Archive for gary mcmahon

From Russia with Love…

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , on February 18, 2011 by simonmarshalljones

This review was written by Russian journalist Ray Garraty (not his real name obviously – it appears to be a homage to Stephen King, as Garraty is the main protagonist in that author’s The Long Walk novel, published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman in 1979) and appears on Ray’s Endless Falls Up blog.

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Gary McMahon
What They Hear in the Dark

Spectral Press, 2011

I already wrote about the books released by Nightjar Press (damn, I reviewed all their books!), launched a series of dual release of so-called chapbooks – one book /one story. All six currently published books contained the outstanding story, picking up a very high standard for writers working in the area of dark literature. Now we have yet another British publisher, who is also engaged in production of chapbooks. The first their book came out very strong.

Gary McMahon is far from the debutant, he is the author of numerous novels, as well as several collections of short stories. What They Hear in the Dark is a wonderful example of how not using the straight-line methods, you can whip up the atmosphere, reducing the fantastic element in essence to a minimum.

After the violent death of their son, husband and wife moved into a new house, hoping to start anew. House, as well as their family life, is not at its best: want to repair. A place where spouses can escape from the oppressive emptiness becomes Quiet Room. In this room there is completely darkness, and most importantly – it has absolutely no sound. In this room, the sounds do not penetrate outside and extinguished all the sounds inside. The room becomes something like a drug for Rob and Becky.

This story is not a one-time reading, although I still will not reveal further the plot. McMahon feels what often overlooked by many authors of horror fiction: the worst lives always inside the person, not outside. The author describes the reliability of the person who lost the most precious thing in my life and does not know how to live.

A promising debut of a new publishing house. We will follow what Spectral Press will present us next time.

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Latest review…

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , on February 16, 2011 by simonmarshalljones

The review below, this one another positive one, was posted on the Innsmouth Free Press website and written by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – also, be sure to look out for an interview with your erstwhile publisher in the virtual pages of the very same Free Press, to be published very soon!

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It’s funny how life works out. I was thinking of requesting a review copy of this title and the publisher e-mailed to see if I wanted it. Are my nascent telepathic abilities increasing?

What They Hear in the Dark is a limited-edition, signed chapbook published by Spectral Press. This strikes me as smart. With people complaining that e-books are going to eat print books alive, creating collectible chapbooks seems like an effective strategy for continuing to offer print products. Add to that the fact that it is a chapbook – which means us modern, hard-pressed-for-time folks can sample it without giving up days of our lives – and you’ve got a very good concept.

Anyway, the chapbook in question is a modern Gothic story, with a grieving couple busy remodeling a house and discovering a mysterious room that seems to muffle all sounds. And the husband feels there is something terrible living inside The Quiet Room.

I was incredibly excited to read this tale after looking at the blurb, but I think my excitement might have damped the final enjoyment. I thought it could have been a tad longer. I also kept thinking about “Don’t Look Now” and its parents trying to survive after the death of a child, and encountering the supernatural, basically the same central concept as this chapbook. This may not be the writer’s fault as much as my own, as I read the Du Maurier story not so long ago.

This minor nitpicking aside, it’s a good story. I enjoyed the sympathetic protagonists. What? A horror tale with people you like? Nooooo. This, after reading an anthology with a bunch of awful, irritating characters, came as a blessing. The prose is nice and the house, with its very special room, is creepy, so overall, it gets a thumbs-up. I’ll leave it at that, as I don’t want to give away the ending, or any more details.

I read a lot of short fiction and anthologies because I don’t want to spend much time or effort on novels (especially series, ugh). Chapbooks like this are perfect for me and I hope Spectral Press will continue its line with similar offerings.

What They Hear in the Dark is available from the publisher.


Total Sci-Fi review…

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , on February 9, 2011 by simonmarshalljones

I’ve lost count of the reviews of What They Hear in the Dark I’ve received, but here’s the latest – posted on the Total Sci-Fi website, and written by James Skipp (says some nice things about Spectral Press, too):

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Book review 
Written by
Gary McMahon
Spectral Press
Spectralpress.wordpress.com
Release date
Out now

Rob and Becky are haunted by the death of their child in more ways than one. Is there really something sinister about their ‘quiet room’?

This short, sharp horror tale from Pretty Little Dead Things author Gary McMahon is the first of Spectral Press’s “chapbooks” – pocket-sized, signed A5 stories with card covers that are limited to 100 copies. Judging by this impressive inaugural entry, it’s going to be a horror series worth keeping an eye on.

