am tempted to call Gary Fry a "throwback" to a more traditional,
introspective style of horror writer. It is loosely in the style of
Blackwood, Machen and especially Ramsey Campbell that pulls you in with
its atmosphere and innuendo rather than bludgeoning you over the head
with scares and gore. That doesn't mean it doesn't scare you. It just
means the scares creep up on you, and maybe long after the last word is
In What They Find in the Woods. Professor of
Psychology Matthew Cole is supervising the research project of a young
female student, Chloe Linton. She has chosen to explore a local legend
about Donald Deere, a warlock from the 16th century that could seduce
and conquer any woman he wanted. The tale goes on to say that he still
lives in the local woods.. Chloe's project is supposed to be on the
psychological aspects of the legend as it still affects the residents of
the area yet Professor Cole starts to suspect his pupil really believes
the legend is true. Add to that, the problem that Professor Coles'
usually solid academic demeanor is being overshadowed by his attraction
to his beautiful student.
And there is where we get that
connection to the other writers I mentioned. His story is full of sexual
tension but it hints rather than yells. The real conflict is between
Cole's professional and civilized demeanor and the wild and primitive
sensuality laying wait in the "myth" of Donald Deere. The story is told
in the first narrative of Professor Cole. That narration appears to be
fairly straight forward clearly laying down the supernatural aspects of
what may be happening. Yet i can't help thinking Cole is not as reliable
as he appears and is obscuring how much of his change in yearning comes
from the supernatural and how much is from his own dark id.
is why I like this story. It is straightforward in one way yet lends
itself to the reader's interpretation. It makes you think. It reminds me
most of Ramsey Campbell, who dealt with similar themes in the same
introspective style. I also think it has a less clear connection to
Arthur Machen's own pantheistic sensuality and decadence in his tales.
Overall, What They Find in the Woods
is a good novella with both a psychological twist and a deep feeling of
supernatural unease. It will appeal to the horror fan who likes their
scares subtle and on the intelligent side.