Sunday 28 October 2012

The Drowning Pool by Ross Macdonald

This is the second novel by Ross Macdonald I've read and I'm not really impressed. He can write - there are some great descriptions, some witty observations and quips, even a few similes that aspire to Chandlerian heights. But the plot is all over the place and I'm not sure the prose makes up for it as it does in Chandler's best novels. There's a lot of woman-hating dressed up as condescending chivalry and Macdonald's depiction of a pair of crypto-gays (he never comes right out and says that's what they are) is cliched and shallow, especially weighed against Archer recalling his father's friend's scent of 'clean masculine sweat' (what the fuck is clean sweat?) and other bits of manly-man romanticism like the final bout of fisticuffs with a local police chief. On the other hand, there are some stunning moments like Archer's escape from a hydrotherapy clinic lock-up and the masterfully conjured squalid atmosphere conjured in his examination of a murder suspect's boarding-house room. But the more I think of it, the more objections and niggles I find to pile up against the good points so I'm going to just say that I found it readable and reasonably diverting and leave it at that.

The Hungry Moon by Ramsey Campbell

The story gets off to a good start as we see a small British town fall under the spell of a charismatic preacher - and then under the more ancient spell of the creature that takes him over. Campbell weaves together cosmic horror, paganism and our fear of deep dark places to create a breathtaking underlying concept. The character sketches of the various small-town people involved in the story are sharp and vivid, and the claustrophobic sense of being trapped in a world where human bloodiness and eldritch evil are aiding and abetting each other is built up skilfully.

However, the resolution seems almost too fortuitous, with a pivotal character singing the moon-thing into submission. It seems out of place, even though this character has been built up as the heroine all along, because there's simply no previous allusion to this business of singing. It comes out of nowhere and feels like just any old device to make sure the story ends with the world safe, if not entirely sound. The nuclear paranoia angle also feels tacked-on and doesn't really go anywhere.

Still, a marvellously paced, insidiously creepy novel with a great weird concept at the heart of it.

Friday 26 October 2012

My mind is magic it punctuates everything
With shimmering semicolons and glistening commas
My mind is alchemy it transforms everything
Person and tense, passive to active
My mind is sorcery it is an arcane spell
My mind’s a grimoire I’ve counted the words
And highlighted the mistakes
I’m sending this back to you
Sending this back to you
Back to you
For a total rewrite
I’m sending this back to you
Sprinkled with wizard dust and necromancer’s tears

Wednesday 10 October 2012

And then there's this:

by H. P. Lovecraft

When, long ago, the gods created Earth
In Jove’s fair image Man was shaped at birth.
The beasts for lesser parts were next designed;
Yet were they too remote from humankind.
To fill the gap, and join the rest to Man,
Th’Olympian host conceiv’d a clever plan.
A beast they wrought, in semi-human figure,
Filled it with vice, and called the thing a Nigger.
Via Nnedi Okorafor's blog.

Monday 1 October 2012

Another review of Urban Cthulhu: Nightmare Cities has some very flattering things to say about my story:

 Urban Cthulhu opens very strong with the fantastic tale “Dancer of the Dying” by Jayaprakash Satyamurthy. This is the other of the two best stories I’ve read all year. And what makes it even more exciting is that I’d never heard of this author before. He literally came out of nowhere (at least as far as I was concerned) and blew me away with a haunting story that is by turns frightening, melancholy, beautiful, and even somewhat enlightening. Satyamurthy struck a chord in me with this tale of ancient Gods and those who are compelled to their service. Engaging prose and that feeling in the back of my head that this story could very well be true made this one of the scariest in the whole book, not for the “jump” factor so prevalent in modern horror, but for the psychological and cosmic elements so dear to fans of Lovecraft’s (and his circle’s) particular brand of horror.
A previous review, by Julia Morgan identified two of my sources of inspiration most accurately:
 "Dancer of the Dying" by   Jayaprakash  Satyamurthy, is set in India and makes me long for more stories of the same kind. Jayprakash has a style that is reminiscent both of Ramsey Campbell and Peter Ackroyd. Add this to a haunting story, and you have magic. 
This Horror World review was also most gratifying:
 And as I expressed my joy at discovering great new things, let me tell you about Jayaprakash Satyamurthy. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by him before, but after reading his wonderful “Dancer of the Dying”, I will have to fix that. Editor Harksen chose to start this book off with this tale, and it was a wise decision. I love stories set in foreign (to me, at least) settings, but only if the author can pull off the unique feel. Mr. Satyamurthy does that wonderfully here and once again reaffirms that the global approach to this book was a very bright idea.
And here's the thing: 'Dancer Of The Dying' isn't even the best story in this collection. Far from it, in fact. Find out for yourself; buy a copy ! (It's also available on Flipkart).