Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Night Music; Nocturnes 2.

"Ah, the music of the night.." and I am not talking Loyd Webber here. I am talking about the second volume of short stories by Irish author John Connolly, a follow up to his previous collection; Nocturnes. One of the very best short story collections I have ever had the pleasure to read, sitting comfortably with any Mr James or Robert Aickamn collection  or..well, you get the picture. I am not comparing writers here or suggesting there is a list of best to worst (the very idea of a list like that is groan inducing to me.) That first collection of stories was so good, by any standard, it was going to be a tough volume to follow up. And yet John Connolly has, knocking the ball right out of the park, to use a baseball metaphor, a sport I know nothing about. Actually, I know nothing about any sports. My brain, what there is off it, is a sport free zone.
              I had read one of the pieces contained within this book before; The Wanderer In Unknown Realms.John Connolly actually gave me a copy of this story himself, in a lovely wee ltd edition which is quite a treasure for me. I was lucky enough to spend some time in his company, with an old friend John Mc Mahon and John's other chum the writer Jeffrey Deaver. Actually very pleasant company despite the dark territory our conversations wandered through. There sometimes exists an inverse ratio between the talent of an artist and his social ease but in John Connolly one such talent mirrors the other. Affable, gregarious and as good a listener as a talker. Equally at home in a fancy resturant or in front of a camp fire, its an Irish storyteller tradition, I suppose. Talking for ones supper.
             The story is expanded upon, part of a longer narrative.; The Fractured Atlas-Five Fragments. The terrible history of a terrible book. Anyone who comes into contact with this evil book finds themselves on the receiving end of a gruesome fate. Innocence is no buffer for the horrors that follow, with truly bad things happening to good people.
              There are thirteen tales in all here. There are stories exploring arcane realms, pushing aside the thin veil that seperates us from them. The dark wilds are always closer than we could ever be comfortable with.
The Caxton Private Lending Library And Book Depository is a stand out tale for me, and the sequel, also contained in this volume.  It felt to me as though MR James and Robert Aickman had collaborated on a modern tale for a Pan or a Fontana anthology , wanting to give something back to the genres that sustained them. Also the personal notes on his inspirations and creative insights  which come at the tali end of the book; I Live Here. I found it pretty gripping stuff, almost conversational but hugely informative.
               This is a wonderful anthology. Go on, make room for it on a book shelf near you.