No, not another post berating the ConDems, much as they deserve it. Something completely different.
This morning I opened my Inbox to discover the latest newsletter from Gray Friar Press, in which they announced that they’d be giving away a free copy of Gary Fry’s criticially acclaimed novella The Respectable Face of Tyranny with every book purchased from the Gray Friar website. And, as I’m one of the people doing the critical acclaiming, it seemed to me like the perfect pretext to reprise my review from Black Static #29 instead of writing a proper blog post.
So that’s what I’m going to do. And here it is:-
THE RESPECTABLE FACE OF TYRANNY (Spectral Press paperback, 81pp, £4.99) is the first Spectral Visions release from Spectral Press. The story is set in Whitby where, in the wake of the global recession, Josh is residing in a caravan park with his daughter Sally. It’s not at all the future he had planned for himself: estranged wife Denise is off with another, more affluent man, and the lump sum that was supposed to support him in early retirement has dwindled to the point where investment income is negligible. Sally is at that difficult age where she likes to challenge the rules, with a tattoo and dubious boyfriends all part of her game plan. But these concerns are dwarfed by hints of the numinous – the strange creatures Josh sees on the beach, a chance meeting with an enigmatic stranger, the cryptic warning spoken by his mother.
This is the finest work I’ve seen from Gary Fry, a story in which he blends numerous concerns about the plight of our world and dresses them all up in reinvented horror tropes, with the world’s financial systems personified as Cthulhuesque entities, a splendidly effective and apt metaphor. Josh is a father concerned for the welfare and safety of his daughter, a man doing his best to survive and prosper in difficult times and, finally, a human being confronting the possible end of his species as dark currents flow through history and monstrous beasts stalk the night, and Fry’s melding of these disparate aspects of his character’s personality is masterly. It works because the author gives us vivid snapshots of domestic drama to identify with, emotional hooks such as Josh’s initial confrontation with Sally, a scene replete with the feeling that things are spiralling out of control and you’ve no idea why or how to stop it happening. This malaise is echoed in the greater scheme, with Josh a spokesman for us all, his bitterness at how the good life has been snatched away through no fault of his own capturing the general zeitgeist. The way in which the numinous infiltrates the landscape of Whitby, with hints of magic in the air, the suggestion of other things lurking beyond the threshold of what we recognise and on occasion allowing themselves to be seen, is handled with equal aplomb. In the end this may all simply be down to Josh externalising the concerns that he feels, a symptom of the stress he is suffering from: the frisson of alarm we experience when reading arises out of the possibility that it’s not, that the monsters exist, be they great Old Ones or economic systems, and their blind indifference is chilling.