Thursday, 8 September 2011

‘Nowhere Hall’ – Cate Gardner (Spectral Press)

Gary McMahon’s ‘What They Hear In The Dark' had me sorely tempted to take up a subscription to Spectral Press’ limited edition chapbook series, it was that good. Unfortunately, my wallet has the deciding vote in such matters and felt compelled to exercise its power of veto on that occasion… I was lucky enough though to have the chance to get my hands on another chapbook from Spectral and I didn’t pass up on the opportunity, even though I’d never read anything of Cate Gardner’s until now.

Having read ‘Nowhere Hall’, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Spectral Press have a keen eye for writers who can tell a very spooky tale in less than thirty pages. Gardner has a novella and short novel on the horizon and if ‘Nowhere Hall’ is anything to go by then I will have to seek them out.

While Ron was contemplating the biggest decision of his life the world moved on without him and left him standing outside a ruined hotel, the Vestibule.
What lies inside won’t answer that one question; instead it will leave him with many more. Ron is about to enter a haunted house like no other…

‘Nowhere Hall’ is a flickering tale that leads you into a haunted house that could either be hiding in plain sight or could just as easily be the last crumbling bastion of a man’s crumbling psyche. It’s a compelling question that Ron has no answer to; we have to take that journey with him if we are going to find out. I’ll tell you now that it’s a journey worth taking, for the sake of the journey itself if not the final destination.

‘Traffic-borne wind gusted. A fist to his stomach urged him back, the wind flapping through layers of starch to wrap Ron’s trousers round his shins. The kerb edge drove its ridge through his soul.’
Right from the start, Gardner reels you in by the simple method of only telling you three quarters of the story. Just enough to get you started but you have to work out that last quarter for yourself and that’s what gradually leads you through the doors of the Vestibule hotel… That’s when things get seriously weird.
Ron has no idea what’s happening and Gardner uses this to make everything that happens even more terrifyingly strange, moving you forward in Ron’s footsteps as he seeks to make sense of his surroundings… and escape.

The hotel itself makes for an unsettling background with its ability to change the rules of a game that only it knows it’s playing. Some of the imagery is perhaps a little too familiar (mannequins in a dusty ballroom) but no less creepy for that.
The answers we are finally given bring into focus that isn’t the one that you were expecting. A picture that perhaps could breathe more easily had the tale been a little longer. I did find myself questioning the likelihood of the ending but, thinking back on it, possibly only because I’d really come to like Ron and wanted better for him. I think he found what he was looking for though.
Full of the kind of familiar yet insidious imagery that gives you weird dreams days after you’ve read the book, ‘Nowhere Hall’ made sure that there was no doubt that I’d finish it off and I’ll be sure to look for Cate Gardner’s name on the shelves in the future. I want to see what she writes next.

Eight and Three Quarters out of Ten

1 comment:

zombie books said...

I love how chapbooks give you an easier way to chance out brand new authors. Thanks for the heads up- will have to look for this one now!