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The Harrow, 2005
Reviewed by Dru Pagliassotti
My sister's reaction at seeing these tiny little chapbooks was, "Oh, how cuuuute!" I hadn't expected her to be so enthusiastic - she sees the best and the worst of the books I review here - but something about the 4x3-inch paperbound, ribbon-marked books immediately endeared itself to her. Their covers are bright, with black ink illustrations. The interior paper is a warm cream color, the font slightly antiquated but quite readable. Each one of the chapbooks is an illustrated, reprinted ghost story by Brian J. Showers.
The Old Tailor & The Gaunt Man was one of my favorites in Ash-Tree Press's collection Acquainted with the Night. With illustrations by Meggan Kehrli, this story originated during a stroll through a cemetery in Dublin, according to Showers's afterword, and it is a ghost story in the best Halloween sense: spooky, thoughtful, and warm, the kind of story destined to be anthologized many times.
Tigh an Bhreithimh, illustrated by Duane Spurlock, is a traditional ghost story in which a writer heads to a remote cottage in Western Ireland to finish his novel and finds himself stumbling onto an old village secret. This is a well-crafted tale with a classic feel that avoids spelling everything out for the reader but provides enough hints for the reader to figure out the backstory on his or her own.
The Snow Came Softly Down; or, The Kindness of Ghosts was inspired by William Wordsworth's poem "Lucy Gray," and is also illustrated by Duane Spurlock. This gentle Christmas ghost story follow's one man's nighttime walk through a haunted forest as he strives to get back to his wife and children before Christmas Day. These small volumes would make great stocking stuffers for a ghost-story-loving friend or collector of unusual books. They're both physically and narratively charming.
Dr. Albert Power, 2006
Editor of the Bram Stoker Society Journal 1996-2001
Brian J. Showers's The Snow Came Softly Down is a tale that alternatively chills and charms. Its provenance is a kind of Gothic Never Never Land, definitely the sinister side of that territory. Sub-titled "The Kindness of Ghosts", the realisation of ghostly kindness comes only in the aftermath, so that the aura of the ominous is well sustained throughout. A frightening flight through a lonely forest at night provides a centre-piece as scary as one could wish for. One detects traces of influences as disparate as Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber, Oscar Wilde's "The Happy Prince" and some of the more wistful fables of Nathaniel Hawthorne. In his strong depiction of scenes of terror applied to a sympathetic character one can note a nod to Brian's fellow Wisconsinite, August Derleth. But Brian J. Showers is his own man and absorbs his influences well. This is a well-crafted tale of supernatural terror reminiscent of the style of the golden age of the ghost story.
Jim Rockhill, 2005
in private correspondence
I just read The Snow Came Softly Down, and was touched by it. Very effective melding of Wordsworth, Hodgson, and what seemed to be elements from Middleton's 'On the Brighton Road' and Le Fanu's 'The Child that Went with the Fairies'. The portion in the woods is disturbing and the conclusion brought tears to my eyes. Nice job!
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