When describing anything as "BEST" you had better be pretty sure of your conviction. One man's best is another man's mediocre. So if you are going to start a new anthology entitled Best British Horror, you had better be sure your editor knows what he is doing.
Salt Publishing has put their faith in Johnny Mains, who is regarded by many, including myself, as one of the curators of horror. An accomplished writer himself, Johnny has an encyclopedic knowledge of horror and a vast wealth experience within the genre.
So has Johnny and Salt created an anthology worthy of this title?
In this age of multi part epic fiction series, it is so refreshing to have an epic, apocalyptic series that manages to be expansive, satisfying, thrilling and filled with exemplary thoughts on the environment wrap up a story in only two parts. Initially intended as a single volume, it quickly became clear that Joseph D'lacey's magnum opus was to large for a single volume, so he took the brave step and released it as a duology.
D'lacey's writing has always been intelligent, daring to use the medium of horror and fantasy as sounding board for his thoughts and beliefs on such topics as vegetarianism, and the environment.
To so of you this might sound as though his books are dry preachy novels that sacrifice entertainment for education. This couldn't be further from the truth, D'lacey is one of the finest genre writers working today, a master craftsman of storytelling, D'lacey's novels are like this novel a duality of entertainment and thought provoking narratives.
Just when you thought that a certain genre should be dead and buried, along comes an a writer who brings a unique, clever and downright interesting twist to one of the most overused of horror sub genres.
Richard Wright is one of these writers. His latest horror novel The Flesh Market was a revelation, a game changing novel that if stripped of its horror themes would still be a fascinating read. That's not to say that the horror themes feel tagged on, no they are an integral part of the narrative. Serving to add a growing sense on uneasiness, mounting tension, and a dark, dark, sense of foreboding terror.
Richard Wright, has created a masterful slow burner of a horror novel. As the story unfolds there is an almost tangible propagation of terror. Wright keeps a tight reign on this to a point where the reader is kept on tenterhooks for the whole length of this story.
Based around the almost mythical actions of Scotland's greatest pair of anti heroes Burke and Hare, The Flesh Market does the unthinkable and breathes new life into their mythology and the zombie genre in one masterpiece of writing.
One of the main strengths of this novel is Wright's brilliant characters, from Burke and Hare who are painted as real gritty, nasty pieces of work, devoid of any redeeming factors. These aren't the lovable rouges that popular culture has sadly turned them into. These are sort of men who would slit your throat for the loose change in your pocket. To the wonderfully arrogant, Robert Knox, whose quest to understand the source of the Cadaver Riots, makes him feel as though he is not only above the law of the land, but above judgement from God himself. Wright's portrayal of Knox is pitch perfect, an intense driven man, blind and impervious to anything except his own desires, imagine Peter Cushing as Baron Frankenstein, and you would be on the right tracks.
As mentioned this is a zombie novel, however unlike the majority of zombie novels, the zombies really don't feature heavily in the narrative, Rather than having them as an undead army laying waste to Auld Reekie, Wright uses them sparingly, but effectively to ramp up the tension, they are always in background, threatening to break out and shamble rampant through the story. with you the reader kept wondering right up to the finale as to whether or not the apocalypse will come.
Another strength of this novel is it's setting and Wrights treatment of the Scott's. There are far too many books out there that get the whole Scottish thing just totally wrong. We as a nation don't all speak like we have just walked out of Brigadoon. Wright has imbued his characters with just the right amount of dialect quirks and phrases to make the book feel as though it is set in Edinburgh without ever straying over into comic effect.
The Flesh Market is a fantastic novel, even if like me you are tired of zombies, you need to read this book. It is probably the best non zombie, zombie novel out there.
"Doon the wynds an' up the streets, Where revenants sought souls tae eat,
The Butcher called for twitching meat
An' Burke an' Hare did answer." -anon.
1827. A year after the Cadaver Riots tore the heart from Edinburgh. Fear still chokes the Old Town, for though the revenants were driven back with shot and steel, they still lurk in the city's shadowed closes. When night falls, they strike.
In dissecting rooms anatomists slice twitching flesh as they dream of cures and glory. For the greatest among them, Robert Knox, there is no price that cannot be met in the quest for knowledge. Behind closed doors he trades in walking death, dealing with devils to keep the flesh market supplied...
Set between the slums of 19th Century Edinburgh and the ivory towers of its academia, The Flesh Market is an almost true story of murder, mad science, obsession, and the restless dead.
RICHARD WRIGHT has been writing strange, dark fictions for over a decade. Currently living with his wife and daughter in New Delhi, India, his stories have been widely published in the United Kingdom and USA. Most recently, his tales have been found in magazines and anthologies including Storyteller - A Found Book, Dark Faith: Invocations, and More Tales Of The City. He is the author of the novels Cuckoo, Thy Fearful Symmetry, and Craven Place, and of the novella Hiram Grange and the Nymphs of Krakow. His new novel The Flesh Market was released in February 2014.
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I seem to spend most of my time repeating myself, whether at work or at home with the kids my life feels a lot like ground hog day. "Put your washing away, take your shoes off". At times it feels life my life is on repeat.
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