Tuesday 22 November 2016

David Ludford's A Place of Skulls gets great review on Vault of Evil

Kevin Demant of The Vault of Evil has started an enthusiastic review of David Ludford's collection A Place of Skulls and Other Tales.

Matthias Grünewald

The loss of Gary Fry's consistently rewarding Gray Friar Press earlier this year was a terrible blow, but by God are PUP doing more than their bit to fill the void! Since this time last year the Riley's have launched collections from Kate Farrell, Ezeiyoke Chukwunonso, Adrian Cole, Andrew Darlington, Steve Lockley & Paul Lewis, Richard Stains, Johnny Mains. Most, if not all, have been raved over elsewhere on this supremely popular forum by our resident non-critic (no names, no pack-drill, it was me, etc.), but, happily, several have attracted favourable proper reviews in places like Fear magazine too. And now this, the debut from David Ludford, is off to a most promising start.

A Place Of Skulls: Can a nightmare be inherited across several generations? The people of a certain Eastern European country have long memories where the despised Prince Berezovsky is concerned. The mad monarch, whose role model was evidently Vlad Tepes, will neither be forgotten or forgiven for his excessive cruelty, which is very bad news for his descendant, Janis. The young man suffers the persecution of an ancient witch who may not believe that the sins of the father's father's father's father should be laid upon the children but she'll perform a duty by her people regardless. Welcome, Janis, to the place of skulls!

A sprightly opener, liked it well enough, but little did it prepare me for this next, the very wonderful story of Mr. Skinnybones

Ain't No Grave Can Hold My Body Down: Skinnybones, the last of an ancient race, is weary of his solitude and wonders if he dare risk abducting a woman-human to provide him with children. To do so would require his leaving Donnithorpe woods and entering the town which has not been safe for his kind since the Dark Ages. Decisions, decisions .... the ghoul murders, robs and gnaws on a stranger while he thinks it over.

On taking the plunge, Skinnybones' first port of call is The Fox Inn where he inadvertently chats up Sally Robertson, barmaid-cum-prostitute, and makes an enemy of George Jones, who has recently taken to stalking her. When the pub shuts, a humiliated Jones jumps Skinnybones in the dark, battering him with a baseball bat until certain the cowled freak with the weird teeth won't be getting in anyone's way from now on. Jones disposes of the corpse in his tip of a back garden. The makeshift grave attracts crows, scores of crows, making a racket fit to raise the dead ....

Meanwhile Sally and her formidable big sister Kate decide it's time to put George in his place once and for all ....

Almost Human: As the name suggests, a Humeleon is a half human, half chameleon, the result of covert biological experiments at Larksoken laboratories thirty years ago. When a whistle-blower leaked the story to the press, it brought down a government. But what happened to the children spawned in the lab?

Old timers Chester and Tyler are patrons of Marlon's Cafe. The highlight of their day is when the very lovely young Janine Garvey stops by for a coffee and chat before continuing on her morning jog. Today on removing her track-suit top she briefly exposed something Tyler wishes he'd not seen. A patch of tell-tale reptilian skin on her arm. Unfortunately, Marlon, nosey parker that he is, also caught a glimpse. He's read all about these humeleon scum in the Daily Sentinel who only print the truth and are never further than a phone-call away. Ace reporter Dan Challis agrees that this is too good an opportunity for his quality rag to miss.

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