Le Fanu Under Fire on the Royal Road of Ash

Yes, for all the horror fans out there it’s our least comprehensible headline yet. Hurrah! There’s a lot going on, and we need to catch up, so here are a few things you might like. We’re enjoying a new South American illustrated project by Matias Zanetti, starting to read Turn to Ash Issue 2 with Jonathan Raab, and updating you on Sheridan Le Fanu. So we’d better get on with it, backwards as usual…

weird fiction explained
weird fiction explained

The Irish Weird

A few days ago we were talking about styles of dark fiction, and drifted across H P Lovecraft, M R James, and the Irish writer Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (see sneerwell and verjuice – the school for weird fiction). As you do. Not long after, Brian J Showers, that erudite owner of Ireland’s most excellent Swan River Press, called in to mention that Jim Rockhill’s essay on Le Fanu and HPL was included in the anthology Reflections in a Glass Darkly. This volume also reproduces M R James’s entire lecture on Le Fanu.


Reflections in a Glass Darkly: Essays on J. Sheridan Le Fanu, by Gary William Crawford (Editor), Jim Rockhill (Editor), Brian J. Showers (Editor) was a Bram Stoker Award nominee –

“In this volume, the first collection of essays about Le Fanu, three distinguished scholars have amassed a wealth of material on every aspect of the author’s life, work, and influence.”

Enthusiasts of early supernatural writers, Le Fanu, and those interested in Le Fanu’s influence on the development of weird and supernatural fiction, can still get hold of a copy here:

reflections in a glass darkly

We strongly recommend browsing Swan River Press’s own back catalogue as well, for it contains many wonders.

swan river press main site

the book…

Our own current read from Swan River is The Dark Return of Time, by R B Russell, which is apparently being filmed right now, with Eric Roberts, Adrian Paul and Matthew Ziff, amongst others.

“Flavian Bennett is trying to leave his troubled past behind when he goes to work in his father’s British bookshop in Paris. Soon after he arrives he witnesses a violent crime in which a mysterious customer, Reginald Hopper, may be implicated. Hopper involves Flavian in his search for The Dark Return of Time, a rare and strange book which he thinks will provide the key to unlock his past.”


...and the film
…and the film

Given our known Jamesian interests, Brian added this:

“…On the topic of Le Fanu and James, did you know that Le Fanu originally coined the phrase “pleasing terror”? You’ll find it in, if memory serves, ‘All in the Dark’.”

Which we didn’t know, having failed to click with the novel in question. All in the Dark (1866) is not one of Le Fanu’s best works, sadly, and was poorly rated by both Lovecraft and James.


MRJ, as we said before, did have some Le Fanu favourites; HPL seems not to have got on well with the Irishman’s work, though may not have read some of his best stuff. James had to confess on this one:

“Weakest of all the novels is All in the Dark – a domestic story with a sham ghost: an offence hard to forgive in any writer but much harder in Le Fanu’s case, seeing that he could deal so magnificently with realness without incurring any more expense.”

Royal Institution of Great Britain, March 16th, 1923

On the plus side for Le Fanu, he wrote many far better works, some of which we should cover here at some point. Given our involvement with Occult Detective Quarterly,  we should especially talk more about his ‘occult detective’, Dr Hesselius.

In the meantime,  why not take a break and listen to his Madam Crowl’s Ghost instead.

Incidentally, ‘A Pleasing Terror’ is also the title of the collection from Ash Tree Press, which includes:

“…all of M. R. James’s writings on the supernatural. In addition to the thirty-three stories from the COLLECTED GHOST STORIES, this volume includes a further three stories, seven story drafts left amongst his papers, all of his introductions and prefaces to his various collections, and his article ‘Stories I Have Tried to Write’. In addition, there are the texts of the twelve medieval ghost stories discovered and published by James, all of his articles about the ghost story, and his various writings on J. Sheridan Le Fanu.”

a pleasing terror

Hello, Caller – Are You Still There?

