Strange Tales III, ed. Rosalie Parker

Strange Tales IIIReview by Nathaniel Tapley

It’s difficult not to judge a book from Tartarus Press by its cover. Heavy and beautiful, you feel you should be in front of an open fire, reading ghost stories to open-mouthed grandchildren. The contents don’t disappoint either.

There’s a wide range of settings and tones among the 17 stories here, but they all have a few things in common. They are evocative, well-written, with a wonderful sense of place. There are no pulpy shocks or nasty tales here. The mood here is greyer, more unsettling, muted. These stories concentrate on the creation of mood, rather than narrative thrust. Handled well, this can be truly unsettling. In some hands, however, it seems coy; the stories becoming so elliptical that they are nothing else. On more than one occasion, there is the sense that the author shied away from a ‘satisfying’ ending, but to what purpose we’re not entirely sure.

The highlights, however, are spectacular. They include Daniel Mills’ Sanctuary Row, Elizabeth Brown’s A Woman Of The Party, and A.J. McIntosh’s Melting. It’s a dreamscape of a collection, where not everything makes sense, and one is surrounded by horrors one can’t name. I shall be re-immersing myself in it soon.

Strange Tales III, ed. Rosalie Parker, Tartarus Press, 2009, £30 hardback.