Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Books of the Year - By Diverse Hands

Chris Mikul, editor of Biblio-Curiosa, writes:

The first few months of this year were taken up by a plunge into the complete works of Guy Endore for my article about him in the latest Wormwood. The diversity and quality of his work surprised me, and I would particularly recommend Babouk, his flawed but scarifying book about the slave trade, and his hallucinatory thriller Methinks the Lady

I’ve just returned from six weeks overseas, and as always when going on holiday took a lengthy book which I should have read long ago but never found the time to (for alas, I’m a slow reader). This year it was The Woman in White. I’d never read anything by Wilkie Collins before (apart from his story ‘The Terribly Strange Bed’) and I was so enthralled by it I immediately went on to The Moonstone. On the strength of these two, Collins has joined the small list of writers (including Wodehouse and George MacDonald Fraser) who I can read for pure pleasure.

Rebekah Brown, Wormwood 25 contributor, writes:

Tempting Fate by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
The author has written a series of vampire novels about Count Saint-Germain. Each one is set in a different historical period. I wanted to sample the series and chose this one because it is set in Germany/Austria during the late 1920's, a period of time with which I am intimately familiar.

The historical research is impeccable, the writing is both excellent and the characters are well developed and convincing. i will certainly read another book in this series.

Ironically, since the central character is a vampire and the novel is by any definition supernatural, it would be possible, without a great deal of trouble, to remove the supernatural element and retain a excellent historical novel

Emily Foster, Wormwood Contributor, gothic horror aficionado, writes:

The Darkest Hour - Barbara Erskine (2014)
Erskine’s most recent novel is a dual-time narrative that interweaves everyday modern life with the legendary summer of the Battle of Britain. It unravels the history of a highly complex family whose secrets are gradually revealed by young protagonist Evie Lucas. Erskine combines moments of heart-wrenching sadness with episodes of tension-filled mystery in this epic tale of love, war and bravery.

Dolly - Susan Hill (2012)
This deeply disturbing novella is littered with the tropes of a classic ghost story. A bleak, secluded house, a dreary graveyard and an eccentric aunt make this story an instant spine-tingling success. It is a wonderfully dark tale, perfect for winter nights by the fireside.

Colin Insole, author and Wormwood contributor, writes:

The Lost Language of London
First published in 1935, The Lost Language of London by Harold Bayley is subtitled 'A Tale of King Cole, Founded in Folklore, Fieldnames,Prehistoric Hill Figures and other Documents'.The author analyses the street names of the city, finding links with
ancient history, mythology and shared symbolism. The prevalence of the word 'Cole' in London and throughout Britain is extensively researched and traced back to biblical and pagan stories from around the world.

There are fascinating speculations about the figures of horses, carved on chalk hills, the Pied Piper legend and tantalizing accounts of lost manuscripts from pre-Roman Britain. Surprisingly, one variation of the piper tale is located at Newtown Creek, on the Isle of Wight, where 'the river Weser, deep and wide', is the Solent. The chapters covering London areas like St Pancras and Maylebone, are copiously illustrated with drawings of the symbols and imagery of various designs of crosses, flowers and birds.

I found that Mr Bayley advances his theories in an expansive and anecdotal manner; the wealth of detail encouraging further researches. The choice and range of poetry quoted - both well-known and obscure, is admirable. A London adventure, with many detours and unexpected diversions, I feel that readers of Arthur Machen will find much of interest.

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