Like many of the best chillers, What They Hear in the Dark draws from the dark side of real life – here, the trauma of losing a child. Even more disturbingly the child, Eddie, has met a violent death, and McMahon draws on horrific memories of the James Bulger case.

Elsewhere, the writing recalls Stephen King’s fast-paced, lurid prose and Clive Barker’s obsession with a terrifying other world lurking just beyond our own. McMahon skilfully weaves in flashbacks to fill in the background and help craft psychologically convincing characters, and though it may not be an entirely original horror, it’s a very readable one. James Skipp

VERDICT: 7/10
Disturbing and effective little horror that bodes well for Spectral’s subsequent entries.

New review

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , on February 7, 2011 by simonmarshalljones

Here’s another new review of What They Hear in the Dark, this time posted on Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review… enjoy!

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Who says that horror is a dead genre? Leisure Fiction may have done their best to kill it off in the US, and the current deluge of Urban Fantasy doesn’t leave it what’s left a lot of room on the bookshelves, but it’s still there for those of us who know where to look. Spectral Press is the latest small publisher to give the genre a shot in the arm with its release of limited edition chapbooks dedicated to the ghostly and supernatural. ‘What they hear in the dark’ is actually Spectral Press’ first publication and definitely bodes well for the future…

After their young son’s murder, Rob and Becky bought the old house as a way of trying to save their marriage by building something new. It was never going to be as easy as that though, some cracks were never meant to be papered over and the couple’s relationship is at a breaking point.
Then Rob and Becky find a room in the house that was never in the plans, a room that swallows all sound and leaves you with only your own thoughts for company. A room where demons can either be exorcised or given free rein…

I’ve never read a chapbook before so was interested to see that ‘What they hear in the dark’ is only twenty-one pages long. The shortest books I normally read are around the three to four hundred page mark so it was a real change to read something that would literally take as long to read as it would take to have a cup of coffee (I drink coffee that I make very quickly!)

What they hear in the dark’ initially came across as very rushed with the ending arrived at before you’ve had a chance to get acquainted with the beginning. I’m writing that off as my unfamiliarity with the chapbook format though, it is only twenty-one pages long after all! A second read through really paid dividends though.

You may not have much of a chance to get to find out much about Rob and Becky but what McMahon does do is build up an oppressing ‘haunted house’ atmosphere in a very short space of time, working this around Rob and Becky’s very differing feelings over their son’s death. Things are sign posted very clearly but this somehow adds to the overall tension that arises as things progress. You know what’s happening, Rob and Becky don’t, but there’s nothing you can do to stop it. The ending is particularly chilling as one of the couple finds out the worst possible consequences of bringing your own ghosts to the Quiet Room. It was at this point that I was literally holding my breath and McMahon cruelly ends the story in such a way that I had to release that breath just after finishing.

Gary McMahon is fast becoming a horror writer to look out for and ‘What they hear in the dark’ is a fine example of his natural skill in this field; a tale that creeps up on you and has it’s claws in you before you know it. Grab it if you can.

Nine out of Ten

P.S. I wouldn’t normally post links to buy books but these chapbooks are very limited edition (only a hundred at a time being printed I think) and you will miss out if you’re not careful. Click Here for more information – I think I might have to take out a subscription.

Another blisteringly good review…

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on January 28, 2011 by simonmarshalljones

This one was posted to Paperback Horror yesterday, and was written by Colum McKnight….

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What They Hear In The Dark is a perfect example of short horror fiction done well. A horror story, for all intents and purposes, should be designed to elicit certain emotions from the reader, and this chapbook does that in spades. I dare anyone to read this and not get a massive chill up their spine. It just isn’t possible.

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.

The both knew that they were trying to fix more than the house, but the cracks in their marriage could not be papered over.

Then they found the Quiet Room.

In a very short 22 pages, McMahon achieves what some horror authors can’t seem to pull off in a full length novel, proving that finding chills, thrills, and absolute terror, is completely possible in short fiction. And McMahon pulls this off beautifully with incredible description and wonderfully beautiful prose. The pain and emotion of the two main characters is absolutely palpable, making this a very quick, but also very tough read (in a good way). It’s hard feeling for the characters in a story, but especially so, if the author is someone like McMahon – who seems to be able to make the subject matter so personal that you feel you’re intimately involved in their lives.

