Re-Vamp edited by Die Booth and L.C. Hu
Open Re-Vamp at your peril: it is an excellent antidote to the season of too much good will. The woman in black on the cover, with her dress turning into vile creatures, acts as a warning: inside this book things will not be as they seem. There will be twists of the supernatural kind.
First there are vampires. The first,The Tangled Thread by Die Booth is a pitch-perfect 'then and now' story. The idea of a vampire, and what it means to be a vampire ('...I can feel death coursing through my veins. It feels like when you have blood taken, the pull and drag of it...'), is explored in what rapidly becomes a morality tale.
Fallon Parker's story, Beyond the Grave, is set in a traditional vampireland called Dapfen, Swabia. She swiftly evokes a suitably sinister atmosphere with terrifying shrieks and strange disappearances, and the story builds up neatly to a tense culmination of recovered corpses.
Adrian Benson's Apotropaic Proliferation has a wonderful rhythm and opaqueness : 'But I knew you'd survive, I knew what you'd be, And I knew that I'd come back to claim you for me' and tells the story of two star-crossed lovers with a difference in 'his' and 'her' stanzas.
Lump by L.C. Hu is set in modern-day USA. It is a convincing and expertly written story with an ominous ending. The way in which the tension slowly builds is particularly well done, and the ending is unexpected too: the 'and it was all a dream' has a new twist.
Deidre Murphy's Sometimes They Do is whimsical 'drabble' (a story in exactly 100 words).
The section on ghosts begins with Tammy Lee's Ghost of a Smile is about a ghost that likes things 'just so'. It is an unusual ghost story for many reasons, and I especially liked the way it gradually drew me in and somehow contrived to remain light-hearted throughout.
David Hill's The Twelve O'Clock Man is a memorable and charming story about love in later life, and like 'Ghost of a Smile', left me feeling happy.
Retrospectre is another from Die Booth, and has her characteristic deft touch: 'Out of the corner of my eye I saw Rosie cram a whole Bakewell tart into her greedy, gob, thinking we didn't notice...'. This is a completely believable ghost story brought alive by some great characterisation.
Fragments from Ghost Apocrypha #1 by Adrian Benson was another very original story, extremely well written, and based on the concept of a 'bedhanger' - 'a nocturnal disloacted wisp of spirit'. Either an 'emissary of the future coming of a more mature ghost' or 'a type of residue.' The writing is incredibly vivid and imaginative.
J.T. Wilson's Ghostwalk is a clever story based on a modern-day sight-seeing tour. There is an immensely satisfying twist.
The Unseen is another example of L.C. Hu's assured writing. It is a beautifully told story about the relationship between an invalided woman and a child.
The End of the Line by Tessa J Brown is a terrifying ghost story thriller. The tension never lets up.
Milla Galea's Love Never Dies is a story about loss, and the danger incurred when dreams come true. It is sensitively told.
Claudia Glazzard introduces the werewolf section with a very good haiku, while L.C Hu's The Natural Beast tells of an attempt to harness the change into beast for a murderer's own ends - with a surprising result.
In the next story: Dogged by Die Booth is a new take on the idea of the werewolf bite as the agent causing transformation; while John Ivor Jones's 'Once We Were Gods offers an intriguing quasi-religious explanation for the legend.
Tessa J Brown's Family is from the point of view of the werewolf, who knows that the change is imminent, and his attempts to ensure his potential victims keep their distance. An unusual take, and very effective.
M Harley's Grey and White and Red ends the selection with another exploration of how it feels to be a werewolf. It is lyrical and imaginative.
Zombies are the next creatures in this supernatural menagerie. The first story of the set, Escape by Tessa J Brown, is a gripping story that takes place in a biodome and reminded me of Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake.
Found by Die Booth owes much to W. W. Jacob's The Monkey's Paw, and evokes the same claustrophobic atmosphere and dread.
Flowers in the Snow by Tammy Lee is a great little Sci-Fi story about and advancing disease, while Mr Zombie by L.C. Hu is a quirkily-told tale about John Rivera who is, allegedly, a zombie.
But They Love Me by Die Booth is a very well written story about a rock star; there is more than one way of becoming a zombie.
The penultimate section, on Serial Killers, is particularly strong. Michéle Rimmer's The Maggot about a bad smell is satisfyingly disgusting and very well structured; while Die Booth's The Fourth Ape is superb. It concerns a collector of animal specimens and says a lot in a clever and subtle way. J.T. Wilson's A Place for a Girl with Hair Slide convincingly captures the voice of a teenager who makes some gruesome discoveries, while this section is finished off by L.C. Hu's All Better, which features one of my favourites: the sinister child. This is expertly told, a great story.
The book finishes with a graphic story, Case US-0-59 by Triska and Vivian, an enigmatic series which is very well done. There is more art work between the sections, which I thought much enhanced the book; as did Susan Price's introduction. She finishes with 'I love Re-Vamp too. I dip in and out of it, reading story here and there, and always find good ones...' Several of the authors are in Chester Writers. They are at all stages of their writing careers, and each has produced an accomplished piece of writing in Re-Vamp. I am proud to know each one of them. Congratulations to Die Booth and L.C. Hu on producing a fine anthology. -->