Harvey Anderson is living his life as a 26-year-old busker in New Jersey when, one day, he is seized by violent men who beat him up and ask where they can find Sally Stirling, his girlfriend of five years. Only Harvey doesn’t remember Sally. The leader of this gang, “the Spider”, reveals that Sally has the ability to wipe memories and that he has been hunting her down for nine years to take back the memories she robbed him of. A well-paced thriller-esque chase ensues: Harvey tries to hunt down the elusive Sally and find out what happened to her and his memory.
In the convention program book for the 1983 World Fantasy Convention, Stephen King wrote: “What [Robert] Bloch did with such novels as The Deadbeat, The Scarf, Firebug, Psycho, and The Couch was to rediscover the suspense novel and reinvent the antihero as first discovered by James Cain.” A screenwriter and novelist of German Jewish descent from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Bloch was the youngest member of The Lovecraft Circle, or the writers who followed H. P. Lovecraft and published their short fiction in Weird Tales, a pulp horror outlet that circulated through the Great Depression. But Bloch is probably best remembered for his novel Psycho that served as the basis for one of the most iconic horror films of the 1960s. While Bloch was hardly the first to lend a psychological perspective to the horror novel (a feat that many initially attribute to Edgar Allan Poe, but can also arguably be found in Gothic and speculative literature since its inception), his unique true-crime slant to storytelling set the tone for both speculative fiction and psychological horror for the latter half of the twentieth century.
Trolls is the sequel to Stallo Spjut’s previous output, Stallo, which followed Susso Myrén and her family as they confronted the reality that trolls exist, can turn into animals, and are being fed children by humans. Excited by the prospect of reading Scandi horror with folkloric creatures for the first time, I eagerly jumped in. It is clear that the novel is a sequel, as past events are immediately alluded to and discussed briefly, yet there is a sense that the reader should already be aware of previous happenings. I hadn’t read Stallo and so I found the writer’s reluctance to lay the groundwork to ensure the sequel also read as a standalone frustrating. Your first warning: it is necessary to read the first book to ensure Trolls reads more smoothly.
Editor’s note: as this is an analysis of the film Midsommar, there be spoilers ahead.
Midsommar is Ari Aster’s latest horror offering following 2018’s Hereditary, and sees a group of friends who travel to Sweden for a festival that only occurs every 90 years, only to find themselves amongst a pagan cult.
It is 1816 and a nineteen-year-old Mary Shelley is staying in Geneva, Switzerland, with Lord Byron, John Polidori, her stepsister Claire Clairmont and her lover, Percy Bysshe Shelley. The group engage in a task: write a horror story. Excited, Mary begins, not knowing just how much her own story and characters will haunt her.
“It’s my experience that we all have a secret heart, even brutes.”
This quote from Nathan Ballingrud’s Wounds not only sums up this cleverly connected collection but is also, perhaps, a comment on humanity; a theme the author has elegantly expounded through some genuinely disturbing stories. Wounds: Six Stories from the Border of Hell is exactly as it says on the cover, and we end where we start, leaving the reader with an immensely satisfying feeling.
The teller of A Devil Comes to Town won’t tell us the real location of his tale, only that it is in a small Swiss town, famous because Goethe slept there for one night. Given the fictional name Dichtersruhe, (poet’s repose), it is a town full of unpublished writers, all working on their precious manuscripts and gracefully accepting rejection after rejection, while carefully concealed resentment boils within. When the devil arrives, claiming to be a successful publisher from Lucerne, looking for an author to win the newly set up Goethe literary prize, the town is swept up in the chaotic power plays that inevitably ensue.