Thursday, October 28, 2010

Premature Book Review: "The Bishop of Hell & Other Stories" (Marjorie Bowen)

Oddly, though I am an Atheist, I do love a good Satanic story (as long as it does not get too Jesus-y, like To the Devil, a Daughter). This rather thin book is comprised of short Gothic horror and Satanism, starting with the quite interesting The Fair Hair of Ambrosine, a ghost story set after the French Revolution.

While a title like "The Bishop of Hell" would certainly make you think of Satanic horrors, three stories in we have only ghost stories. They are pretty good, mind you. They are somewhere between Poe and Lovecraft, with a bit of a twist. Bowen was apparently and unhappy housewife, and the three stories I have read certainly have the flair of an unloved or unhappy woman. Sadly, the stories are a little easy to figure out. You generally know what will happen in the end, but Bowen does often include a bit of a twist, and her prose is quite nice, for example:

Without replying the woman moved across to the sleeping man and looked down at him with an extraordinary expression of mingled malice and protection, as if she would defend him from any evil save that she chose to deal herself.

One of my favorite things is that, thus far the stories are short. Horror is a lot like porn... a little foreplay is fine, but you really just want everyone to get down to business. When you have about ten pages, you have to make them count, and Bowen does this nicely. The tension in the story builds and then you get the climax, rather than a detour you might get from a longer story of novel. These are stories of a length that you might tell around a campfire, if your memory were sufficient.

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