Posts Tagged ‘Alison Littlewood’

THE HIDDEN PEOPLE by Alison Littlewood

May 17, 2017 - 6:35 pm No Comments

THE HIDDEN PEOPLE by Alison Littlewood

Jo Fletcher Books / 384 pgs / £14.99 hardback / ISBN 978-1848669901

Reviewed by Carol Goodwin

We like to think we live in a rational world, but irrational beliefs still lie close to the surface. Animal shelters that can’t re-home black cats as people consider them “unlucky” and the recent hysterical reaction to “scary clowns” are only a couple of examples. The horrific consequences of one such belief is the central theme of this novel.

In the middle of the 19th century, a young man leaves behind his comfortable life in the city to see to the affairs of his pretty young cousin. She has been killed in a dreadful way by her husband who apparently believed she was a fairy changeling. (This central incident and the inspiration for the novel is based upon a real event). Feeling that his family have neglected his poorer relation, and with an unrecognised romantic fixation with her, the protagonist wants to understand and uncover the events and reasons which led to her death. When he arrives in the small rural village where she lived, he finds an almost universal belief in the existence of changelings, the Fairy folk and their interference in the lives of people who attract their attention.

When he moves into her “unlucky” cottage, halfway up the fairy hill, he finds himself drawn into this miasma of superstition. What seems easy to believe in the city, bounded by iron railways and modern machines is much harder to hold onto in the “endless summer” of the village. When he is joined by his young, newly pregnant wife, the stage is set for another tragedy as he also struggles to understand her apparently “changed” behaviour in this new environment.

This is a wonderfully atmospheric novel. There is an excellent attention to detail in this book. The careful consideration that has been paid to the vocabulary and style of the prose, so that it is appropriate to the Victorian setting, yet still being eminently readable is exceptional. There was an added verisimilitude to me in that many of the old superstitions were reminiscent of those some of my older relatives held – eg not wearing green because it was the fairies’ colour, or not walking through a fairy ring. The contrast between the new rational, industrial world of the city and the older, unchanged and superstitious countryside is well done without being heavy-handed. The author keeps the narrator, and the reader reeling (like the Fairy dancing road in the book) between whether to believe the superstitious or the more mundane and rational explanations of his cousin’s death. As he digs deeper into village life and the circumstances surrounding his cousin’s death, the story builds to a climax, and the true cleverness of this story becomes more apparent. The reader becomes more and more intrigued as to who the actual hidden people are? Do the fairies exist or does the belief both engender and conceal more human motives and wickedness?

When I started this novel, I expected a fairly straightforward dark fantasy but the book has far more depth to it than that. I loved the difficult balancing act that the author credibly maintains throughout the book and the complexities of character in the narrator and his wife in particular. It is not a gruesome horror book, apart from one somewhat graphic but justifiable scene at the beginning so would suit many who like intelligent, well-written fiction with some fantasy elements. CG

(Review copy kindly donated by Jo Fletcher Books)

The Hyde Hotel: An Anthology of short stories

September 17, 2016 - 10:42 am No Comments

The Hyde Hotel:  Authors: James Everington, Alison Littlewood, Iain Rowan, Dan Howarth, Amelia Mangan, S P Miskowski, Ray Cluley, Alex Davis, Cate Gardner, Simon Bestwick

Published by Black Shuck Books on 5th January 2016

168 pages

Reviewed by Yvonne Davies

28483441An anthology of short stories all set at the Hyde Hotel. A hotel that attracts guests at their worst point in their lives, be it a guest who is fleeing domestic violence to a hitman on another job. Each guest has their own story to tell and they all have different experiences when they stay at the Hyde Hotel.

I enjoyed every story, and each one had something different to offer. If you are a lover of Horror, Paranormal, mystery, suspense then you will find a story to read.

My favourites were Wrath of the Deep, I liked the fact that modern met the past, a dirty cop had to retrieve an ancient relic to escape capture, but some decisions are not easy to make. Tick box mainly due to the unexpected ending and Something like Blood, the way the story is told you can really imagine what is going on in the hotel room. To wrap the book up Checking out finalizes your stay at the hotel.

This a great read and the stories let my imagination go wild. Definitely a 5-star rating on the book, but if I had to rate the hotel on trip adviser, would it be a place that I would like to visit, I don’t think so

 

 

Alison Littlewood Double Bill

December 4, 2015 - 4:25 pm 2 Comments

I love Alison Littlewood’s work, and rated A Cold Season back in 2013 as one of my top books of the year, so when I heard she had two books coming out this autumn, I just had to take the opportunity to interview her and review both of those books. The first, is her instalment in the successful and innovative Stephen Jones’ creation, the Zombie Apocalypse series, whilst the second book is the eagerly awaited sequel to that 2013 Judy and Richard book club selection, A Cold Silence. So, firstly, here are my thoughts on these books followed by an interview with the supreme lady of horror herself.

Zombie Apocalypse: Acapulcalypse Now
Author: Alison Littlewood
Publisher: Robinson
Release date: 29th Oct 2015
Page count: 309pp
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

B

Going loco down in Acapulco as the zombies rise! Yes, prepare for fun and zombie goodness as Littewood brings the franchise to Mexico… Where the Hotel Baktun, shaped like a Mayan pyramid, is getting ready for its grand opening. Waiter Iktan, or Mick, as his badge says spots a stranger milling through the workmen and other crowds, whilst Celeste, wife of singer Colton Creed, has just arrived at the hotel with rich socialite Louisiana, from Leicester. Stacy Keenan arrives at the resort to run security. She was supposed to be running security for the New Festival of Britain, until her boss Moreby, distant descendant of All Hallows’ Thomas Moreby, drags her to Mexico.
When we get there, that’s when the fun really begins as a Russian luxury liner can’t let its passengers onto the island due to a food poisinong outbreak, bringing sickness to the island as some of the Russian tourists just don’t know how to stay down.
Littlewood has expertly captured the vibe, religion, culture and atmosphere of Mexico in this novel, including that of the criminal underworld, which makes an appearance. The Mayan ruins and artifacts also add a sense of Hammer-esque mystery to the book, almost a Vodoun or Egyptian vibe. The novel is interspersed with a selection of excellent and grim ‘photos’ depicting the events in the book, however, as usual it is Joe Robert’s vibrant, gruesome and fun cover art that stands out. Every cover he’s done throughout the entire series is marvellous.
When the zombie – cross that – HRV (Human Reanimation Virus) carnage kicks off, guests and staff split off into factions fighting for survival and the blood, gore, humour and action is gloriously OTT. The chapters are written in multiple points of view, which are instantly recognisable from each other; Stacy, security expert, Mick the waiter, Francisco the criminal, Ethan the teenager, adding the kind of tension and variety experienced in such cinematic classics as The Poseidon Adventure. The dichotomy of a sun-laden resort and the palpable fear and bloodshed works really well, and is emphasised by Francisco’s thoughts; “He had heard pain like that before, but here, in this open, shining place, he could not take it in.”
As the diverse groups try to escape or find out what’s happening, relationships are formed, unexpected bonds are made and the character yet interaction is fulfilling for the readEr
The short chapters, with varying narrators adds pace and tension to the novel, which increases throughout the last quarter.
For those specifically after zombie goodness, there is plenty of gore here, noses, hands, cheeks, lips, stomachs; all sorts of flesh being ripped apart. The lead up to the ending escalates the violence rapidly leading to a very satisfying conclusion. Great fun, with a hint of more to come.

Next up is, drumroll:

A Cold Silence
Author: Alison Littlewood
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Release date: 3rd September 2015
Page Count: 368pp
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

Different in tone from the Zombie Apocalypse novel, A Cold Silence, the sequel to A Cold Season, is creepy from the start. It is a cold, winter night and Ben is walking home towards his Mum’s, convinced there are footsteps following him.
Ben had never been able to leave his mother alone for long, not like his sister Gaila. All day long his mother Cass would paint, stark wintry landscapes and snowy hills. Ben hated the snow, though he didn’t know why. When a friend dies in their old home of Darnshaw, Cass is desperate that Ben stay away from the town. But sure his Mum won’t find out, he heads to Darnshaw for the funeral.
Atmospheric and lyrical, A Cold Silence carries on with the story of young Ben, now an adult, who can’t remember what happened to him as a boy. His return to his old home following Jessica’s death is a journey for him, and there is a new evil lurking.
In every way, Littlewood delivers in this book, though I am loathe to give too much away, so this will be a short one. Suffice to say it’s a gripping book and I envisGe awards in its future. Bravo.

1) Tell my readers a bit about yourself

Well I’ve been writing short stories for years now, so I’ve been hovering around the indie presses for some time. In 2012 my first novel, A Cold Season, was published by Jo Fletcher Books and got picked up for the Richard and Judy Book Club, which surprised no one more than me! Since then I’ve kept on writing novels and short stories, and am loving it.

On a personal level, I was born and bred in Yorkshire, and still live there with my other half, Fergus, in a very old house with suitably creaking doors and crooked walls. We also have a mad dalmatian called Dexter who keeps me busy (and gets me out of the house, which is no bad thing).

2) You’ve joined the Stephen Jones Zombie Apocalypse series. How did the shared world process work?

I’d already produced a short story for Steve for Zombie Apocalypse! Endgame, one of the mosaic novels. So when he asked me if I’d like to write a whole zombie novel set in Mexico, I already knew it would be a lot of fun. I didn’t find the shared world too onerous, as the series is essentially set in our world; it was simply a case of matching up events in the zombie invasion, and occasionally touching on what established characters were doing. Steve made some suggestions in that regard, while I came up with others after a close read-through of the other books in the series.

So the process really offered massive possibilities rather than limitations! As an example, many of the zombies are the shambling variety you’d expect, but there are others who are more intelligent and provide an organising factor. And I had lots of freedom to create my own characters and scenes. Since it was set in Mexico, I’ve added onto the ZA! scenario by combining it with Mayan mythology and ancient gods. There was such huge scope in that, waiting to be tapped into.

