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Fables And Fabrications
Jan Edwards
Penkhull paperback £9.99

review by Andrew Darlington

You'll be drawn to this book - in her words, like a hungry she-bear scenting tethered sheep. Announced as '14 tales of mystery, mirth and the macabre' this is not the grind-core slasher-horror of gut-wrenching torture-porn, more the luring strangeness of some lost golden age. Journo Ellie finds herself in the 'tinted gloom' of Finnmark's Midnight Twilight reporting on the melting icecap, and researching into the Fortean X-Filed 'Sasquatch of the Arctic' and finds - maybe trolls, maybe something more Frankensteinian.

Elsewhere there are stories that recall the frisson of Herbert Van Thal's Pan Book Of Horror Stories paperback series, or TV's Hammer House Of Horrors. Drawing Down The Moon is a world in which cat-sitter Kara is beguiled by the pre-Raphaelite curls of a flea-market trader into buying a bronze statuette, and a book of spells called 'Magic For The Solitary' which has a weight-loss incantation and one that changes her eye-colour to a seductive violet. And there's Dennis Wheatleyish necromantic darkness when one-eyed Cinthia, who runs a Greek-themed Canvey Island greasy cafe, summons the power of re-animation rituals that lie in her eternal memory and on her tongue. But, as such tradition informs us, those who seek to exploit demonic forces pay a grotesque price.

Grey Magic For Cat Lovers has a rich playfulness where a dire undynamic-duo of cats called Bug and Tug stalk and weave their way through the pages, unlike the more demonic Chomi in the Pet Therapy hospice, who anticipates impending death. Mayday Comes Askew is a gossipy soap-opera of the gods, with a glance at a Thomas Burnett Swann with GSOH. For Norse and Greek mythology happily frolics together, while Thirteenth Day is mystic folklore based on a Scottish carol riven with symbols and portents, to which Winter Eve adds visceral Samhain strangeness.

Even among the occasional poems, there's a sour feminist response to Ovid's sensual love odes. Not that she doesn't do diverse… because she does. While Green Tea revolved around lethally-feuding sisters, Damnation Seize My Soul takes a revenge-quest through time, 'washed through eons' from the barbarian past into the space-faring far future. While readably light 'comic tale' Princess Born and Jack Jumps Out Of The Box are twisted 'folktales, myths and legends' without Angela Carter's dark undertow.

Born in Sussex, Jan Edwards now lives on Staffordshire moorlands where she edits various Alchemy Press anthologies, as well as the Wicked Women (Fox Spirit Books, 2014) collection. Following her well-received Insinuation Of Shadows, Leinster Gardens And Other Subtleties (Alchemy Press, 2015). the stories in Fables And Fabrications are "chosen from her back-catalogue of horror and dark fantasy," the oldest - The Abused And Him dating its tangible fear of sibling abuse back to Visionary Tongue #6 (1996), and the brief A Taster Of Culture from the Mammoth Book Of Dracula (1997), with its epicurean vampire repelled by vegetarian health-food fads. You'll be drawn to this book - in her words, like snails to discarded lettuce. Accept her ink and invitation.

Fables And Fabrications by Jan Edwards

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