HIP READ: Sussex Horrors
By Jonathan Broughton, Mark Cassell & Rayne Hall
Three Sussex authors…twelve horror stories. Long term Hastings resident Jonathan Broughton writes fantasy, horror, paranormal and urban stories. Two of his three published novels are set in Hastings and its surrounds. He recently moved to Cambridge for work. Rayne Hall hails from Germany and lived in St Leonards for many years, where she wrote the stories in this collection. She has worked in journalism and publishing and is author of over sixty books. Mark Cassell writes from his base in Rye, penning horror, steampunk, dark fantasy and sci-fi. He has a novella, a short story collection and a debut novel The Shadow Fabric out. He also hosts local writing retreats for Writers’ HQ.
Most avid readers love a short story, especially when well-written. And horror is a genre that will never go out of fashion. Many of us like to be drawn into a world of thrills and threat, particularly when we can imagine what might be coming. All the traditional elements of horror are contained within this collection – nothing groundbreakingly new but then that’s not what horror fans really look for in this type of literature. If you like delving into the morbid and macabre, enjoy confronting manifestations of your own fears and phobias, take pleasure in trying to make sense of things unknown or unexplained, and don’t mind sometimes being left hanging, then this book is for you.
All the stories are set in Hastings or its surrounding twilight zones, mostly in current times but there are also nods to the past and the future. Broughton’s horror is the least traditional and his tales build tension in surprising ways. The characters he writes are often distinctly vulnerable. Rival siblings, personable zombies, surfing mobility scooters, hostile technology and a conspiracy of terrifying spiders all feature. Sometimes there is relief and resolution within these stories but don’t always expect a happy ending.
Hall’s stories are the most compact of the three authors featured here, demonstrating the long-term experience that has shaped her writing craft. The atmospheres she creates conjure up an almost Hitchcock-on-sea feel and many of her stories leave us with cliff-hanger endings (in one case literally). Hall gives us menacing herring gulls, a thirteenth-century heist on the Norman nobility with a twist of conscience at the end, and the comeuppance of a cocky womaniser. My favourite, however, is a tale of Hastings being invaded by mysterious insects against a backdrop of global warming. I love that idea as a metaphor – for me it works on so many levels – and the story itself is gripping with a chilling ending that just might not be so far-fetched.
If, like me, you prefer your horror colourfully tattooed with gory graphic details, then Cassell is your man. The four stories he has inked here paint a full sleeve of terror, with glimpses of hell, beheadings, overtures to Psycho and Sweeney Todd, and supernatural tendrils that can strip out veins and steal your flesh in chunks. Cassell lures us into a John Carpenter-esque fog, whether it appears out on the Camber Castle levels or seeps through the mysterious bowels of a Hastings seafront B & B. And if you’re treating yourself to a drink as you read these works, beware the demon in the corner.
I enjoyed Sussex Horrors, not least because I could easily identify with all the settings. It’s the kind of book you can dip in and out of, perhaps one story at a time, or if you get completely hooked in, it could equally be read in one or two sittings. It’s a perfect holiday read, whether you’re a local resident off out of town in search of some winter sun, or a visitor to Sussex and not too frightened to explore the scarier side of the south-east coast.
Sussex Horrors is published by Herbs House and is available from Bookbusters in Hastings and some other local outlets, or as an e-book from Amazon.
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