Green, Unpleasant, Land by Richard Freeman: Book Review

Think of ‘British Horror’ and what comes to mind? In this circle perhaps your mind turns to witchcraft shenanigans of centuries past or ritual cult activity in sleepy places in more recent times. Perhaps in the wider society of horror the refined hauntings of the likes of The Innocents or MR James scholarly tales may spring to thought. Or perhaps the gothic kitsch of Hammer movies.

Within this book of 18 British tales of terror, Richard Freeman casts his net wider into scenarios and locations that have a, perhaps less obvious to casual thought but recognisably apparent when there in the moment, very British feel – the walk home from the Youth Club, a spoiled little girl’s birthday party, a country churchyard, walking the dog down near the nature reserve, a fishing excursion to a Welsh lake, the streets of London and much more besides.

Being an established Cryptozoologist and Fortean, the natural and supernatural worlds provide great inspiration for Freeman’s short stories and we see creatures from familiar and comparitively unfamiliar folklore and legend, both ancient and modern, brought to life. This could be a risky venture as fairies, dragons and unicorns for example are so well entrenched in many minds as being associated with sword and sorcery, mawkish fairy tales and flowery new age representation, but Freeman does exceptionally well in granting these otherworldly creatures a more authentically believable and gritty presence in a world we are familiar with on a day to day basis.

There is an element of the ‘kitchen-sink’ as well as the supernatural in some of the tales which does indeed give the works a British flavour. Freeman’s fairies are a tribute to Arthur Machen’s treatment of the subject, which is made clear within the tale. His unicorn is not a saccharine sweet entity but a creature of flesh and blood. There are nods to science as well as superstition within this book’s narratives. Freeman also notes his fondness for the earth-bound adventures of the third doctor, Jon Pertwee in the long-running BBC sci-fi series Doctor Who, which I think does come through in the atmosphere of some of these tales.
Creatures of British myth and of contemporary anomalous encounters such as the Lambton Wyrm of County Durham and the large hominid of Cannock Chase make their physical presence manifest and believably threatening through Freeman’s skilled and brave treatment. Some of the tales I could see working well in a TV anthology in the manner of Nigel Kneale’s Beasts. They set a scene, tell a simple tale, sometimes with twists that would satisfactorily make for effective episodes of a cryptozoological – folkloric themed Tales of the Unexpected type show.

Another point of approval I have with Green, Unpleasant Land is that each tale is accompanied by an illustration by Shaun Histed-Todd. I’m biased on this matter being a book artist, but I do really think that horror short story anthologies are given a further dimension and appeal by the inclusion of illustration.

Product details

  • Paperback : 222 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1905723857
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1905723850
  • Dimensions : 15.6 x 1.19 x 23.4 cm
  • Publisher : Fortean Fiction (9 Jan. 2012)
  • Language: : English



For more information on CFZ press click – HERE

Book available from HERE + other bookstores

Book review by Andy Paciorek



Tales of the Damned

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Edited by and featuring the work of cryptozoologist and folklore author Richard Freeman, Tales of the Damned : An Anthology of Fortean Horror is a chilling compendium of short stories by numerous luminary writers including Andy Roberts, Karl Shuker, Lars Thomas and numerous other talented souls – including and forgive us for blowing our own trumpetsĀ  šŸ˜‰
no less than three administrators of Folk Horror Revival the authors Andrew McGuigan (Cumbrian Cthulhu), Chris Lambert (Tales from the Black Meadow) and Andy Paciorek (Strange Lands: A Field Guide to the Celtic Otherworld)

“Here we have a book unique in the annals of horror literature. This is a book where the stories are penned, mostly, by fortean researchers. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, ‘fortean’ refers to the works of Charles Hoy Fort (August 6, 1874 – May 3, 1932). Fort was an American writer and researcher into strange phenomena. Fort collected newspaper reports of sightings of strange creatures, weird light phenomena, falls of fish and other creatures, and poltergeist outbreaks to name but a few. Fort realized that mainstream science was acting somewhat like a fundamentalist religion and that any anomalous data that did not fit into the current scientific paradigm was simply swept under the carpet. Fort called this ‘damned data’. He published his findings in four books: The Book of the Damned (1919), New Lands (1923), Lo! (1932) and Wild Talents (1932), all of which are still in print today. Fort has influenced modern research with magazines like Fortean Times, which has been recording weird happenings since 1973, and the Centre for Fortean Zoology, the world’s only full time mystery animal investigation organization. The publishing wing of the latter is responsible for this book.”

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