Friday, July 29, 2016

New Nightjars: Campbell and Burns

Through my door not so long ago: the latest beautifully produced chapbooks of individual stories from Nicholas Royle's Nightjar imprint - stories by Neil Campbell and Christopher Burns that fulfil perfectly Nightjar's concern with the uncanny and the macabre, each unsettling in both subtle and shocking ways.

Neil Campbell's Jackdaws is drenched with unease as the first-person narrator describes walking in the Derbyshire hills around his home - first in snow, then in summer - and the effects of the weather, snow and floods, on the row of houses in which he lives. The descriptions are stunning, but there is something deeply unsettling about these sequences - about the fact that we know so little about the narrator himself, about the obsessive nature of his descriptions (we could draw a map from them). And why is this all we are getting - descriptions of walks and weather and no story? When the denouement comes, it comes as a real jolt, and we understand the very shocking story that has been running underneath all along. Masterful.

Christopher Burns' story opens in a similar manner, with a protagonist walking in an atmospheric dawn. This time our sense of foreboding comes too from the protagonist's own unease as he approaches the farmhouse from which he feels he has been more or less disinherited. However, when the moment of shock arrives here, it is again entirely unexpected and at this moment Burns executes a clever narrative switch which lends a dynamism and true horror to the events that then rapidly unfold.

The covers of both volumes are aptly illustrated by details from two of the stunningly atmospheric landscapes of Manchester artist Jen Orpin.

Don't forget: these are limited signed editions, and they soon sell out! You can order them here.

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