Monday 1 October 2012

Review: What Gets Left Behind by Mark West

What Gets Left Behind by Mark West is a newly released chapbook from Spectral Press. This is the third West story I've read and possibly the best, although on an even-numbered day I might give that accolade to The Mill - a novella which has some similarities to What Gets Left Behind.

What gets left behind by Mark West
The story is partially set in the 80s and partially in the present; the central character Mike Bergen has returned to the town where he spent his childhood, during which time a serial killer stalked local girls. West's evocation of the 80s is note perfect - not just in the period details like Star Wars t-shirts and Noel Edmonds (and excitingly for this reader East Midlands Today!) but in the recreation of a time when no one had mobile phones and kids played outside at "the Rec" because there was nothing else to do. West is a more realistic writer than someone like Ramsey Campbell (whose realism is shot through with subjectivity) and there is a simplicity and clarity to his prose that's probably hard won. It certainly fits this story.

Like The MillWhat Gets Left Behind's core is as much emotional as horrific; although the horror, when it comes, is gripping and effective. I particularly liked the switches between the two time-frames, a device which reminded me of Stephen King's IT. The sense of history repeating itself, of the past not being over but haunting Mike's present is excellently done.

These chapbooks from Spectral Press always sell out and based on this kind of quality, I can see why.

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