Turning to something completely different, this week we received an early copy of Issue 2 of Turn to Ash, a new magazine of dark fiction and horror. We mentioned Issues 0 (yes, really) and 1 in our interview with its presiding genius Benjamin Holesapple last Autumn (see the name’s benjamin…). This time it’s a themed issue, with the stories based around callers to Chuck Leek, a radio show host. As the original guidelines said:

“Charles “Chuck” Leek hosts The Late Night Leak – AM radio’s home for conspiracy theorists, monster hunters, spirit mediums, aliens, demons, angels, black-eyed children, shadow people, lizard people, time travelers, and anyone else who may go bump in the very darkest hour of the night. Tonight, Chuck is hosting an open lines show, and he wants his listeners to call in and tell him about their strangest, most terrifying, unexplainable experiences. Broadcasting from WORN 1600 AM in Orion, deep inside the haunted Ohio valley, Chuck wants to hear from YOU!”

Whilst the bulk of the fiction in Turn To Ash 2 follows this device of those who ring in to Leek’s show, the issue is anchored by a somewhat different perspective from Jonathan Raab. Jonathan Raab is the editor-in-chief of Muzzleland Press and the author of The Lesser Swamp Gods of Little Dixie, The Hillbilly Moonshine Massacre, and Flight of the Blue Falcon.

Probably not without relevance, the protagonist of Lesser Swamp Gods is a conspiracy theory radio show host turned county sheriff, Cecil Kotto, who finds himself thrust into the depths of a horrifying occult mystery.


Raab’s contribution here is a story about Chuck Leek which weaves its way through the issue, and provides a neat contrast to the other tales. Here’s what you’ll find within:

Cold Call Part I — Jonathan Raab
The Sun Screams in Retrograde — Rebecca J. Allred
The White Factory — Kurt Fawver
A Room with Two Views — Joanna Michal Hoyt
Lullabies from the Formicary — Betty Rocksteady
Cold Call Part II — Jonathan Raab
Rails — Thomas C. Mavroudis
Midnight in the Desert — Joseph Pastula
Cold Call Part III — Jonathan Raab
All that Moves Us — Evan Dicken
When the Trees Sing — S. L. Edwards
Cold Call Part IV — Jonathan Raab
OGRE — Joseph Bouthiette Jr
The Merger — A.P. Sessler
Death Run — Martin Rose
Cold Call Part V — Jonathan Raab

In addition there’s an interview with the talented Matthew M Bartlett, who we also talked to last Autumn, and some interesting essays on horror, the media and radio. A fine package, basically.

turn to ash store

And Turn to Ash 1 is still available from Amazon:

turn to ash 1 amazon uk

The Royal Road


Finally, we return to one of our favourite places, South America, where as far as weird, dark comics and art stand, you can’t go wrong. Argentina in particular is a hot-bed of talent, and many of our friends such as Diego Arandojo, Sebastian Cabrol and Pablo Burman (to name only a few) have been on greydogtales before.

We often ask if English language editions of their work are available, and that nice chap Matias Zanetti contacted us to say that his new project is indeed on-line and readable either in Spanish or English. So we had to have a look.

Camino Royal, or the Royal Road, is a new comic linked loosely to the Tarot and readings. The first issue offers a speculative, dystopian tale, set in a world where an infection has spread throughout humanity, and the survivors struggle to stop themselves degenerating. There’s something wrong with the water – or is there?

Fear of the Modified outside their walls is rife. One protagonist believes that the Modified may represent a new future; the majority of people want to ignore them or cure them. El Camino Real was the Inca road system’s backbone, as the Spanish colonial powers of South America named it, but here it refers (we think) more to a route or journey of discovery.

As Matias says in his introduction:

“Each episode’s narrative structure, its characters, even the genre they belong to are created through the interpretation of three Major Arcana cards, chosen through fate and guided through our intentions.”

The striking cover is by Hugo Emmanuel Figueroa, and the interior full colour art is by German Genga.

Camino Real 1 is available from Holograma Comics on-line, on the basis that you pay what you think is appropriate. It’s interesting and enjoyable, and we definitely want to know what happens next.

Camino Real #1: Treshold


We’re nearly out of time. Issue 1 of Occult Detective Quarterly is shipping in the next few days, and we need to update you soon on plans for the next few issues.

Not Quite Award Winning

Plus, as there’s a couple of days left, we’ll once again nag you to vote for greydogtales in the Preditors & Editors Awards under Best Review Site. Why should you do such a mad thing? Because little bits of such recognition allow us more access to the cool stuff and cool creators we drag on board. That way everybody wins, so every vote really does count. Click that link for a feel-good moment…

critters web-site awards (open until 14th January)


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