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October 19, 2014

Review – Suspended in Dusk (Edited by Simon Dewar)

Suspended in Dusk (Books of the Dead Press 2014) is an outstanding collection of supernatural suspense stories. All the more so for it being edited by a first time anthologist. The story of the mountains editor Simon Dewar moved in order to get this anthology into print is worthy of its own entry in the volume. I’m pretty sure supernatural horror played a part alongside his sheer implacable force of will. I don’t know if he has a basement at his house, but maybe don’t go down there if you happen to be visiting.

But to the stories themselves: they’re excellent. In my personal taxonomy I class them more as suspense than horror, creating a sense of unease and haunting doubt rather than going for a visceral pulse-accelerating (or heart-stopping) effect. And not all of them are supernatural, though that’s the most common technique here, alongside the central motif of dusk, when the certainty of daylight begins to give way to the disquiet of night’s darkness. Out of a collection of 19 stories, there were only one or two that didn’t resonate with me – an amazing hit rate that puts Dewar in a class with some of the finest editors in the business as far as I’m concerned.

I won’t mention every story but here are some of the highlight:

Alan Baxter’s ‘Shadows of The Lonely Dead’ kicks off the collection strongly, with a melancholy meditation on the grief and isolation of the terminally ill, shot through with a strong sense of empathy and righteous indignation. Anna Reith follows with ‘Taming the Stars’, in which a drug deal goes insanely badly for a couple of grubby Parisian chancers. I loved Chris Limb’s nightmarish bureaucrat in ‘Ministry of Outrage’, which has a horribly plausible conspiratorial heart. Stacey Larner’s ‘Shades of Memory’ is a grim post-apocalyptic ghost story which I felt a personal connection to (it’s set in a small highway township not far from where I was born). Legendary horror writer Ramsey Campbell offers up a nice take on a classic claustrophobic nightmare scenario in ‘Digging Deep’. Tom Dullemond’s ‘Would to God That We Were There’ is a wonderfully creepy account of a doomed space mission. Angela Slatter closes out the anthology with another suspenseful encounter in the wake of an unspecified apocalypse in ‘The Way of All Flesh’ (it’s delightfully nasty).

Honestly I feel bad skipping over the stories I didn’t cover. The ones I was least interested in were still strong pieces, and overall the quality was impressively high. There’s little outright horror here, but there’s plenty of grist for a few quality bad dreams as a result of a late-night dip into Suspended in Dusk.

(Disclaimer: This collection was edited by a friend of mine, so take my review with the usual grain of salt. That said, if I didn’t like it, I would just have quietly not written a review).

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