Friday, March 23, 2012

Ancient Images, (Samhain Publishing), by Ramsey Campbell

The Oxford Companion to English literature calls Ramsey Campbell Britain's "most respected living horror writer", and Ancient Images, a Samhain Publishing re-print of one of Campbell's earlier novels, bears excellent testimony to this assertion.  As with all of Campbell's works, the prose is smooth, his attention to detail immaculate, and the tension winds tighter and tighter as the story progresses. 

Campbell's pacing is also excellent, as he slowly builds a solid foundation upon which to sprint toward the novel's end.  An enthralling read, one that evokes very primal emotions - fear of the dark, of isolation, and of the things we can't see moving in the shadows, hiding just beyond the light's reach.
After her friend and co-worker dies under mysterious circumstances, film editor Sandy Allen embarks upon a quest to unearth a mythic film, a lost horror-movie starring Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff.  It was this film she was to screen with her friend the night of his death, and, much as she can't prove it, Sandy can't shake the feeling that her friend died BECAUSE of this film... and not just because someone killed her friend to steal the lost film.

But because the film itself brought death to him.

Every step Sandy takes closer to the film's secrets - interviewing retired actors, camera men, descendents of those involved in the film's production - Sandy senses something drawing closer to her.  Shadows become figures dogging her steps at night.  Windblown branches claw at her windows like talons.  And when Sandy is finally drawn to the small community whose history provided the basis for the film, Redfield - a  harvest community whose past is drenched in bloodshed - Sandy realizes she may have stumbled upon an ages-old power that will not only do anything to cover its tracks....

But will also kill to continue its legacy.

For Redfield's rich soil is thirsty, once again. It demands to be sated.  And just about anyone's blood will do.

Horror comes in many shapes and sizes, and the genre's big enough for all kinds of tastes, but it's always refreshing to know there still exists writers like Campbell, who can invoke fear simply through the power of excellent story-telling, through emotional cues, creating psychological disquiet subtly, with great care and restraint.  And this is also a nice homage to movies and the enduring power of their stories and images, how they preserve well as a haunting concept.

That maybe some things shouldn't be preserved at all.

Kevin Lucia is a Contributing Editor for Shroud Magazine and a blogger for The Midnight Diner. His short fiction has appeared in several anthologies. He's currently finishing his Creative Writing Masters Degree at Binghamton University, he teaches high school English and lives in Castle Creek, New York with his wife and children. He is the author of Hiram Grange & The Chosen One, Book Four of The Hiram Grange Chronicles, and he's currently working on his first novel. Visit him on the web at

No comments: