“Black Gate Tales” by Paul Draper

This is collection of short stories by Paul Draper is a very strong and diverse offering. Many of the stories are in contemporary settings but a few seem specifically tied to an era with the remainder in a vague but remote past. He doesn’t confine himself to the UK as well. Some take place in Europe and the Middle East and do not always have a strict Folk Horror vibe but are very compelling nonetheless. My descriptions are admittedly vague to avoid spoilers.

The standouts for me were:

Mrs. Pendelton’s Corpse” a dark humored tale that would be right at home among the Lore tellers of the turn of the 19th century.

“The Puppeteer of Prague” set in the city of a hundred spires shortly before the second world war. It evokes the best of Kafka and even a bit of Magic Realism.

“The King of Gorse” is my absolute favorite of the collection as I have a weakness for stories of this ilk. Draper has uniquely employed his own tools to steer the story clear of a formulaic telling.

“Twenty Steps to the Ditch” will appeal to anyone who has ever made the difficult trek back home after a long night in the pub. What one imagines in their stupor along the way turns out to be a grim reality in this offering.

One story that completely broke my heart was “The Undertow” which deals with the multiple levels of grief.

“The Fourteenth Day” was equally saddening. At first read it appears the story was a bit open ended but anyone who has watched international news can gleen what is to come. There is no outright horror save what humans are capable of doing to one another and the slight supernatural current of cosmology children create for themselves to deal with it.

Even though all of these stories would make great radio dramas or film shorts they stand on their own as excellent stories to be read or told. I highly recommend for anyone who loves a good story.

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