The Apparition Phase by Will Maclean: Book Review

The ‘X’ in Generation X (those born roughly between the early 1960s and late 70s/ early 80s) must surely refer to the X certificate formerly bestowed upon horror movies or ‘X’ as in X Files in relating to spooky paranormal mysteries. The other title bestowed by writer and broadcaster Bob Fischer upon the folk born of these times – ‘The Haunted Generation’ would seemingly confirm this.
Maclean’s novel, ‘The Apparition Phase’ is set in the 1970s and pays homage to the creepy things that deliciously traumatised those of us of a certain age. Told from the viewpoint of Tim Smith, reminiscing on his teenage years in that era, we see that as with the title of Dave Lawrence and Stephen Brotherton’s excellent encyclopedic work about those times, our narrator is indeed ‘Scarred For Life’.
The tale begins with Tim and his twin sister Abi plotting to fake a photograph of a ghost. Their inspirations for this experiment / prank are the photos that I would flick past fast and then slowly sneak back to look at in Usborne’s ‘Mysteries of the Unknown: Monsters, Ghosts and UFOs’ (despite my Catholic education and unbeknownst to the nuns, the true bible of my youth) – those being the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall (a semi transparent figure descending some stairs), the Spectre of Newby Church (a tall, skull faced monk near an altar) and the one that possibly freaked me the most, the Chinnery car (the dead mother-in law in the back seat). In creating this hoax, they stir up more than they can ever expect when they show their creation to a girl at their school who, unknowingly to them, is sensitive to otherworldly happenings.
The most famous ghost photographs ever taken

As the story progresses (through events I will not spoil for you) we are taken to a paranormal investigation conducted in an old large house in the countryside. This aspect of the book is very reminiscent of Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ and Richard Matheson’s ‘Hell House’ novel and subsequent cinematic adaptations. But despite this familiarity, Will Maclean does mark the proceedings with his own voice and creates a page-turning tale that will evoke nostalgia in many of us Generation Xers but would also likely appeal to young adult readers now as its themes of ghosts, grief, haunted minds, mystery and coming of age are timeless.

The Apparition Phase by Will Maclean
Publisher : William Heinemann (29 Oct. 2020)
Language : English Hardcover : 416 pages
ISBN-10 : 1785152378 ISBN-13 : 978-1785152375

Penguin turns 75

Reviewed by Andy Paciorek

Scarred For Life


Stephen Brotherstone and Dave Lawrence’s Scarred For Life is not simply a book, it is a profound experience for members of Britain’s Generation X. It is a Ghost Train ride down memory lane (children – please do not play on the tracks). It is a bible for those late night drinking nostalgia sessions between siblings and old schoolfriends … “Why was Top Trump’s Godzilla wearing a velvet jacket and dicky bow tie?” … “Who else was in Tucker’s class in Grange Hill?”.
This book is epic and provides much reflection for both Folk Horror Revivalists and Speculative Horror fans of a certain age. It of course covers many of the wyrd favourites of  the era, The Unholy Trinity of folk horror, Children of the Stones, Misty, The Owl Service, Saphire and Steel, Doctor Who, Nigel Kneale’s ouvre, Doomwatch, Phase IV, Pan Books of Horror, 2000AD, Ghost Stories for Christmas and much more besides. In its pages we revisit the trauma of our childhoods via the Public Information Films that remind us to beware of water, matches, farms, fireworks, pylons, strangers and much more besides.
I squealed a little with delight in its reverie of more obscure favourites of mine such as The Clifton House Mystery, Grimly Feendish, Monster Fun and an illustrator who was hugely influential on my own art, though at the time I did not know his name; hopefully through this book Ken Reid will finally get the wider acclaim and recognition he deserves.
There are moments of chills, thrills and raised eyebrows with the revisiting of Backwoods horrors and the Richard Allen Skinhead pulp novels (watch out kids, there is a gang of tooled up boneheads heading for your school!😲 ) and the questionable comedy of such evening treasures as Love Thy Neighbour and The Black & White Minstrel Show, and the star turns of Pan’s People ( <- very folk horror name), Hot Gossip and Legs & Co.
As well as fond memories, in this book I found things which had hidden away in my mind (I Vant to Bite Your Finger, The Green Cross Code Robot …) and things unfamiliar to me (1990, The Guardians).
Flicking through the pages invokes perfume ghosts; wafting to my nostrils were the scents of Dracula and Dalek ice lollies, Bones crisps and via The Sweeney the masculine scent of Brut 33 as another con gets nicked.
For all those Brits who experienced growing up in the 1970’s, Brotherstone and Lawrence have produced a brilliant time machine bound between these covers.
Best viewed from behind the sofa or throught the crystal eyes of Arthur C. Clarke’s mysterious skull.

Available now from ~ Lulu