There is something in the soil……
The Dark Earth of Albion by Gareth Spark
Plastic Brain Press is a creative and mind expanding enterprise putting out collections of short stories and poetry that dabble on the dark side with a lysergic sense of the surreal. Folk Horror Revival has previously reviewed Richard Daniels’ `Too Dead for Dreaming’ for this blog (also from Plastic Brain Press) and so when the postman delivered The Dark Earth of Albion to my door I knew I had an appointment with hours dreadful and things strange…..
The first thing to say at the start of this review is that rather than read this review you should order a copy of this book and read it for yourself.
The individual stories in this collection of 13 short tales reveal a multitude of characters and nightmare tinged settings from throughout this land’s dark and twisted past, present and maybe even our future. The introduction and unveiling of these various tales and their protagonists is an experience that no book review will ever do justice to.It is these experiences that links these stories together and the disassociated, outsider feel of these tales is as potent as is their link to some mysterious ancient invocation of the earth. Go and buy this book and immerse yourself in Gareth Sparks world.
The tales themselves vary in both length (some being just over a page long), subject matter and setting with Gareth turning his hand to desolate industrial estates, wartime nightclubs, remote coastal villages and muddy woodland clearings telling tales of abduction, apocalyptic survival, ancient rituals, Norse raids, biker gangs and polar bears in Whitby. What carries through all of these short stories and briefly glimpsed vignettes is Gareth’s delightful and delicious use of language. These stories are poetic – they flow with words that don’t just describe – they create, they mould and shape the story deep inside your head and occupy your thoughts.
As the press release states `The Dark Earth of Albion’ is a collection of tales tuned to a strange and savage folk horror frequency. Stories which have crawled from the mud and now stand dripping on your bedroom carpet watching you sleep. Stories that have the power to haunt, like the warning cries of crows on a cold northerly night.’ There are indeed stories here that genuinely chill and unnerve. Stories that begin weaving a dark scene onto which even darker events are played out…..
`Dane Franlkin lived in the far side of the forest close to where the tall, black pines shaved down to the moor as hair shaves down to a skull, He lived in the remains of an old caravan with his sister, Suzanne, who has, over the years, turned more than a little crazy. She’d wander the moors and woods in stone-cold rain and beneath clouds the colour of bruises in a wind that ripped like a flail across bracken and heather.’
After reading this as the start of a story who wouldn’t want to read on and find out what dark twisted paths Gareth is leading us down. And believe me it is very dark and twisted indeed!
Many of these tales exude creepy folk horror vibes and it can be no mere coincidence that Gareth Sparks hails from Whitby – a part of the world that holds up and is itself held up by local legends and folklore. A part of England where every window you look out of and every view you stop and admire is a story in itself – and that is exactly what Gareth has created here. A collection of writings that invite us to see the way he views the world through his window onto Albion’s grey and unpleasant lands. There are no dark and satanic mills here instead you are left with the impression that every mill is dark and satanic – or has the potential to be. The same goes for every cottage, wooded glade, derelict building, rain darkened moor and swollen brook.
As Gareth says `Folk Horror interests…as a response to a banal culture dominated by the vulgar and corrupted by commerce’. In `The Dark Earth of Albion’ he has certainly responded to that in a very powerful and entertaining way. Whilst some tales totally absorb the reader others will unsettle and unnerve but they are all presented with a sense of poetic understanding that is anything but banal.
You can find out more and order you copy of Gareth Spark’s `The Dark Earth of Albion’ from Plastic Brain Press here –
Reviewed for FHR by Jim Peters