Sing Sorrow Sorrow: Dark Chilling Tales
edited by Gwen Davies
"Something spat and exploded in the fire: a sap
pocket in a log, perhaps. When we looked away from the flames,
Puckeridge had gone; his chair was empty.
Reviewed by Mario Guslandi
her afterword editor Gwen Davies tries hard to praise
the large majority of the stories included in her anthology of "dark
and chilling tales" by the extravagant title Sing, Sorrow
Sorrow and to compare them favourably with horror genre classics,
either books or movies.
I can’t subscribe to her point of view. Let’s face it, the bulk
of the twenty-two tales assembled therein are either mediocre or just
passable pieces of fiction, mostly unable to elicit those chills
promised in the front and back cover of the book.
stories feature sirens, hags, spirits and man-beasts and endeavour
to provide "magic, myth, the supernatural and the unexpected"
but the results are often less than brilliant, the plots either a bit
implausible even for works of fantasy or simply too flimsy and the
quality of storytelling often unimpressive.
some stories, however, that I found really noteworthy.
Tale by Niall Griffiths is a solid,
accomplished tale revisiting very nicely the conventional setting of
the story told around a fire in a gentlemen’s club but adding to it
a creepy final twist which will trigger shudders in the reader.
this point Puckeridge broke his tale to re-light his cigar and
re-fill his glass with brandy. The firelight had put his eyes into
pits of ink and made the seams in his face appear like canyons.
by Richard Gwin is a colourful snapshot effectively depicting a day
in the life of a group of youngsters with their hopes and
exhaled smoke was a hand this time, a skeletal hand, fingers of smoky
bone reaching for the ceiling beams and breaking apart before they
place to which we are headed is an abandoned village on a remote and
undeveloped outcrop of land jutting into the Med, east of Almeria. It
is called Las Perdidas, which means The Lost Women, and I should have
known better than to go there in the first place, but I am intrigued
by the possibilities.
Matthew Francis’ delightful and allusive The
Lovers, young men try to cope with a
reality where love is as elusive as a ghost.
would appear at first as a dream, the courtesan dancing for the
sultan, or the leather-clad strippergram, or someone quite innocent,
the girl who sits next to you in the cinema and accidentally drops
her choc ice on the front of your trousers and then tries to wipe it
off with her fingers, and you think, that’s funny, ice-cream is
meant to be cold isn’t it, and then you wake up with the alarm
clock showing three-thirty and a lot of mopping up to do before you
can go back to sleep.
Just Like Honey
by Tristan Hughes is a bittersweet tale (no pun intended) looking
back to a lost childhood with a nostalgic attitude.
You were seven and I
was five. It was late in a long, hot August and the fields around the
cottage had turned as stubbly as old men’s chins. All through the
morning we’d play listlessly in the living room at some game or
other of make-believe…. I wonder what it was you wanted to be back
then? An actress maybe? Some princess from a book?
Jon Gower’s vivid
The Pit depicts the horror, hunger and desperation taking
place in the deep tunnels of a coal mine.
The tunnels are long
and preternaturally dark. Down there naked eyes are useless. In such
recesses, where there isn’t so much as a glint or a hint of light,
the ears are forced to compensate, so the sound of a scurrying rat
seems swollen to twice its size, the rustle of hairs on its rancid
pelt like brushfire. That is the darkest labyrinth, the passageways
connected in ways that no one remembers nowadays, now that the mine
entrances are padlocked.. After what happened down there.
The best story in the
volume is perhaps The White Mountain by Charlotte Greig,
atmospheric and ambiguous, carnal and supernatural at the same time.
I can’t remember
exactly what happened after that. The mist came down, the room went
dark, and the woman, whoever it was, came over to my bed. She got in
beside me. I was terrified... I started to shake with fear, but she
leaned over and kissed me on the mouth and then…I stopped being
scared and got horny instead.
I hope to read more in
the future by the above six Welsh writers, whose work was entirely
unknown to me so far.
|Mario Guslandi lives in Milan,
Italy. Most likely the only Italian who regularly reads (and reviews)
dark fiction in English, his book reviews have appeared in a number of
genre websites such as The Alien Online, Infinity Plus, The SF Site,
The Agony Column and Horrorwold.
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Authors Niall Griffiths, Maria Donovan, Deborah Kay Davies, Gee Williams,
Richard Gwyn, Tristan Hughes, Cynan Jones, Matthew Francis, Anne
Lauppe-Dunbar, Mary-Ann Constantine, Zillah Bethell, Dai Vaughan, Imogen
Herrad, Lloyd Jones, Euron Griffith, Jo Mazelis Glenda Beagan, Alan
Bilton, Roshi Fernando, Christine Harrison, Jon Gower, Charlotte Greig
Editor Gwen Davies is a translator,
literary critic and editor, supported by the Welsh
Books Council and Translators’ House Wales. She has translated in
English novels by Caryl Lewis.