Book Rec – The Fisherman by John Langan

It’s been a little while since I updated this site, largely due to holidays but because I’ve been busy with editing my novel and writing a few short stories.

Today’s recommendation is the The Fisherman by John Langan. Yes, this book is unlikely to be a new find to anyone already involved in the horror community. It has won a Bram Stoker Award as well as being named This Is Horror Novel of the Year in 2016. However, sometimes a book is just so good that you need to tell people about it, even if those people have already heard about it.

The truth is, I’ve owned this book for a while and have been very excited about reading it. We (future wife and beautiful daughter) recently went away to Cornwall on holiday which featured a week of lazing around, seeing sights and stealing reading time. I’d been saving The Fisherman for just such an occasion. A chance to sit (lie down) and relax and appreciate some words. I’m glad I waited.

The Fisherman is firmly entrenched as one of the best books I’ve read. Everything about this spoke to me. I’d previously read a few of John’s short stories and been impressed by his work. This book has made me want to track down the rest and read them immediately.

The Fisherman is the story of two widowers, Abe and Dan, who bond over grief, work and a love of fishing. However, when they decide to seek out the infamous Dutchman’s Creek in the New York State area they live in, things take a turn for the sinister.

The real skill shown in The Fisherman is not only the awe-inspiring horror that Langan produces, which includes some epic Lovecraftian moments. Or the account of the creation of reservoir in the middle of the book that showcases a couple of genuinely scary moments. But the true highlight of the book is its central relationship between the two men. Langan’s portrayal of their grief and their slowly flourishing friendship is incredibly touching, as is the description of Abe’s brief but fateful marriage. Grieving and its psychological impact has long been a wealthy mine for horror writers but Langan never cheapens this emotion  or uses it in a way that undermines the characters for shock value.

There is a poetry to Langan’s prose throughout the book. He has a subtle, colloquial way of writing that feels as though someone you have known a long time is telling you a story. The Fisherman is a staggering achievement, one that all horror readers (and writers) should devour immediately. I’m sure most have, but if like me, you have this one on the shelf unread, correct your error today. It’s amazing.

Get the book straight from the source at the Word Horde website.


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.