Saturday, 4 August 2012

Review: From Dark Places by E.J. Newman


From Dark Places is a book of twenty-plus short stories and is the first I've read by Emma Newman, a writer I heard speak at a few panels at Edgelit. I thought anyone who could be so engaging talking about short stories and monsters was someone definitely worth checking out...

From Dark PlacesMost of these stories are very short; I don't think one exceeds around 3k words in length. My only criticism of the book as a whole would be that a couple of longer, 6k plus tales might have made it more varied in terms of pace. As it is, this is a book to dip into and read the stories one or two at a time, rather than try and gulp them all down. And as such it's an excellent debut. Despite their similar length and style there's a great variety in the story's emotional punches: horror, comedy, romance. Most have a twist at the end, but few are predictable.

The writing style is clean and displays a lightness of touch - more Neil Gaiman than Ramsey Campbell. Newman is a writer who reminds you how close many children's stories are to horror.

My favourites were:

'The Tenth Lord' - a deliciously ambiguous modern fairy tale.

'The Letter' - what did happen to the dog?

'The Need to Create' - an interesting & compelling story with a fantastical take on history and certain historical figures.

'The Unwoven Heart' - beautifully written and compelling imagery - almost an extended metaphor rather than story. I'll say again: beautiful.

'Idolised' - an almost Wicker Man style horror story.

'The Best Pie In The World' - the best twist of the collection? One to immediately re-read after you know the ending.

But nearly all these stories are well-worth reading; there's a higher-strike rate than most short story collections. It's certainly an impressive advert for Newman's talents and I look forward to reading more of her work. Give it a go...

1 comment:

Emma Newman said...

Thanks for the review James, I just wanted to say how glad I am that The Unwoven Heart was one of your favourites; it was the hardest one to write. I felt like I had to really excavate it in a way I hadn't experienced before.