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Coffin Bell ONE is here!

 

Coffin Bell is thrilled to announce that our first print run of Coffin Bell ONE has arrived! We can’t wait to get them into the hands of readers and contributors. Shipments of contributor copies and ordered copies will be going out at the beginning of next week. We are beyond happy to see all this beautiful work come together in such a gorgeous collection (thanks to our extremely talented designer Lindsey Turner!).

We look forward to reading your reviews, seeing your pictures of Coffin Bell ONE in the wild, and most of all hope you enjoy reading the anthology as much as we enjoyed bringing it into existence.

Robert Aickman’s Creeping Horrors

by Cooper Anderson

Self Portrait

With an eerie sense of the real that slowly unravels around not only the characters but the reader, Robert Aickman was a master of the short form horror story. This month I got a chance to look at English author Robert Aickman’s work, mostly in his short story collection Dark Entries, and here’s why I think Aickman is one of the most under rated horror writers of the last century.

For those of you who don’t know, Robert Aickman was an English author born in 1914. He’s most notably known for his short fiction collection Strange Stories. He’s won the World Fantasy Award for his story Pages from a Young Girl’s Journal and a posthumous British Fantasy award.

Aickman was born one day before the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, thus kicking off World War I. He would later grow up in another World War, this time losing his mother to a German bombing. A bomb that would have also taken his own life had he not been out for a walk with his wife at the time. In one of his memoirs, Aickman remembers hearing the bomb that took his mother. The reason I mention this is because you can clearly see where his attention for dark details can come from. Where living through a trauma like that can affect one’s own writing.

In his short story collection, Dark Entries, Aickman explores the full scope of the human condition with hyper realistic detail, letting the reader get fully immersed in its pages. His characters have clear motivations and understandings of the world around them which helps root the reader in a false sense of security. As if things are starting off normal or alright. He points the story to true north at the beginning but with a slightly diverted compass.

As the reader, you can tell what general direction the story is going in but slowly you can start to see that things are slightly off. What’s even worse is that Aickman doesn’t explain why it’s off. He lets the reader come to their own conclusions as to why their sensing unease when reading. It’s almost the literary equivalent of a low frequency noise in the background of a horror movie. You can feel yourself growing uncomfortable, but you can’t sense why.

 Here’s an example from his story “The School Friend.”

“Sally herself had once told me that she not only could remember nothing of her mother, but had never come across any trace or record or her. From the very beginning, Sally had been brought up, it was said, by her father alone.” (p. 19)

Looking at this piece, there is nothing inherently wrong or strange being told here. It’s not unusual for the world to have secluded single fathers in it. It’s not unreasonable to assume that Sally’s mother left her family and her father got rid of all the painful traces of her, but it is the way that all that information is given that makes us uncomfortable. There’s a real sense that not everything is okay in Sally’s homelife. It’s like this for a lot of Aickman’s other stories as well.

Aickman likes to stack up tiny amounts of detail into each line. It isn’t until you’ve read a few pages do you see the bigger picture and that, unbeknownst to the characters in the story, things aren’t as they should be. The camera is tilted slightly off center and the brain is trying to adjust. Not unlike H.P. Lovecraft’s work.

However, there are some major difference between Lovecraft and Aickman. In Lovecraft’s work, a seemingly normal person is suddenly dropped into the strange or unimaginable and then has to deal with that situation. While Aickman has a much slower approach. Like a tide that’s slowly coming in and before you know it your up to your waist and nearly drowning. It takes a little more investment from the reader, but it does have a larger and more impactful pay off than Lovecraft in some cases.

Aickman also isn’t afraid to talk about sex in his stories. Something that is pretty astonishing for an English man to write about back in the 1940’s. Aickman understands that sex is a major driving force of life and that no fully fleshed out character would be complete without at least mentioning it. Going back to The School Friend, the main characters, two teenage girls named Sally and Mel talk to each other about sex a few pages into the story. Something that normal teenage girls talk about and by doing this, Aickman gives the story a much more authentic feel to it.

The only real criticism that I have for Robert Aickman’s work isn’t actually a criticism of the work itself. It’s just that Aickman’s work is very obviously a product of its time. Certain societal aspects of his work wouldn’t really be feasible or realistic in today’s climate of 2018. His women characters are fairly one dimensional and if there is an abnormally strong female character it’s because they are succeeding using more masculine attributes rather than just being an outstanding woman in her own right. There’s even a quote at the beginning of “The School Friend” by Princess Elizabeth Bibesco that reads:

“To be taken advantage of is every woman’s secret desire.”

Again, I don’t want to criticize this aspect of his writing too much as a lot of it was written before the 1970’s but do be aware of some of the more cringeworthy moments if you decide to read his work.

aickman It’s a shame that Robert Aickman isn’t more well-known throughout the literary world. He was a writer that understood people and more importantly saw the tiny minute details that must be skewed, ever so slightly, in someone’s life in order to create a feeling of realistic horror. If you want to read some incredibly well written horror stories this Halloween season, then you can find Dark Entries at Amazon.

