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Baker's Dozen

The Count Of 13: Ramsey Campbell's Weird Selection
Sean Kitching , May 6th, 2020 09:26

In a Baker's Dozen diversion, writer Ramsey Campbell guides Sean Kitching through 13 favourite pieces of weird culture, from film to opera and literature, via David Lynch, Arthur Machen and more


Francis Hardinge - Cuckoo Song
I was one of several judges for the James Herbert Award for the best new horror novel of the year. We had a whole slew of things sent to us by publishers, among which was this young adult novel by Francis Hardinge. We all looked at this a little bit askance but we all nevertheless went away and read it and I was not the only person who felt it was the most staggeringly original and possibly the most disturbing novel, apart from No One Gets Out Alive [Adam Nevill], that we had sent to us. It’s a novel about a changeling, a fairy replacement of a human baby. Curiously enough, a whole group of novels about that kind of thing and certainly about the darker aspects of fairyland invading modern reality, or in her case the reality around the First World War, were written around the same time. Graham Joyce did one. Sarah Pinborough did one. It’s wonderfully well written, very rich stylistically and it has an astonishing level of inventiveness and imagination. There is one sequence in which the protagonist and her little sister have gone to see a silent film and then find silent titles being projected onto reality as thoughts of one of the characters. At this point, we judges thought, we have a major talent here. It didn’t finally get the award, but the very fact that the publishers thought it eligible for an adult horror award, sums up some of its qualities.