Book Reviews [two for one] Painted Devils & Dark Entries, Robert Aickman

by Rachel S

I requested this book from another library because at the time it was getting close to Halloween and I was wanting something that was spooky, but not in the straightforward jump-in-your-seat thriller kind of way. I’d had the pleasure of discovering a newer edition of a different volume of Aickman’s work in a WHSmith earlier in the summer (Dark Entries).

Aickman is my absolute favorite horror writer. Someone told me this was because I hadn’t read enough Stephen King, and I’m okay with that because Aickman is way more up my street — I was sad that I hadn’t heard of him until now (his work has been around for years). He approaches the reader through quiet shifts and building paranoia, escalating dread until — in some particularly good stories — it creates an almost constant sense of panic. It’s good his work is mostly in short stories, as far as I can tell, because I physically could not stand that for a longer work. They’re just long enough to freak you out, and even at end they leave you with just enough questions answered (and unanswered) to leave you feeling perturbed.

In a weird way, his approach to the genre is almost like horror’s equivalent to humorous sarcasm. It at once masquerades itself as something else but makes itself obvious in the most hysterical/horrific ways.

In short, the stories are short and accessible, and even though some of the more obscure ones can get very confusing and sometimes more convoluted than one can understand, on the whole the best horror stories I have read. Particularly like “The School Friend” and “Ringing the Changes.” Incidentally, both of these were in both books for some reason (one was probablya compilation of earlier works or something, I couldn’t figure out why). Also–on looking at the reprint again for the publication information, I discovered they did a newer edition of another collection–definitely going on my list.

The Details:

Aickman, Robert. Painted Devils: Strange Stories. Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York. Pub date undetermined — collected stories were published in different places on different dates

Aickman, Robert. Dark Entries. Faber & Faber. New edition published 2014 (original published 1964).