I’ve just read the first offering from Simon Marshall-Jones’s Spectral Press, What They Hear in the Dark, by Gary McMahon. The blurb goes thusly:
‘Rob and Becky bought the old place after the death of their son, to repair and renovate – to patch things up and make the building habitable.
They both knew that they were trying to fix more than their house, but the cracks in their marriage could not be papered over.
Then they found the Quiet Room …’
The idea of parents recovering after the death of a child has been used frequently, but as with all fiction it’s how you recombine the ideas and ingredients that makes your work stand out. Gary McMahon’s work stands out.
Horror stories can either be subtle or slashy and to my mind the more insidious and disturbing form is the subtle one. A truly talented writer will engage a reader in her/his character’s tragedy by picking out a few tiny, painful details – the sort that pierce your heart with their indelible ordinariness – because that kind of ordinariness echoes our own lives, our own tragedies. McMahon does this with Rob’s memory of his son’s ever-so-slightly imperfectly shaped skull, the feel of it under his hand when Eddie was born, the skipping of the parental heart worried that it might be a health issue.
Similarly, the fractured relationship between Rob and Becky is also finely and subtly and believeably drawn. When a reader begins to care about the characters, then any threat to those characters can be felt more keenly, the terror heightened. As this is a short story, I won’t give anything else away, but this chapbook is certainly worth a look. McMahon manages to create an atmosphere both potent with fear of the unknown and yet grounded in the everyday cares of wounded people.
Suggest you keep your eyes out for the next offering from Spectral.
Spectral lives here and Simon’s blog, Ramblings of a Tattooed Head, lives here.