Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Tales from the Shadow Booth Vol 4 edited by Dan Coxon






It's as Peter begins to wade into the tarn that he spies the strange canvas structure at the edge of the trees. It looks like an abandoned Punch & Judy booth, he thinks, but dirty and tired, stained black with mould. Ignoring the water licking cold about his ankles, he squints to read the crimson scrawl on the plank propped against it. Enter the Shadow Booth, it says, and you will never be the same again.

The Shadow Booth is an international journal of weird and eerie fiction, publishing emerging and established writers of the strange. Drawing its inspiration from the likes of Thomas Ligotti and Robert Aickman, The Shadow Booth explores that dark, murky hinterland between mainstream horror and literary fiction.

Volume 4 includes new weird and uncanny fiction by: Gary Budden, Jay Caselberg, Tim Cooke, James Everington, Lucie McKnight Hardy, Giselle Leeb, Polis Loizou, James Machin, Andrew McDonnell, Jane Roberts, Ashley Stokes, Anna Vaught, Charles Wilkinson and Marian Womack.


Tales from the Shadow Booth is one of those rare anthologies that has an incredible mix of genres united in that they are all dark and creepy but all equally enjoyable to read. It comes as no surprise to me that a lot of the stories of previous volumes have ended up in Ellen Datlow's Best Horror of the Year collection. 

These are stories that are rich in atmosphere and cold dread, some take a while to build whilst others are dark from the opening line. I really enjoyed all these stories the quality of work in here is incredibly high. 

The Devil of Timanfaya by Lucie McKnight Hardy is a tale of domestic discontent. Tessa and her family are on holiday in Lanzarote but its not quite the break she was hoping for. She just can't seem to relax and enjoy herself when there is a strange burnt out house just a few doors away from her holiday home.  Something terrible happened there and it's not finished. One of my faves this tale builds into a brutal finale.

The Tribute by James Machin is a tale that reminds me of Susan Hill's ethereal style of horror.  A  family are holidaying in the south of France, the parents announce they are stopping by to visit an old artist friend. Recounted by the young boy who remembers clearly his imaginary friend being by his side one minute and gone the next.

The Salt Marsh Lambs by Jane Roberts  is a brilliant folk horror tale of city folks trying to claim dominion over rural wild lands steeped in ancient folklore. Beware the Salt Marsh Lambs!

The Box of Knowledge by Tim Cooke is a haunting tale of misspent youth and isolation. A group of teens find an abandoned container to hang out and do drugs in. Tim Cooke creates this incredible atmosphere and when I'd finished reading I was left wondering if IT had really happened or whether I had just imagined it.