Review: this is not a picture

this is not a picture by Howard David Ingham

tinap cover front sml

this is not a picture is a collection of eight short ghost stories, by Howard Ingham of these here parts, probably best known to revivalists for his excellent series of film reviews, We Don’t Go Back. The tales here are linked by pieces of art – a photograph, a TV play, a song – each of which is central to the plot.

Of the stories here, the one that stands out as being of most interest to folk horror fans is “The Austringer (1969)”, which revolves around a lost BBC play, bringing to mind the once seen and now half-remembered, haunting quality the likes of Penda’s Fen and Robin Redbreast had before being made accessible again by BFI re-releases. The tale cuts back and forth between the unscrupulous collector who unearths a copy from a deceased acquaintance’s collection and the play itself, with the two inevitably meeting. The excerpts from the TV play are particularly spot on, evoking the atmosphere of the supernatural plays of the era.

My personal favourite is “An envelope”, where a man grieving for his disappeared girlfriend comes into possession of an envelope full of polaroids depicting horrifying scenes, seemingly from a parallel reality where something has gone very wrong. Each photograph is described in detail, sketching a horrific world, leaving you to fill in the details with your worst nightmares. It’s made all the weirder by the fact that it was written in the author’s sleep, like he unconsciously tapped into some horrendous parallel world. More speculative horror than folk horror perhaps, but deeply unsettling.

The striking thing about this collection is its humanity, the way the characters relate to each other and the world around them, indeed one of the tales – “So I caught up with Dennis” – derives much of its uneasiness from a changed relationship between two old friends. No matter how weird the situation is, the characters and their actions always remain believable.

A thoroughly engaging collection of tales. You can pick up a copy here.

Review by Scott Lyall

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