Every aspect of this story is frought with a haunting menace that barely even begins to describe the terror within. The most perfect part of this story lies in the fact that everything is almost entirely left up to the reader to imagine. Granted, McMahon steers the story this way and that in order to bring the reader on a very specific course, but he also imbues the tale with enough vague references and emotional disturbances to make you feel completely out of control, but also able to recognize the fact that the author has you safely nestled in the palm of his hand. It’s very hard to take your eyes off the page once the writer hits his stride.

The atmosphere is gloomy and dim, bringing to mind some of the darkest tales of sadness and sorrow I’ve ever read. The whole thing feels…grey. It’s almost like everything was designed to make you feel whatever you want to feel, but also directing the reader on a very dedicated path. McMahon is truly a brilliant writer, and this small taste speaks volumes as to his wonderful talent.

Don’t miss out on this little chapbook. Again, it’s a quick read, but completely worth it and very re-readable. Every read-through will bring new images to mind, taking you on a journey of sorrow, despair, and emotional terror – time and time again.

You can visit Spectral Press’ website here. Information on how to grab a copy of this chapbook can be found here, and you can check out the author’s website here.

PBH.

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And finally, I found this on Chris Bissette’s blog, one of Spectral’s customers… and this last paragraph of his blog is the kind of thing that encourages me enormously:

“The imprint is invitation only. I’m going to add them to my list of people I’d one day like to be asked to write for, which includes Subterranean Press and PS Publishing. I’d best get cracking on becoming a successful writer, really.”

Now THAT’S a compliment if ever I read one…. and you can read the rest of what Chris had to say here.

And yet another satisfied reader…

Posted in Customer Reviews with tags , , , , on January 26, 2011 by simonmarshalljones

I received this customer review from Clayton Stealback yesterday via Facebook… glad to read of another satisfied reader!

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“Let me start by saying that I am very impressed by Spectral’s first chapbook. The quality of the artwork, layout, and the print make these wonderful to read and essential to collect.

Spectral’s first release features a masterfully rendered story by Gary McMahon. Here Gary gets straight into the story – no messing about – setting the rather oppressive scene of a couple recently moved into a dilapidated house, cleverly describing the couple’s surroundings though their feelings and their senses to create an impressionable bond between reader and characters. So, pretty much the entire stage of the story is described in the first few pages…then the magic really starts. Upon setting up the scene, Gary brilliantly starts to delve into the character’s minds, ruthlessly peeling away their outer layers to reveal their truest, deepest feelings and the darkness harboured within. It’s very skilfully done, and there’s a kind of reflective quality about the scenes and the characters that manage to complement each other, bringing the whole story to life and making it lucid. Tim Lebbon got it exactly right when he quoted that Gary’s horror is heartfelt.

And finally, let me end by saying that if this is the kind of quality Spectral is aiming for, then I’ll be signed up for life.”

Today’s Spectral review…

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , on January 25, 2011 by simonmarshalljones

This is pablocheesecake’s take on What They Hear in the Dark, posted at The Eloquent Page review blog:

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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 the house, but the cracks in their marriage could not be papered over.

Then they found the Quiet Room.

Written by Gary McMahon What They Hear in the Dark is an intimate tale about love and loss. Rob and Becky have suffered a terrible tragedy and are trying to put the past behind them and continue with their lives. They have a new home, and hope to make a new start. It quickly becomes evident, however, that neither of them has been able to move on. When the story begins Becky and Rob have reached the stage where they are barely able to communicate with one another. The spirit of their murdered son seems to hang in the periphery of their lives. The story takes a turn when they discover a strange windowless room in their new house that is utterly quiet. Becky and Rob have very different perspectives of the Quiet Room. Becky is reassured, feels at peace and closer to the spirit of her lost child. Rob, on the other hand, is repulsed. He is trapped by the memory of the teens responsible for his son’s death.

The author’s writing reminded me of when I first read Clive Barker. What They Hear in the Dark could easily be an entry in The Books of Blood. Though the story is short there is a wealth of insight into the couple’s relationship. There are brief glimpses of Rob and Becky in happier times and this makes their current situation that much more tragic. McMahon handles what is very delicate subject matter with aplomb, and I was thoroughly engrossed by Becky and Rob’s story.

Kudos must also go to Spectral Press for their first release, and I look forward to the next. For further information regarding Spectral Press and their forthcoming publications please check out the following website –

http://spectralpress.wordpress.com/