(Earthling Publications, $35/$175, 89 pages, numbered hardcover/lettered
Exorcising Angels is a collaborative collection, or a two-author
anthology (just wait for those executive decisions to be made by awards
administrators), in which two British horror writers pay tribute to
their mutual influence, Arthur Machen. The bulk of this chapbook is
taken up by the 20,000-word collaborative novella of the title, plus
one solo short story each. Lebbon contributes a foreword and Clark an
On 29 September 1914, the London Evening News published a short
story, "The Bowmen" by Arthur Machen. In the story, ghostly archers
from the Battle of Agincourt appeared on the battlefield during the
First World War and routed the enemy. The story was fiction without
a doubt, though many people took it as fact, and the legend of the Angel
of Mons springs from this source. Clark and Lebbon's novella "Exorcising
Angels" imagines a meeting between a Great War veteran and an elderly
Machen during the London Blitz of World War II. The soldier claims to
have seen in reality what Machen wrote as fiction... This story does
hold the interest over its length, but somehow there's an arm's-length
feel to it: I suspect Machen buffs might get more out of it than Machen
novices. It did suffer for me in being read fairly soon after Graham
Joyce's "The Coventry Boy" (which forms part of his novel The Facts
of Life) which is a far more vivid depiction of a wartime air raid.
The two solo stories, "Skins" by Lebbon and "A Bridge to Everywhere"
by Clark, are capable, but neither of them is their author's best work.
Both take on the Machen theme of a man being granted a glimpse of something
else, something underlying the quotidian world, but both stories
give that hard-to-define sense of lacking that vital spark.
This short book, with a colour dustjacket by Edward Miller, is undoubtedly
a collectable for Clark and Lebbon's many fans, and will certainly be
of interest to Machen aficionados. It's less likely to attract the unconverted,
Review by Gary Couzens.