Wednesday 30 November 2016

Recommendation: The Doom That Came To Whitby Town by Gary Fry

Whitby, 2019
The Doom That Came To Whitby Town is the swan song from the much respected publisher, Gray Friar Press, owned by Gary Fry. This parting gift is a novella from Fry himself, in which something ancient and monstrous is uncovered after a cliff fall on the coast near Whitby. The 'something' is spirited away and hidden by the town's authorities, but that doesn't stop its malign influence from spreading...

As might be gathered, this novella is firmly rooted in Lovecraftian tropes, although here they are not treated with the unnecessary, cloying reverence of most modern mythos fiction. Indeed, one gets the sense that Fry was having a blast writing this one, gleefully destroying both his own home town and his protagonist's settled bachorlohood as the story progresses. Whereas much of Fry's work (of which I'm a big admirer) uses horror to explore serious contemporary concerns, Doom is faster paced, lighter on its feet. Most importantly, in places it is genuinely creepy and unsettling.

In part the book works so well because of its use of setting - I was lucky enough to visit Whitby earlier in the year (and to meet Fry himself) and instantly recognised Doom's depiction of narrow streets and narrower alleys, steep hills, deserted pubs, sea frets and maurading Herring Gulls. Much of the story is set in the off season when all the tourists have left, making it easier to visualise in the mind's eye the things Fry only hints at: mishappen beings shambling the misty streets late at night, the locals begining to hide themselves away from prying eyes. There are mysterious deaths, strange pentagrams, visions of the cosmic on the beach (a shout out to Fry's own Emergence, perhaps), and an unhealthy number of things centred around the number five. Even the bastard seagulls are not untainted by what is happening in Whitby town...

A fine piece of work, compelling and entertainng in equal measure.

The Doom That Came To Whitby Town (UK | US)

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