Orpheus On The Underground And Other Stories by Rhys Hughes. Book review

Orpheus On The Underground And Other Stories by Rhys Hughes, Tartarus Books, h/b, £35.00

Reviewed by Matthew Johns

Books from Tartarus are always a pleasure to behold (and to hold!).  Beautifully bound, with gorgeous illustrations inside and without, they feel like a proper book.

The content of each is so vastly different to the next, that you never know what you will find when you delve within the delightfully thick pages.  Hughes’ collection of stories is no different – the titular tale sees the legendary Greek musician travelling on the London Underground (specifically the Northern Line) with a broken lyre, somewhat down on his luck.  He seeks his head, having somehow lost it – he wears a head stolen from a tourist instead, while he travels up and down the Northern Line on his way home from a day of busking.

A turn of the page, and the reader is transported to a woodland in Shropshire.  Two airmen huddle for warmth around a fire, while hoping to be rescued after crashing an experimental plane in 1929.  They keep having visions of strange aircraft and other airmen in different garb that they believe to be ghosts.  Another tells of a man who finds a strange castle with living gargoyles, yet another sees a man who uses a telescope that allows him to see ghosts, another has a self-confessed ghost who works as an obituary writer for the Tombstone Examiner.  A brilliantly inventive mix of stories from different genres, all entertaining and fascinating at the same time.