a witch
Now these were the crimes, the crimes of the rich…”

But it was Gillian Welch’s enigmatic “Scarlet Town” that captured my imagination in the end. So what the hell was going on in Scarlet Town? The name itself conjured up a dry and dusty place, but one that is full of colour, fragrance and the timeless pursuit of pleasure. I saw menacing beauty that disguised a host of ugly secrets.

I discovered that Bob Dylan also wrote a song called “Scarlet Town”, which came out after Gillian Welch’s tune. Dylan portrays a place with the “evil and the good livin’ side by side”, where “all human forms seem glorified”. I mulled over a fascinating discussion on the themes of the Dylan song, with its echoes of the traditional ballad Barbara Allen alongside more current concerns. Dylan’s imagery is complex and contradictory, complementing the starkness of Welch’s song.

Gillian Welch references the traditional ballad “Pretty Polly” with the line: “You left me here to rot away, like Polly on a mountainside”. I’ll add that conflicting interpretations have appeared: some song lyric websites seem to think she’s singing “like holly on the mountainside”. But it sounds like ‘Polly’ to me and it makes more sense, so my story contains a pinch of that old ballad too –  have a listen to an old-timey Appalachian-style version by Patty Loveless and Ralph Stanley.

angel-trumpet-509445_960_720The final ingredient for this story was suggested by notes I made over a year ago. I was walking down the road near a friend’s house in North London. I was so lost in thought that I walked right into the overhanging branches of a tree full of incredible yellow flowers as big as my face. What the flowering fuck indeed… I’d never seen anything like it. And the scent was intense and entrancing. Honey-sweet, but lemony too with a touch of spice. It was a complex scent I needed to keep sniffing at… addictive and enthralling.

I later looked up these flowers, Angel’s Trumpet aka brughansia. I discovered that these plants have a long history of lore and myth, along with close cousin datura or Devil’s Trumpet. Their hallucinogenic and potentially toxic components have been used in shamanic rituals; it was believed that they enabled people to communicate with the dead and denizens of other worlds. According to some accounts, brughansia and datura were used as aphrodisiacs in brothels. And the plants also had more prosaic medicinal uses, such as treating asthma and haemorrhoids.

I’ll note that one component, scopolamine, plays a less than enlightening role in the weird Netflix series The OAThese plants have also been used to induce disorientation and docility.

I read an article about a town in Louisiana where teenagers were raiding front gardens for drug-related purposes. It got to a point where the cops went knocking on doors if they spotted Angel’s Trumpet growing in a garden. A few people actually destroyed their plants. But many of the comments at the end of the article basically went: Fuck the police! They’re not gonna mess with my brugs!

I made notes about all this and put them in one of those little folders on my computer that just sit around for a while. But I came upon the material again and realised that these beautiful yet deadly blossoms will show me the way to Scarlet Town…

My story also includes a tip of the hat to Leena Krohn’s novella Datura, Or a Figment Seen by Everyone, where a woman acquires a datura plant, uses it to help her asthma and becomes addicted. She observes:

“I hope you understand that plants, too, are conscious. The consciousness of plants resembles human dreaming. That, too, is consciousness.”

Some heady thoughts to go along with a very heady scent…

Scarborough bound… and a Remy Martin straight up

grand_hotel_scarborough_yorkshire_england_1890sSo it’s time for Fantasycon! This year it takes place in Scarborough, known for its fair and a faded seaside ambiance that horror writers find particularly attractive – I can see the story-spinning wheels whirring already. For more information, have a look at the Fantasycon by the Sea website.

This time around I’ll be involved with three events: a panel, a book launch and a reading.

On Friday 23 September at 4pm I’ll be on a panel called Out of the Woods. The programme poses these questions: are we growing out of rural and into urban horror? Is it safe to go back into the woods? Steve Shaw will be chairing, and other panelists include Simon Clark, Collen Anderson, Ian Whates and Charlotte Courtney-Bond.

Those involved have already exchanged some lively emails and this promises to shape up into an intriguing panel. Sense of place has always been a subject close to my heart. My South London surroundings have played a big part in recent stories like The Pleasure Garden and Lambeth North. Other stories have taken place in the Bronx and the semi-suburban reaches of New Jersey as well as the Pine Barrens (Jersey Devil and all).

Next on my schedule is the Alchemy Press book launch that takes place on Saturday 24 September at mid-day. The unique Joel Lane tribute anthology Something Remains will be launched along with The Private Life of Elder Things. A lot of authors will be on hand to natter and sign a few things and there will be wine! 

However, I will have to avoid over-indulgence in the wine because I’ll be involved with a reading shortly afterwards at 14.00-14.30. This will in fact be a joint reading with another Something Remains contributor, Jan Edwards. We will both be reading from our stories in anthology and we might say a few words ābout it too.

Speaking of Something Remains, it is the subject of a ‘realtime review’ from Des Lewis. I thank him for his in-depth coverage of the book, and for his kind  comments on “The Pleasure Garden”:

“Rosanne’s evolved fragment becomes an evocative summoning of the cranes as the girders of a cat’s cradle genius-loci of South London, now and then… Daniel reaches some Lane-like choreography (amid the ‘crane constellations’) with a music mix of old times and wrought passions, with not a diaspora but a regathering, a regathering, each to each, for this book, amid the still recognisable fragments of the Pleasure Garden…”

I will now close on a very different note. This hasn’t been a very up-close and personal kind of blog, but I will mention that my father died very recently. Though he was 91 and not well, it was a shock and it’s taken a while to sink in. I wasn’t sure if I’d make it to Fantasycon, until I remembered that my dad was a very show-must-go-on kinda guy. He’d want me to get on with it and do the things I love – writing, reading and schmoozing.

In his honour I’ll share some of his favourite songs. The Weavers come top of the list of old family favourites, and I’ve already posted a few times about them. So you’ll find some great Weavers tunes in my post about The Lady in the Yard and my tributes to Ronnie Gilbert and Pete Seeger.

Another album my dad loved was Brecht and Weill’s Threepenny Opera, specifically  the 1955 Broadway cast recording that features Lotte Lenya. He especially liked “The Army Song” (aka “The Cannon Song”) and sang along to it all the time. For years I thought the lines “Let’s all go barmy, let’s join the army” went ‘Let’s all go bombing…”.

Unfortunately all tracks from the 1955  album have been removed from YouTube but I’ve found a reasonable equivalent here.

Anyone familiar with the old US recording will notice some differences in translation. I find it interesting that “Because we like our beefsteak tartare” became “Because we like our hamburger RAW“.  I suppose an American audience in the 1950s wouldn’t have had a clue what ‘beefsteak tartare’ would be… I certainly didn’t.

Moving along into the 1970s, my dad got to be a Shel Silverstein fan and we all ‘dug’ “Freakin’ at the Freakers Ball”.

And needless to say, when we didn’t do our chores we were treated to this other Shel Silverstein number…

So I’ll also be lifting a glass to my dad sometime this weekend. I’ve already lifted a few over the past week. One of his favourites was Remy Martin – straight up!*

 
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*unmixed, without ice