I have had Ramsey Campbell's new book "Holes for Faces" on pre-order from Amazon for the past 3 months or more. However, I heard today from Amazon that they are unable to source the book from their supplier and therefore the book will be unavailable and my order has been cancelled. I was wondering what's happened and if anyone (or Ramsey himself) knows anything about whether the book will appear soon?
And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.
From the first, I set myself against "literature"; the story was the thing, and no amount of style could persuade me to select a story that lacked genuine, unadulterated horror. For those who wanted something high-brow there was plenty.
Passing Through Peacehaven Peep Getting it Wrong The Room Beyond Holes for Faces The Rounds The Decorations The Address Recently Used Chucky Comes to Liverpool With the Angels Behind the Doors Holding the Light The Long Way
I'm never very confident about offering my thoughts on Ramsey's stories. I find it generally takes me a couple of reads to 'get it' entirely, but then that's one of the great things about Ramsey's writing in my opinion. I love the fact that you can keep coming back to it and seeing more and more with each subsequent reading, or interpret a story differently this time than the last. So for what it's worth, here's what I've got so far.
Passing Through Peacehaven. Marsden alights from his train after being woken by the tail-end of an announcement over the train's speakers. He stumbles onto the platform only to realise he's never seen this station before. Everything in this story is just barely heard or only just glimpsed or not quite 'right' in some way. This is something I found and loved in Ramsey's novel The Grin of the Dark and it plays out particularly well here, partly due I think to the setting. A relatively elderly man finds himself in unfamiliar surroundings in a seemingly deserted old train station late at night, and strains to hear the various announcements regarding the next train, with each one becoming more and more distorted and difficult to make out. The portrayal of Marsden is wonderful at these moments and you can practically feel his frustration and hear his heart thump more rapidly in his chest as his blood pressure rises. Add to this the shadowy figure that seems to loom behind that very nearly opaque window, or does it? Is it there or isn't it? Perhaps it's just his eyes playing tricks on him. Perhaps not. Eventually a train does finally arrive, and it's with some relief that Marsden stumbles into his seat. But all's not quite what it should be here either. Why's that, I hear you say? I've no idea. I'm going to have to do that re-read I mentioned earlier before I'll know more. I can tell you that there were references to 'scattered fragments' and 'charred evidence' leaving a trail from the storeroom along the corridor, and then at the end there's a reference to 'memorials' and 'the crematorium'.
I loved this story. I've always been a fan of trains and lovely, creepy old stations, and this plays with those things wonderfully. I'm not sure what the references to 'scattered fragments, charred evidence, something being dragged, memorials and crematorium' were all about yet, but I'll look forward to either figuring it out over subsequent re-reads or simply inventing my own explanation for it. For all I know with these type of stories, that may well have been Ramsey's intention all along. Somehow, it would be nice to think so. A very good time was had with this one.
Peep. This one didn't quite hit the sweet spot for me. It did still have those creepy, unsure moments, but the story seemed to take too long to get there and then when it did get there, I wasn't entirely sure where 'there' was. An elderly man looks after his grandchildren, Gerald and Geraldine. A good deal of the story is spent watching them do what kids are wont to do, while their grandfather worries and frets about them and what they're up to. I get the impression this story wanted to put across the confusion that the new, modern world induces in the elderly and it used the children nonchalant playfulness to do it, but then I could be (and probably am) barking up entirely the wrong tree. There are a couple of those wonderful 'what on earth was that...?' moments that I love when the grandfather(why can't I remember his name?) sees, or thinks he sees someone with holes for eyes. In one instance, he thinks it's Geraldine playing a trick on him, hiding behind a display in a shop but when he grabs for her the face comes away in his hand and it's not her at all. Very strange.
I didn't dislike this one, but having read it immediately after the first one meant that it was always going to have a bit of a rum deal, and I think the creepy, eerie factor was dialed down to a greater degree, certainly in comparison to the first story. Still enjoyable in it's own way though, and certainly deserves a re-read to get the best out of it. I shall probably have to stop saying that now since I've a feeling that it's likely to be the case throughout. You won't hear me complaining about that anyway.
So that's the two I've read so far, and I can honestly say they've got me really looking forward to the rest. I'm off to tackle no.3 now.
Getting it Wrong. Mr Edgeworth works at the cinema, as does Mary Barton who works on the popcorn counter. One evening, whilst watching old movies at home he receives a phone call from a radio station called 'Night Owl', which it tuns out is runs one of these quiz shows that has that 'phone a friend' option. The friend in this instance is him, and while he knows Mary Barton, the contestant, he never really saw her as an actual friend as such. Anyway, he has three chances to get the correct answer, which since he prides himself on being a bit of a movie buff, he doesn't see as much of a problem. He's a little annoyed at what he's convinced is an elaborate prank perpetrated by his workmates and decides to purposely get the answer wrong, which he does. The next day at work he sees Mary on her counter and apart from the forced smile, which seems to be quite usual, he notices her little finger is swollen. Nothing else, just that. He doesn't think too much of it and carries on as normal. That evening he's called again. Another question. Another failure. In the background we hear a moan, a sob even. The next day Mary is absent, something wrong with her eye this time. At this point I'm not only seeing a pattern but am getting more and more angry at our Mr Edgeworth as the story proceeds. He's obviously a very suspicious man. Either that or a bit of a sadist. Either way, things continue in this vein until he decides to enough is enough and attempts to answer the questions correctly, only to find through trickery and deceit that he's still getting it wrong. At this point we now hear Mary let out a long, loooonnng cry in the background and all our suspicions are confirmed when Mr Edgeworth is told the following morning at work that Mary won't be in for some time. It's her legs this time. We're left with a final phone call, at his workplace this time, informing him that because he failed three times to answer the questions, he's now the next contestant. It finally strikes Mr Edgeworth now I think just how few friends he actually has.
This was easier on my brain. Mr Edgeworth was very annoying in his inability to see what he was inflicting upon poor Mary Barton. But, rightly or wrongly, fate is seen to intervene in the end, and you have to feel for him really. Once again, a lot is left to the imagination which only serves to increase the horror. One of those stories you can't help smiling about once it's over, even though you really don't feel you ought to. Excellent stuff.