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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)


Laird Barron — ‘The Procession of the Black Sloth’
The collection this story appears in, The Imago Sequence, is another of the standout collections of recent times. It now feels like the precursor to what has followed in North American cosmic and weird literature; a wave that still flows ten years on without losing its quality control, and that, in itself, is refreshingly rare. Again, as with the Ballingrud collection, you couldn't get a cigarette paper between the stories in this anthology. The author's imagination, and its imagery palette, is vast and it never fails to roar. Movers and shakers are needed in every genre to instigate (bloodless) creative disruption before calcification by repetition sets in; Mr Barron is one of these authors and has gone someway to refashioning horror in America.

Royce, a "poor man's James Bond", a spy working in industrial espionage, goes on assignment in an American corporation's far eastern labour camp, and becomes obsessively observant of the other ex pat' residents in his apartment block, with emphasis on a "tribe of female elders". This coven, he learns, holds an affiliation with a curious spiritual sect, or perhaps it is an esoteric revolutionary system set against the subjugation of women. It is known as The Procession of the Black Sloth.

Amidst a compelling depiction of an international elite's executive culture, and the encompassing primacy of business, its competitiveness, hierarchy, excess and unscrupulous behaviour, as well as the ennui, alienation and loneliness of individuals swept up in careers fashioned within globalism, seeps the truly weird like bitter treacle. By way of soirees, Royce's voyeuristic compulsions for a female executive, and some shocking camera footage, the hellishly strange trickles and splashes through the story like a series of Francis Bacon paintings; grotesque, erotic, ghastly, but taut, sparing and enigmatic, until the spy, Royce, is "plunged down the drain into insoluble night".

The story plumbs horror deeply and artfully, and not only does the universe seem to alter and set itself against an individual, but that individual's mind alters and turns on itself at the same time.

I felt a bit hung-over and concussed when I'd finished reading this story, in one sitting, and all I'd done is sit in a chair quietly with a good reading lamp. It's muscular, multi-sensory, delicate and bludgeoning in equal parts.

Recommendation: The Imago Sequence and Other Stories (Night Shade Books)