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Pendragon paperback £6.99
review by Sean Parker
At 116 pages, is this a novella? A short novel? It matters not. However it may be classed, it gave me the creeps. Gary McMahon is a regular contributor to small press genre magazines. His stories are generally fairly downbeat, showing little hope for the characters unfortunate enough to inhabit them. This, his first longer work, whilst a straight-forward horror thriller, is also shaped by the same worldview.
It tells the story of Jude St Clair's search for lost film footage featuring his now deceased mother, a former horror picture starlet, and her lover (and director) Derrick Reef, also deceased. The search eventually leads to Daleside, a long-abandoned asylum, where Jude confronts the secrets and horrors that lurk within.
The writing is bleak and the descriptive passages set the scenes very effectively. One thing this book doesn't lack is atmosphere. The pace of the plot gives it a feel of one of the films that it is, in part, a homage to. Barely a word is wasted. This could account for one or two tiny creaks in the plot, although this may just be down to me being terribly picky. Anyway, the sheer momentum carries the story forward to its life-changing (for Jude) conclusion without a hitch.
This is a very assured work by a writer who knows the effect he wants to achieve, and does so. An impressive first venture beyond the world of short fiction, I'm guessing that this will only be the beginning, and I'm sure his future work will be even better.
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