This is a copy of my review in the latest issue of Phantasmagoria magazine:
BLOODY BRITAIN by Anna Taborska
Shadow Publishing, UK, 2020
Despite its Grand Guignol title this is a beautiful book, with a magnificent cover by Paul Mudie, marvellously meticulous illustrations by Reggie Oliver for each of the stories, and of course the stories themselves, which are every bit as good as you would expect from film-maker and horror writer Anna Taborska, whose debut collection from Mortbury Press, For Those who Dream Monsters won the Dracula Society’s Children of the Night Award and was nominated for a British Fantasy Award.
In his introduction, Robert Shearman writes: “…God protect me from being a character in an Anna Taborska story: Anything but that. Please.”
Which is more than understandable! Anna takes no prisoners. Or, when she does, they are still made to suffer the tortures of Hell!
Most of the stories in this collection have been published before in a number of prestigious anthologies, from Paul Finch’s Terror Tales series (Terror Tales of the Lake District, Terror Tales of Northwest England, and Terror Tales of London) and the late Charles Black’s Black Book of Horror. Indeed, the book is dedicated to Charles Black, who died last year at far too young an age, and who published Anna’s first collection.
“Teatime”, despite its innocuous title is typical of what is in Bloody Britain. Our “hero” Victor enjoys watching people die and specialises in making sure that when they do they are suffering from their worst nightmares. He is the supreme sadist, who has developed the knack of finding out just what each of his target’s greatest, most terrifying phobia is. In its 38-pages Victor participates in a horrendous spree of blood-curdling cruelty to victims who deserve anything but what befalls them, right up until its savage climax. Sleepless nights are guaranteed after reading this!
I was going to say that the supernatural does not figure largely in these stories, but “Night of the Crone” from Terror Tales of the Lake District belies me. Here we have an ancient evil that a gang of young hooligans inadvertently unleash on themselves, the good, the bad and the downright nasty. And, of course, we have “Cyril’s Mission” with its giant worm: “Its skin was brownish-pink and membranous. Stretched out on the floor, the abomination extended from one end of the crypt to the other. As Cyril stared at it, the beast reared up, its front half towering above him. The priest watched as a gaping maw opened in its featureless snout, exposing a halo of slavering, flesh-coloured tentacles surrounding a set of sharp, lamprey-like teeth…” A more horrifying monster it would be difficult to imagine.
All in all, a satisfyingly varied collection of tales that fully live up to the book’s title!
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