Always a Dancer by Steve Lockley. Book review

ALWAYS A DANCER by Steve Lockley, Fox Spirit Books, p/b,

Reviewed by Sandra Scholes

A resident of Swansea, Steve Lockley is a writer who is widely published, and well known for his short story collections and his collaborations with other writers such as Paul Lewis and Steven Savile. He has contributed to ‘Cold Cuts’ 1,2 and 3 and his latest novel, ‘The Sign of Glaaki’ has Harry Houdini and Dennis Wheatley in a Lovecraftian horror setting.

For the first time, Steve Lockley’s stories are gathered in an anthology, some are brand new while others are previously unreleased; Always a Dancer, Funny Weather, Wassailing, Life in a Northern Town, The First Time, This Masquerade, Fairground Attraction, The Mermaid’s Tears, The Long Wait, When Two Hearts Beat in Time, ET Loves CE, The Last Frost, Life and Life Only Crow, Sea Monkeys, Imaginary Friends, Don’t Leave Me Down Here.

Steve Lockley has managed to provide readers with a series of stories that don’t fail to interest and vary in content so that the subject matter doesn’t get dry or cluttered. Obviously there are a few more that readers could pick out as favourites, but none of them left me feeling cheated. Lockley’s work is known to me, so I didn’t have to look for a reason to read his work, and short stories are the sort of thing I like to read anyway. I did have some favourites; Wassailing, Imaginary Friends, and Funny Weather had the special ingredients for a grand horror tale that leaves you feeling spoiled in a way.  No story is too long, or makes you feel as though you are ploughing through miles of text, Lockley uses his special brand of writing to make you feel as though you are there reading the heart of his work and benefiting from it.

‘Wassailing’ is about a man who wants a change from the norm and buys a country house in order to relax and find himself again, but something around him is desperately trying to spook him out, and does very well. It’s a strange and eerie tale that eats away at you and makes you want to read it again. ‘Imaginary Friends’ tells the story of Mr Bobo, a clown who might seem normal to many children, but to adults reminds us of the many bad clowns out there, the ones that make some adults freak out so much – this is the reason there is so much clown phobia around and works in a way that reminds us of the evil movie clowns.  ‘Funny weather’ is the second in the series and a good diversion from the first one where the past is remembered and it’s not what anyone would have expected. Lockley expands on themes that most of us find unsettling; here the theme is gypsies and what they get up to in this particular story. This proves to be one of the creepiest and one you can’t find it easy to read.

Fox Spirit Books represent Lockley very well with their interesting choice of cover art, and the fact that they already have several well-known authors on their books. What makes this the sort of book you would want to read is that this and others in the anthology series from other writers contain only the best stories and these anthologies are in many different genres from horror to science fiction, crime and fantasy.