I’ve done a few author overview posts recently. Here’s one on Bernard Taylor’s early books:
Avon Books – 1977 (First published 1976)
The Godsend is a well written book, and I had no desire to put it down once I started it, but I’m not sure that I can say I enjoyed it. It’s horrifying in parts. This is one of those creepy kids books that were so popular 40 years ago.
I’m fine reading about torture and gore and all that stuff, but I find it very difficult to read about children suffering. I read The Voice of the Clown and Childgrave earlier this year, and after reading The Godsend, I’m ready to avoid this kind of book for a while. This one wasn’t quite as nasty as The Voice of the Clown, but it was just as humourless. It’s bleak and upsetting.
A couple end up with a baby they weren’t planning for and very bad things start happening. I don’t want to say much more about the plot because once the story gets going, there’s only one possible outcome. You’ll realise this as you’re reading it too, but the writing is so smooth that you’ll stick around for the descent.
Without ruining the plot, I can say that this is one of those books where the reader is left uncertain about what’s really happening with the events of the story. Is the narrator insane, or is there something genuinely supernatural going on? This is a trickier one to decide than most though. The plot events seem far too weird and severe to be coincidental, but there’s never any explanation offered. Also, the story is narrated by one of the characters living through these awful events, so it’s very likely that his trauma would be influencing his account. At one point the narrator seems to be on the verge of performing at act that no sane person could ever perform. If anyone else has read The Godsend and has thoughts on whether or not something spooky was going on, I’d love to hear from you.
Valancourt Books – 2015 (First published 1977)
I think this might be my favourite book by Taylor. I remember a few months ago, I was thinking about the limitations of different forms of media. Books generally rely on atmosphere for their scares while movies can terrify their audiences with a well timed noise. I didn’t think that books could have the same effect. That was until I read about the protagonist of Sweetheart, Sweetheart sitting alone in a haunted house and suddenly hearing laughter. I’m aware that my description here doesn’t sound scary at all, but imagine how creepy that event could be in a well made horror film. Imagine how good the writing would have to be to make a text version of that scene equally as scary. Well, Bernard Taylor pulls it off. At its heart, this is a traditional ghost story, but let me assure you, this is an exceedingly well told traditional ghost story. This was a great book.
Valancourt Books – 2019 (First published 1980)
I reviewed this a few months ago for another post. I really liked it.
The Moorstone Sickness
Grafton – 1990 (First published 1981)
I thought The Moorstone Sickness was pretty good. I read this a few weeks ago, and I can’t think of much else to say about it now. I read it in a single evening, and I thought it was quite similar to Get Out, the 2017 horror film. Taylor’s book features more occultism and less surgery/social commentary. I liked that movie Get Out right until the very end when it had a surprise happy ending. I don’t have the same complaint about The Moorstone Sickness. Taylor seems to be aware that horror should actually be horrifying.
This is Midnight: Stories
Valancourt Books – 2019 (First published 2017)
This is the only collection of Bernard Taylor’s short fiction. It’s pretty good. I can’t remember where it was, but I once saw Taylor being referred to as a British Stephen King. After reading some of his books, I can see some similarities between the two; they’re both very readable, but the tone of Taylor’s books always seems a bit more serious than King’s. There’s not much humour in Taylor’s novels. I can’t remember any of the stories in This Is Midnight being outright silly, but some of them are certainly more light-hearted than his novels. Ultimately, I reckon Taylor’s novels are better than his short stories, but these are still pretty enjoyable. I like the completeness of this collection too. This guy has been an author for 40+ years, and he’s only written 13 short stories. Although this collection was first published in 2017, I am including it in this post as many of the stories herein are from Taylor’s early days as a writer.
I enjoyed everything I’ve read by Bernard Taylor. On average, it took me a day and a half to finish each his novels, and that had nothing to do with their length. Once I started reading Taylor’s books, I never wanted to put them down. According to wikipedia, he has written 7 more novels that can be classified as Horror/Suspense. I’ve read 5 of his books in the last 4 months, so I’ll probably give him a break for a while, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he shows up here again. I’ll probably avoid the 5 books he wrote under the pseudonym Jess Foley though.
I’m not trying to make fun of Taylor here. Fair play to him for writing these. They just seem… kinda different to the stuff I’ve read by him. Anyone know if they’re good?