Great British Horror 1: Green and Pleasant Land
Editor: Steve J. Shaw
Publisher: Black Shuck Books
Publication Date: 2016
This book was the first in a series called “Great British Horror.” This inaugural volume is on the theme of small town, rural and folk horror. As a fan of this type of sub-genre, I was excited for all of the stories in this book.
For me, the standouts in this collection (in order that they appear in the book) were:
“Meat for the Field” by Rich Hawkins
This is a pretty straightforward example of excellent rural/folk horror that centers around a town, a mysterious ritual, and the harvest. It hits all the right themes, and despite the fact that the story was firmly rooted in traditional folk horror tropes, it didn’t feel cliched or trite. It hit all the right notes, and the final product was creepy and unsettling. I felt the ending was beautifully written.
“Strange as Angels” by Laura Mauro
This was my favorite story in the collection, which strikes me as a little funny, since I’m not sure how firmly it fits in with the rural/small town/folk horror theme the book claims. Despite its difference (or maybe because of it), this story was the standout for me. From beginning to end, I was invested. Reading it was like seeing a horrible car accident and not being able to look away. I knew where the story was going, but it was so compelling that I had to read straight through to the end.
“Blue-Eyes” by Barbie Wilde
I had mixed feelings about this story on my first read through, but it is one that I kept thinking about long after I’d finished reading, even after having read (and admittedly, forgotten) some of the other stories in this book. There is some unsavory subject matter here, but this story lingers.
“Mr. Denning Sings” by Simon Kurt Unsworth
This story was in my top three favorites for the collection. I was at turns amused, horrified, and embarrassed. I cringed, I laughed, and I wrinkled my nose in disgust while reading. It takes a talented author to be able to elicit that many different reactions from a single short. Mr. Denning’s struggle felt epic in scale.
“Misericord” by A.K. Benedict
Also one of my top three. Old churches, mysterious markings, and scholars looking for clues about the past? It sounds like a plot that Lovecraft or one of his contemporaries could have dreamed up, but what “Misericord” has that makes it special is cinematic prose and a strong sense of character.
This book is recommended for those of you who like rural gothic and folk horror, and maybe horror on the quieter side (which I do). The book delivered on what I was hoping for and I’m looking forward to tackling the other collections in this series. I was introduced to some new authors to look out for.