Podcast Rec – Mysterium Tremendum (Pseudopod)

Continuing my series of recommendations of things I have enjoyed recently, this week’s recommendation is a freebie and comes from the marvellous Pseudopod.

Pseudopod have been around for over ten years and have showcased some of the best short horror fiction around. They have featured stories from Orren Grey, Thomas Ligotti Simon Bestwick and many other brilliant writers. The podcast is presented by Alasdair Stuart.

The episode(s) I am recommending here are the first time Pseudopod have hosted a three-part story. Mysterium Tremendum was written by Laird Barron and featured in his 2010 collection Occultation. It is the story of two couples, Willem and Glenn and Dane and Victor, who go on a camping and hiking holiday in the Pacific Northwest. While they are there, they stumble across The Black Guide, a sinister book that begins to shape their trip from that point on.

I’m always reluctant to give too much away regarding the plot of a story but it has to be said, Barron does a great of establishing not only horror nice and early but his characterisation is superb. He delivers characters that are gay but do not conform to cliche, nor are they used as a mouthpiece for a particular political stance. This take on sexuality is refreshing, and much needed across all genres.

The horror in the story is layered and peeled back slowly. A creeping sense of dread grows with each episode before culminating in a nightmarish final episode. One of Barron’s many strengths as a writer is his skill with description. His work does not shy away from detail, not necessarily gore, but the horrific detail of creatures or situations. Barron gives a full, frank picture of the horrors faced by the characters in this story and dares them (and us) to look away,

The story is narrated by Jon Padgett, a fantastic writer and Ligotti scholar. His narration is both dramatic and accessible. Lending emphasis in the right places and dialing down the drama where necessary to allow the words to speak for themselves. Being a good narrator is a skill (check out the wealth of reviews on Audible slamming audiobook narrators) and Padgett is among the best I’ve heard.

Check out this three-part epic production over at the Pseudopod website.

Book Recommendation – Six Stories

As well as spreading the word about my own writing and publications, I wanted to use this site to discuss books, films, music – whatever I’ve been enjoying lately. They’re not reviews, as such, more a quick run down of what I’ve been reading or listening to so that people who read this site can check them out for themselves.

Seeing as the site is just getting going, I wanted to take the opportunity to get promoting other books as soon as possible. Luckily, I have just finished reading a cracking book so I can get the ball rolling with something memorable.

Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski is a book I saw recommended by the fantastic Alasdair Stuart of Pseudopod fame in a column that he wrote at Tor.com about childhood cruelty and Moors settings. A cheery mix huh? The column is a great read, I’m yet to read Chalk but it’s pretty high on the list.

Six Stories is a tale of murder and teenage bad behaviour, with a sprinkling of the supernatural thrown in for good measure. The story centres around the murder of a teenager, Tom Jeffries in 1997, and those who were either there or associated with him at the time.

I’m a big fan of books that are told in an epistolary style and Six Stories is presented in the form of an ongoing true crime podcast. Each week, the host of the titular Six Stories podcast, Scott King, interviews someone connected with Tom Jeffries and unravels another layer of the mystery around his death.

The skill in Wesolowski’s writing is two-fold. His characterisation is superb, with each podcast guest having their own truly unique voice. The characters in Six Stories are all full realised and have quirks and motives that are believable and logical. Be it, a hidden agenda or overt unrequited love, each interview makes the reader feel a different emotion.

The layering of the story throughout the novel is also exceptional. Each interview reveals details, contradictions and motives that build towards a tense, deserved climax to the story. Whilst not overtly a horror novel, there is a touch of folk horror here. Repeated references to a local myth crop up throughout, and whilst the supernatural element is a minor part of the story, the passages where it features prominently are among the most powerful. A quick browse through Wesoloswski’s back catalogue reveals a love of horror, something that is evident in the strength of his Nana Wrack myth in this book. (Note to self: pick up The Black Land)

The Six Stories series continues with Hydra, another investigation from podcast host Scott King and hopefully there are plans afoot for future installments.

You can find out more about Matt Wesolowski’s work at his author site, his Facebook or on Twitter where he is @concretekraken 

Buy it now – Amazon (UK|US)