Sunday 14 May 2017

Recommendation: The Secret Of Ventriloquism by Jon Padgett

The Secret Of Ventriloquism is the debut collection from Jon Padgett - and what a debut it is. I'd seen a lot of praise for this book before reading it, so much so that I wondered if it could actually live up to the hype. Now I find myself adding to that praise unreservedly: The Secret Of Ventriloquism is utterly, fantastically, indubitably brilliant.

The stories within cover a range of styles and influences: 'The Indoor Swamp' for example is a largely plotless, Ligotti-esque mood piece, whereas 'The Infusorium' is a longer work, full of vivid characters, plot reversals and the influence of noir. Padgett also gives us jet-black humour in 'Murmurs Of A Voice Foreknown', a one act play, and a story written in the style of a ventriloquism manual.

But despite this impressive variation, these stories all seem to take place in the same fictional geography, with images, events and motifs criss-crossing between them. Padgett-land is a place of thick smogs, mysterious plan-crashes, dream-logic, and the mysteries of 'greater ventriloquism'.

As such, The Secret Of Ventriloquism is not just a collection of good stories, but a good collection of stories, structured and arranged to hint at wider horrors that we never see. If the key to good horror writing is atmosphere (as I keep repeating) then Padgett proves himself a master of it here. Each story builds tension individually, but also contributes to the overall, escalating feeling of unease, of a malaise physical and mental. It's magnificently done and demands to be read by all aficionados of the genre.

The Secret Of Ventriloquism (UK | US)

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