Gateways To Abomination is a deeply unsettling collection of short stories all set in the New England town of Leeds. Some of the stories here are almost self-contained narratives, whilst others are vignettes adding atmosphere and depth to the setting. And the setting really is key to this book. Leeds is a place of devilry, strange crimes, fetid secrets. The corruption is in the air-literally, as in story after story Bartlett’s protagonists stumble across the strange, infectious voices of WXXT, a local Leeds radio station…
The power of the book is thus one that builds cumulatively as you read; unlike most short story collections this is one that demands to be read from front to back rather than cherry picking if you want to get the full effect. Reoccurring imagery, characters and themes link the stories together but Bartlett cannily ensures things don’t dovetail together too neatly. The gaps and caesuras, the static between the voices on the airwaves, do just as much to build the dread as what is present and audible.
Bartlett’s narrative voice is matter of fact as he presents his horrors, which makes their ambiguity all the more effective. There’s some disturbingly effective imagery here but this is no gore-fest, it’s more restrained and frightening than that.
A fine horror book then: weird, distinctive, creepy and darkly humorous. If you want to tune in to Gateways To Abomination you can do so here (UK | US).