Sunday, April 10, 2016

Out in the woods...

What They Find in the Woods

By Gary Fry

Publisher: Dark Minds Press 

Pub. date: March 7, 2016

Rating: 3 & 1/2 out of 5 stars


 I 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 read.

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.

That 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.


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