Illusory Flowers in an Empty Sky

books

by Barry Graham

Of Darkness and Light by me. It’s been making people sleep with the light on since 1989.

The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg. In my opinion, the greatest Scottish novel ever. I wrote about it, and others, in this essay.

Carnacki the Ghost-Finder by William Hope Hodgson. A classic, far ahead of its time. Here’s an essay I wrote about it.

The Devil Rides Out by Dennis Wheatley. Another classic, but not at all ahead of its time. The racism, classism and general Little Englandism of this book sometimes reads like parody, but it’s still a great page-turner, still scary, and it arguably invented the occult novel as we know it.

Julia by Peter Straub is haunting in every way, and still this author’s best work.

Full of Days by Bart Lessard is elegant and horrifying, my favorite work of one of my favorite contemporary authors.

The Least of My Scars by Stephen Graham Jones is my pick for the creepiest of his brilliant, creepy books. Read his werewolf book Mongrels too. Better still, read all his books.

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. Read this, okay? You’ll thank me. Then read The Moonstone.

Fragments of Horror by Junji Ito. You can't go wrong with Ito. I love his graphic novels Uzumaki and Gyo, but this collection of short tales is my favourite. ​ The Empty House and Other Ghost Stories by Algernon Blackwood. What I said about Wilkie Collins applies equally to Blackwood.

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by Barry Graham

Girls Against God by Jenny Hval

The Care Manifesto by The Care Collective

Breasts and Eggs by Kawakami Mieko

The Missing by Sarah Langan

Gulp by Mary Roach

And rereading:

A Lover's Discourse and Image Music Text by Roland Barthes

Ghosts of My Life by Mark Fisher

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

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by Barry Graham

Authors are, with few exceptions, worthless scum. But, knowing that, even I was flaggergasted recently when I picked up a collection of stories by Chekhov, with an introduction by Richard Ford, and found the book had a biography of Ford... but not of Chekhov.

One of the few exceptions to the rule of authorial narcissism is the Icelandic novelist and poet Sjon, who, as editor of the Nordic writing anthology Dark Blue Winter Overcoat, didn't include any of his own work.

#chekhov #richardford #narcissism #authors #writers #sjon #books #fiction #barrygrahamauthor

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by Barry Graham

The latest book from my publisher, Dockyard Press, is Black Body and Other Stories by Bart Lessard.

Work in a neglected flower garden unearths a vengeful corpse. A drunken executioner befriends a voice from a bottomless pit. Gangster pals indulge in psychopathic pranks. A hoaxer pretending to be a ghost gaslights tenants into health and happiness until a sadistic exorcist calls. Actors in toon costumes wage a cold war against amusement park security. A woodland enclave conspires to vanish from the map. An assassin plays games with a hotel concierge on the swinging ’60s Las Vegas Strip. A wet nurse finds that the infant in her care is far from toothless.

There goes the ordinary in this new collection by Bart Lessard, home to god, fraud, crook, and devil. In these yarns, frightful and funny dwell side by side or are one and the same. Lessard’s books have shown him to be a master of the elegant grotesque whose fearsome imagination rejects all fetters—and this brilliant, audacious volume may be his best to date.

If you buy the e-book direct from Dockyard Press, you'll also get his previous collection, Full of Days and Other Stories, free.

#bartlessardauthor #fiction #crimefiction #horror #books #dockyardpress

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by Barry Graham

I first read this novel two years ago, and thought it one of the best I'd read in the last decade. Last year, I went to Reykjavik, where it's set, to get married, and it turned out to be my favourite city I've ever visited. That love of Iceland, and the awfulness of COVID-19, made me decide to reread it recently, and I liked it even better the second time.

It's set in 1918, during the Spanish flu pandemic. The protagonist is an orphaned teenage boy who lives with an elderly relative, sells sex to local men and visiting sailors, and has two obsessions: cinema, and a local girl. Then the virus arrives and spreads through the cinema crowds.

This is a short novel that tells a huge story of loneliness, class, secrets, love and friendship. It's grim and beautiful, and a book for the present time.

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by Barry Graham

The Guardian asks: “Are novelists obliged to tell the story of their private life?”

​“Write what you know” is a maxim preached to aspiring writers.

I get emails from single fathers who tell me The Book of Man captured their experience. I have no children. I get emails from people who’ve been hospitalised for depression saying the same thing about the same book. I have never been depressed, and when I wrote that book I had never been hospitalised.

I have also never been a young Dutch woman, nor a Mexican-American drug-dealer and murderer, nor a murderous paedophile, nor a female ex-cop from an upper-class background, nor a former U.S. soldier turned handyman, nor a lounge musician who commits armed robberies.

War veterans have said that the book that best represented their experience was The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, who never saw combat.

Bram Stoker wasn’t a vampire. Stephen King doesn’t hang out in drains, wearing a clown suit and luring children to their doom. ​ Experience is a poor substitute for imagination and empathy.

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