Sunday, March 02, 2003
Over the last few days I've been entertaining myself by reading Ramsey Campbell, Probably, an excellent collection of essays and introductions and oddments by Ramsey Campbell. Ramsey is from Liverpool. He's probably the most disturbing horror writer out there. Let me try that last sentence again: For over thirty years he's been writing some of the most disturbing horror fiction out there. He's also, like most horror writers, cheerful, level-headed and a terrific dinner companion. Ramsey Campbell, Probably is a book for (a) fans of Ramsey's (b) people who want to read interesting and illuminating essays by a working writer about, quite often, the craft, the business and the sheer putting-one-word-after-anotherness of writing as a profession, and/or (c) people who want to read the definitive essay on 1970s and 1980s British spanking films (apparently a whole low-budget genre in itself), or learn the dark truth about Sean Manchester the real-life-Vampire-Hunter (based on Ramsey's hilarious review of both editions of his biography). It's a long book, of the kind you pick up and read an essay in, and then can't find the essay the next time you look, but you discover a terrific polemic about something unexpected and funny, or odd, or disturbing, instead, so don't mind. (It needed an index, I think.)

You can learn more about the book here, at (I'm not sure if it's still in print -- I got my copy at DreamHaven. It wasn't cheap, but it's a fairly limited edition, signed by Ramsey himself, and is a sturdy paperback.)

While some of Ramsey's novels have been terrific, it's the short stories that I've always enjoyed the most, I think because they subtly twist the way you look at the world. After two or three Ramsey short stories you start noticing odd movements out of the corner of your eye, and people and things become ominous and dangerous and dark. I wish some enterprising small press (or even more enterprising mass market) publisher would bring out a complete short stories of Ramsey Campbell, but worry that the strain upon consensus reality would be too much, and that once enough people had read it we'd all suddenly find ourselves living in a ghastly version of Liverpool, in a park where the swings have been vandalised and there's almost incomprehensible graffiti on the walls, and in which an old man in a shabby raincoat is walking towards us very slowly, and we cannot see his face... yet.


And while I'm putting in a plug for DreamHaven, their Neil Gaiman online shop is starting to look rather nice, and in addition to things you can read and listen to, it now has an awful lot of things for sale that I thought were only available for too much money on eBay these days (Death Prayer Candles, Delirium Stuffed toys, posters etc). Check them out at