Reggie Oliver is proving to be one of the most prolific, as well as most consistent, of modern British dark fiction and horror writers. His latest collection from Tartarus Press, Flowers of the Sea, includes thirteen stories and two novellas, many “originally written for inclusion in specific anthologies and … therefore, to a certain extent, composed to a brief,” but this needs little apology. As the author says, “none of them, however, was ‘manufactured’ … cobbled together out of sheer ingenuity and the desire to please an editor.” If anything, they show more sustained quality and variety than much of his previous work.
Occasionally, in his past collections such as The Complete Symphonies of Adolf Hitler, Reggie Oliver could be a little flippant and condescending. There is none of that this time round. This isn’t to say that all the stories are equally frightening: ‘The Spooks of Shellborough’ or ‘Waving to the Boats,’ for example, strike me as lesser efforts. But the strongest tales – the title story, for instance, or ‘A Child’s Problem’ – are both very unsettling and highly effective updating of his inspirations in the work of M.R. James and earlier authors. ‘Between Four Yews,’ for instance, retells a classic James story withh the visceral body horror of The Ring, while ‘Didman’s Corner’ has the quiet creepiness of Robert Aickman.
The ebook is produced to the usual meticulous standard of Tartarus Press’s ebooks, with Reggie Oliver’s own illustrations. Recommended.