Map of Blue Book Balloon

31 July 2021

#Review - A Pair of Nightjars

Cover photo by Nicholas Royle
Tower Block Ghost Story
TSJ Harling
Nightjar Press, April 2021
Available as: PB, 16pp
Source: Subscription
ISBN: 9781907341533
My Nightjar Press subscription is one of my favourite things I've spent money on recently, providing me with regular short stories told from a variety of viewpoints and across genres, but always beautifully written, sharp and with that sense of haunting the imagination, even after you have finished reading. Here are two that I've read recently.

Doing just what it says on the cover, Tower Block Ghost Story abandons traditional gothic trappings, placing its brilliantly-paced narrative of unease and unrest into a setting of concrete stairwells, urine-smelling lifts and double front door locks.

Here Sade is living with her 'handsome boyfriend' and with fibromyalgia, sometimes only managing to move between the bed ands the sofa. She's alone in the flat most of the time, so she notice things.

Sounds. Items out of place. Sudden draughts.

The supernatural is introduced in a rather matter-of-fact way - from the first sentence - so we know what to expect. But we DON'T know what to expect, as Sade picks away to discover what - or who - is sharing her living space with her. Drawing out the tension from page to page, Harling keeps the reader on the hook almost to the end, delivering a superbly creepy and empathetic glimpse of the supernatural, more disturbing for the contrast with the absolutely mundane - with the real hooks of the horror the link with everyday, not supernatural, evil.
Cover photo by Nicholas Royle

The Elevator
Imogen Reid
Nightjar Press, April 2021
Available as: PB, 11pp
Source: Subscription
ISBN: 9781907341557

The Elevator has a haunting beauty all of its own. Opening with the (never named) narrator entering the elevator of the title, pursued (perhaps) by a staggering man, we feel their need for escape even if not understanding why. 

The escape is a journey illuminated by fluorescent lights, surrounded by metallic surfaces, accompanied hints of blood (whose?) and by that pursuer, who seems to be following the lift on a surrounding spiral staircase. The claustrophobic atmosphere inside gives way to memories of a room which seems the elevator's twin, descriptions, features and memories of one echoing the other.

There is a story here - told in glimpses of memory, the contents of a bag strewn over the floor of the lift, the recollection of an old Bakelite telephone - but it's presented in dreamlike logic, or as a puzzle to be worked over.

Deeply atmospheric, this story seemed poised between noirish atmosphere and a clinging, almost Gothic, atmosphere of horror and entrapment (will the narrator ever get away or do they remain in a loop?) It gave me a lot to think about, but even more to feel.

You can buy Tower Block Ghost Story from Nightjar Press here and The Elevator here.


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