Egaeus Press, h/b, 253pp, www.egaeuspress.com
Reviewed by Sandra Scholes
What surprised me about this book was the quality of it. A wraparound cover of the Vision of Tondal by a follower of Hieronymous Bosch stares out at the reader with images of excess and surreal outlook; another is the book’s title and author which is visible only on the spine. Other illustrations are inside from Elementa chemiae by Johannis Conradi Barchusen and feature art from old alchemy books. This is my first Egaeus Press title and I liked the look of it along with the embossed ‘E’ on the inside first page.
An introduction by Mark Samuels tells us that Charles Wilkinson is not a new author, but one who deserves more recognition for his works. A Twist in The Eye is a collection of what at least in here are called weird fiction, 16 stories in all, all different, all as strange as the first one. The stories work on our phobias and what we are afraid of even in waking life. Psychology experts would love to read these as they are perfect for analysis.
Returning is the tale of a couple who return to the same guest house every year for a break. When the time comes to leave, his wife doesn’t want to. There is a nice twist to this one that makes sense of the story at the end. It is eerie and solemn and you would think nothing special could happen in it with the couple, but then you would be wrong. Introduction writer Mark Samuels mentions he had only read one of his stories, The Human Cosmos which Jim Hasler is a man on the brink of retiring from being in the jewellery business. Once he decides this, he starts to lead a strange life, pondering what life is and what it is like to be human. At times the story seems peculiar, but through Jim we get to see the real person and how he feels when he talks to others. His perception of humanity is quite profound. Hidden in the Alphabet is even stranger and I think I might not feel right going to the opticians again. One man’s visit to his opticians opens up an incident that happened years ago and the possibility of revenge from the injured party. This I felt was a favourite of mine. Cold Plate on the other hand has a dinner party with a difference as one man decides to send his lover out to do some shopping while he entertains some close friends. All she knows is that when she comes back, his friends will be meeting her for the first time.
All of these stories are odd and I can kind of understand why Charles isn’t as well-known as other authors is due to his strangeness. I personally liked and appreciated each story as some started out as normal then veered off into a strangeness I’d not read before. A Twist in the Eye is for those who want a truly original reading experience.