Meet Features Editor Cooper Anderson!

Coffin Bell is proud to pass along this great video interview of Features Editor Cooper Anderson!

Meet Cooper Anderson, a talented author from Durham, North Carolina. A voracious reader from childhood, Coop discovered his love for writing in college – although he didn’t pursue a literary career right away. After a year of working a corporate job, Coop did the unthinkable: he walked away and risked it all to follow his true passion. Years later, he hasn’t looked back. Watch and discover why, in Coop’s words, “Writing is my life.”

Review of Lou Yardley’s HELLHOUND

Self Portrait
Features Editor Cooper Anderson
By Cooper Anderson

With a shady barman, creeps wearing sunglasses at night, and the mother of all hangovers, Hellhound by Lou Yardley is a dark and grisly modern-day telling of the werewolf mythos set in a strangely hot English summer. This month I got a chance to read the new release from Y Books Publishing and here is what I thought:

Just A Taste

Hellhound is the story about down on his luck and low on self-esteem Kit Byers and how a chance encounter at a random pub in summertime London changed his life forever. After retreating from another failed job interview, Kit finds himself in desperate need of a drink and sanctuary from the heat. He wanders into The Hound & The Philosopher Inn where he meets a charming barman who is used to the whoa and blather of pub patrons and decides to supply Kit with enough drinks to get him horizontal and then proceeds to pull Kit by the ankles into the back room of the pub.

Christine (our other main character of the story), who while waiting for a cab, also decides to pop into The Hound & The Philosopher Inn to get out of the heat. There she sees a pub patron who’s seen better days and has drunk himself into a belligerent mess on legs. The man tumbles backward onto the pub floor and is then dragged into the back room by the barman who never stops flashing his rogue-like smile. Finding her cab waiting for her outside, Christine decides to leave but not before hearing a loud, blood-curdling scream. A scream that nobody else seems to notice.

Unable to get the scream out of her head, Christine finds herself visited in the middle of the night by a strange man in dark sunglasses who tells her to stay away. To forget what she thinks she heard at The Hound & The Philosopher. That it’s going to get very painful and very messy if she doesn’t stay away. So, with a fresh dose of terror freshly applied, Christine does exactly what she knows she shouldn’t be doing. She goes back to the pub.

Meanwhile, Kit wakes from his drunken stupor to find himself naked and with a strange painful mark on the back of his neck. He finds his clothes waiting for him in a box with his name on it and quickly legs it home to sleep it off. But once he’s home, however, he soon notices something. Something about himself that’s not quite right…

I’m not going to spoil any more of the story for you. Like I said it’s just a taste.

The Delicious Bits

Hellhound has a lot of things going for it that I like to see in my horror books. There is a definite sense of unease that permeates throughout the book that leaves the reader on edge. Twists and turns can happen at any moment throughout the story and it’s not entirely predictable which is always a plus for horror writing. There is also a very ominous voice that is first introduced in the prologue and then shows up occasionally as thoughts implanted into the characters head which I think is a pretty inventive way to set the tone.

Classic elements of horror are also present throughout the book. There’s a smiling barman that you never feel comfortable enough to trust. Blackouts in houses that normally have power. Things that accentuate the genre that it’s in.

There’s also no “Heavy Lifting” when reading this book. You don’t have to ponder secretive character motivations or deep-rooted symbolism throughout the book. It’s just an easy read that you can do on a plane ride or at the beach and not feel bad about doing so.

The Gristle

The things that make Hellhound a fun read are also its biggest problems. The characters that we meet feel like horror movie characters. We meet them with little backstory and are thrown into the supernatural story of blood and gore. Here is the main character, here is the villain, here is the premise and off we go. We aren’t given enough information or background to care too much about the characters. It’s hard to care about Christine being threatened by a creep in sunglasses when we don’t really know anything about her. What kind of person is she? What does she care about? We don’t really know. However, this kind isn’t entirely a bad thing. The same things that I think are problematic are probably what a lot of people would find enjoyable. Just characters reacting to a horrifying situation. We tend to bring our preconceived notions as to the type of person Christine is because we know this archetype in the horror genre.

Final Thoughts

Hellhound is a book that I have no problem recommending to my friends who are casual readers. It’s a light non-complex book that does a decent job at making me want to turn the next page to find out what happens. It’s fun, it’s simple and above all, it has a lot of blood.

While this is her first standalone novel, Lou Yardley is also the author of THE OTHERS series, Jingle Bells (a novella), and the short story “Lydia.” You can find more of Lou Yardley and her work at LouYardley.com and @LouciferSpeaks on twitter

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