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Baker's Dozen

Some Will Not Sleep: Adam Nevill's Favourite Horror Short Stories
Sean Kitching , October 30th, 2016 07:40

To mark the Halloween release of his own first collection of short stories, Some Will Not Sleep: Selected Horrors, horror novelist and genre aficionado, Adam Nevill, selects a Baker’s Dozen of his favourite short stories from contemporary writers in the field of modern horror. As with Nevill’s 2015 filmic Baker’s Dozen, fans of the genre are going to find an abundance of suggestions to work through on this list. (Written by Adam Nevill, as relayed to Sean Kitching)

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Conrad Williams – ‘Edge’
A London couple holiday in Scotland and in characteristic visceral and sensory Williams' style, we receive a vivid, intimate, closely observed adult relationship, the meals, drinks, drugs, pet names, shared experience and outlook, intense sex, a unique bond, until ... presaged by what sounds like a couple reaching the end of the line in a nearby room, Pippa goes and mentions another man's name in her sleep, but in just such a way as to introduce into the narrator a horrible shock of doubt and terror about their relationship.

His subsequent interrogation of Pippa, on a day trip to a coastal cave, while high on MDMA, and additionally fueled by his self-loathing, resentment and rage, confirms the inevitable in his relationship. The edge of his life with Pippa is suddenly in his face. Those tiny almost imprecise doubts harboured about a hardness in her professional life, and her cold self interest, amplify and grow within the cave. It's a precise and chilling depiction of the instant impact of shock involved when the moment comes in a breakup. To add greater torment to the narrator, and the wheedling tone the narrator can't keep out of his voice, come his now ex girlfriend's irritability with his feelings of rejection. When I first read this story, what follows in such simple but vivid detail, made the skin of my scalp feel as if it had retracted by a few millimetres.

Whether using the uncanny or not, writing crime or horror, or both, Conrad Williams scours people inside out with the eye of an anatomist, and seems to get deeper into the darkness than most writers ever will. He can write characters that make me feel nervous, and that's rare. His descriptive powers are rarely matched out there too. Hard to choose a favourite story from his collections Use Once Then Destroy, or Born with Teeth, but I can still remember the pleasing mini-concussion that stories like 'Edge', 'The Owl', and 'The Return' and 'The Veteran' gave me first time around.

A London couple holiday in Scotland and in characteristic visceral and sensory Williams' style, we receive a vivid, intimate, closely observed adult relationship, the meals, drinks, drugs, pet names, shared experience and outlook, intense sex, a unique bond, until ... presaged by what sounds like a couple reaching the end of the line in a nearby room, Pippa goes and mentions another man's name in her sleep, but in just such a way as to introduce into the narrator a horrible shock of doubt and terror about their relationship.

His subsequent interrogation of Pippa, on a day trip to a coastal cave, while high on MDMA, and additionally fueled by his self-loathing, resentment and rage, confirms the inevitable in his relationship. The edge of his life with Pippa is suddenly in his face. Those tiny almost imprecise doubts harboured about a hardness in her professional life, and her cold self interest, amplify and grow within the cave. It's a precise and chilling depiction of the instant impact of shock involved when the moment comes in a breakup. To add greater torment to the narrator, and the wheedling tone the narrator can't keep out of his voice, come his now ex girlfriend's irritability with his feelings of rejection. When I first read this story, what follows in such simple but vivid detail, made the skin of my scalp feel as if it had retracted by a few millimetres.

Whether using the uncanny or not, writing crime or horror, or both, Conrad Williams scours people inside out with the eye of an anatomist, and seems to get deeper into the darkness than most writers ever will. He can write characters that make me feel nervous, and that's rare. His descriptive powers are rarely matched out there too. Hard to choose a favourite story from his collections Use Once Then Destroy, or Born with Teeth, but I can still remember the pleasing mini-concussion that stories like 'Edge', 'The Owl', and 'The Return' and 'The Veteran' gave me first time around.

Recommendation: Use Once Then Destroy (Night Shade Books)


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