I had a whale of a time writing the book. I’d never have thought of writing a zombie novel, but particularly combined with the Mexican setting, it just offered massive potential for scares, laughs, and indeed heart-rending moments. The first draft was pretty quick to produce – I usually hit a wall partway through writing a book, but it just didn’t happen this time round. It was even more fun that I’d expected.

3) A Cold Season got rave reviews and put you on the genre map, what inspired you to return to that world in A Cold Silence?

It was never my intention to write a sequel to A Cold Season, but after it came out, readers started to ask what happened next! It did finish in quite an open-ended way, but it wasn’t until people asked that I began to wonder myself. The problem was, of course, that I didn’t really know, and I didn’t feel I could write a sequel until I had an idea that was big enough to carry a whole other book. I’ve never written anything for the sake of it – I have to get my head and my heart engaged first, or I just wouldn’t see the point.

It took a few years, but eventually I hit on the idea of Acheron, the impossible computer game in A Cold Silence. The first book is about deals with the devil. How much easier would it be, if Faustian pact began to insinuate themselves into technology? And so Acheron puts the player into different scenarios, offering them whatever they desire, but there is a price to pay . . . one unique to each individual.

The novel is set some years after the first book. It’s essentially about the young boy, Ben, when he’s grown up, playing out the consequences of his seriously messed-up childhood. I guess that might disappoint some people, but I always knew, if I did a sequel, it would become his story; the tale has moved on, as I’ve moved on as a writer. Cass is still a presence, however, and each of the main characters has some part to play and a suitable ending to discover. I hopefully got there in the end, and did them justice, though of course that will be for readers to decide!

The Unquiet House

September 4, 2014 - 2:28 pm No Comments

The Unquiet House
Author: Alison Littlewood
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Size/Page Count: 304pp
Release Date: 10 April 2014
Reviewer: Jason Kelly
Jason Kelly is an avid horror fan and prolific reader, of all genres, however, he particularly likes horror and crime. Jason has willingly taken on the task of reading horror for Terror Tree whilst Theresa is indisposed.

Alison Littlewood appeared on the horror scene in 2012 with A Cold Season (Ed – reviewed on this site). This was a first rate debut novel. That was followed by A Path of Needles. This book promised to deliver the goods and it sure as hell delivered the goods. This year we have just received The Unquiet House. This is by far Mrs Littlewood’s best book to date. This is much faster paced and creepier than the first two books. She has also to go back in time for various parts of this book.
The book starts with Emma Dean moving into a house that has been left to her by a family member that she has never met. Not long after the moving in the grandson of the former owner appears on the scene. Then we get lots of creepy happenings going on. I won’t say what happens, but believe me things start to get scary for the reader and for the main character. I would also like to say that the book is tense and creepy right from page one
In the second part of the book we jump back in time to 1973. Here we meet Frank, Sam and Mossy. We also see a bit more of the owner of Mire House. We get lots of strange happenings in this book. I think this part of the book is the creepiest part in all. We also get to see a certain person appearing at a window. Towards the end of the book an horrific crime is committed. The crime affects everybody that is involved with it, this even includes the victims
In part three of the book we go even further back in time. This part is set in 1939. In this section of the book we get to meet characters such as Aggie, Will, Mrs Hollingworth & Eddie. This section of the book is just as creepy as the first two parts. We have lots of mysterious goings on and other things that will make you jump. As with part two we have something nasty appear towards the end of this section.
In part four of the book we jump back into 2013. We meet up with Emma & Charlie again. Mysterious things are still happening in Mire House. But as we get near the end of the book everything gets revealed in a satisfying conclusion. The strings get slowly pulled together.
I personally would class this book as a ghost story rather than an outright horror novel. I also believe that with this book Alison Littlewood is moving into Ramsey Campbell territory.

4/5 stars

Path of Needles

June 3, 2013 - 12:43 am No Comments

Path of Needles
Author: Alison Littlewood
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Page count: 394pp
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

The new year begins for literature teacher Alice Hyland in April, as the blossom begins to bloom and she sees a fairy tale Blue Bird in her garden, which leaves her a feather on her windowsill. Alice is an expert in fairy tales and seems to live her life ensconced in one, which is why young PC Cate Corbin calls on her expertise when she sees something unusual in a crime scene.
Young Chrissie Farrell is young and beautiful, and on the evening of her being crowned Queen of the Dance, she is abducted and brutally murdered, her body left posed in such a way as to suggest to Cate, that the victim is Snow White. But this is only the first death in what will become a series of murders where expert Alice becomes both consultant and suspect.
Like the original fairy tales themselves, this novel is grim, dark and disturbing. And also rather gruesome!
Littlewood’s knowledge of the origins of fairy tales is well researched and incredibly accurate, adding to the plausibility of the plot. The imagery throughout the novel is striking and vivid, evocative and brutal. Alice and Cate’s relationship is complex and believable as is the police procedural stuff.
With Littlewood’s first novel A Cold Season, she scared and astounded her reader. Many may have asked, can she do it again? Have no doubt, Littlewood’s literary vision is stunning and she has only just started. I can’t wait to see what she does next.