Christopher Stanley is an author who when he releases a book I go straight out and purchase it, such is the quality that he brings to the table with ever outing. There are only three other authors that I do that with; Stephen King, Chuck Palahniuk, Donald Ray Pollock, Kealan Patrick Burke, Gemma Amor and Kev Harrison – so Stanley as you would see is in great company… every offering he releases is met with that same enthusiasm, that oh my goodness, another tantalising offering, I just gotta pick me that up!
I’ve read much of Stanley’s work in print and also many of his short stories that are around online and published by some pretty cool online magazines. I loved his offering ‘The Forest Is Hungry’ (published by Demain Publishing in Short Sharp Shocks #16), then he went and released his absolutely stunning ‘The Lamppost Huggers‘ a collection of dark and horrific fiction and now he’s gone and done it again… with the release of ‘Unbecoming Me and Other Interruptions‘ (again with Demain Publishing).
But the thing I have enjoyed about these offerings, is that his writing is just getting better and better, and with Unbecoming Me, Stanley has created a stunning horror offering that should have the big hitters (you know who you are publishing gods) knocking at his door and taking his next project!
So without any other interruptions on with the review!
Devil’s Reach – This story starts like Usain Bolt out of the blocks, full of tension and fear and a stranglehold of dread which never lets up, and Stanley sprints us off into the story like a racehorse. It’s panic inducing horror that grips the reader by the throat and snuffs the reader out within its vice like grip. I think what I really love about Stanley’s writing is because he’s versed masterfully in the Flash Fiction genre, his longer fiction benefits greatly from the techniques he’s honed in this field, and the result is fiction that reads beautifully, there is a frantic, cultured and enrapturing style to his prose which pulls the reader in and in my opinion shows all the markings of a true raconteur and masterful storyteller – with great care and consideration given to every word on the page and ensuring that the reader enjoys the deliciously dark musings of his mind without all the pomp and ceremony.
Devil’s Reach is a malevolent siren song that calls its readers to be lost in its mesmerising, macabre and unsettling embrace – an enrapturing story that is as poetic as it is horrifying, further cementing Stanley as a writer to watch.
‘If he were able to peel away the top of his skull, would he find his wife’s fingerprints all over his free will?’
Hell’s Teeth – Is a tremendous and creepy tale that is innocent, yet, utterly chilling. A young girl seeks the help of the tooth fairy to deal with a bully at her school – it’s written in such a way that you would think it was a story by Kealan Patrick Burke such is the originality and brilliant haunting vibe of the story (and that again is pretty damn good company to be in). Hell’s Teeth is such a simple idea but put across in a chilling and brutal way that devastates the reader.
Unbecoming Me – This is a story that is above all else about trying to belong, trying to fit in – we have a young protagonist who is at university and is desperately trying to find his way. Stanley writes this perfectly, and with some nods to American Werewolf In London this makes for a very cool and complex story that pulls at the heart strings as well as the very fabric of the human condition. It also reminded me slightly of Daphne Du Maurier’s ‘The Scapegoat’ and a little bit of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
I did also really enjoyed the author notes at the end of this little collection that discuss where some of the ideas came from, and it also goes into detail about the names that he uses for his characters – all taken from the field of horror – I’d noticed the Invisible Monsters ones, and our recuring caretaker ‘Torrence’ who appears in each story – but the others are brilliant little nods from someone that has grown up with a passion for horror, that has horror in his blood, and as a horror fan myself it was delightful to see (almost like little eastereggs in films).
Unbecoming Me and Other Interruptions is a gripping and horrifying read, one that further cements Stanley’s growing and glowing reputation in the horror genre. If you do one thing today, buy this book, it’s 79p or something like that on Amazon and it’ll be the best thing you do all year!
Unbecoming Me and Other Interruptions is published by Demain Publishing and is available here.
Christopher Stanley creates dark and unexpected worlds where monsters lurk in the plumbing and dragons linger in the basement. His stories have won prizes with The Arcanist, The Molotov Cocktail, The Short Story, ZeroFlash, Retreat West, To Hull & Back, Raging Aardvark and Corvus Review.
Reviewed by Ross Jeffery
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