When my mate, Simon Marshall-Jones, mentioned he was launching a small-press venture, I must admit I was hesitant to start with the unmitigated support. Face it, there is no shortage of small-press outfits and it is a tough thing to do and succeed at. He then told me of his idea to do limited-edition chapbooks—a little voice mumbled in my ear, “He may be doomed,” but then that little voice is a pessimistic fucker. So I said only supportive things. Simon plugged and pimped his wine-drinking, cheese-eating ass off for weeks and when the debut chappy from Spectral Press dropped in February, I got one. What They Hear in the Dark, by Gary McMahon, was that lucky 1 of 100, but the truly lucky are the ones who actually got to read it.
I tore through What They Hear in the Dark in a half an hour—which is a perfect chapbook, if you ask me. I will start by saying that this is a sharp-looking booklet. Nice artwork and wonderfully done. It has a nice collectible feel. And then we get to the actual story: A superb tale about a haunting, a couple buying an old house to renovate and work through a personal tragedy only to find themselves haunted by emotions heavy and horrifying. McMahon’s descriptions of the emotions at work here are fantastic. I am eager to check out more of his work and extremely anxious to see what is next from Spectral Press.
I wrote the above short review for my blog a few months back, and as I just received and read the second offering from Spectral Press, Gary Fry’s Abolisher of Roses, I decided to combine the two into one piece.
I am very close to saying I liked this one more than the first chapbook, but they aren’t quite the same sort of story, so that would be wholly unfair. Fry’s story relies just as heavily on emotion as McMahon’s, but it’s handled differently. Both have strong characters and settings and the attention to detail is exquisite.
Abolisher of Roses tells the story of Peter, husband and not really that great a fellow, and his wife Patricia. The simple synopsis would be to say, this is a “fish out of water” story, as Patrick is taken out of his comfort zone and into an element he is completely unsure of. His wife has gotten into the local art scene and seems to be dragging him along and he is out of sorts about it. She goads him into attending an exhibit where her work will be on display and he agrees, but once there, and once scoping out the “art trail,” things take a dark turn. He encounters his inner feelings and odd occurrences. The ending is haunting and fantastic.
I told Simon upon finishing this, that it was like an unholy episode of Night Gallery, if it had been directed by Clive Barker. And that is mighty high praise, as is the fact that both of these authors, Fry and McMahon, are now on my “must seek out and read more from” list. I can say with all honesty, I cannot wait to see what Spectral Press puts out next. I’m certainly a fan.