The Other Side of the Mirror by Alan David Price
(Citron Press, £7.99, paperback 226 pages; published 1999.)
A collection of metaphorical vampire stories would not automatically be my cup of tea so I approached this book with an element of trepidation. Citron Press is something of an avant-garde independent publisher and although their production values shriek class, I've found that these enterprises usually favour style over content. With Citron Press, this does not appear to be the case.
Alan David Price has taken on the task of revisiting the jaded vampire myth with some interesting results. There is much enthusiastic justification of this in Ramsey Campbell's blokish introduction and also in the accompanying press releases, but there is something genuinely different at play here. With a few exceptions, Price's vampires are not Hammer bloodsuckers, but the vampires of power abuse and the 'vampirism' of jealousy and greed.
There are 18 stories in the collection, too many to itemise, but my favourites by far are two linked ones, "Blood Libel" and "Sybilmeet and Retreata", both set in German concentration camps. While they may not be as 'controversial' as the writer may have hoped, they are very good, in particular the latter story where the proximity of Jewish children awakens unknown storytelling abilities in the Nazi guards. Price writes this extremely well and I could easily imagine a novel-length piece of work in this genre.
The closest comparison I can make to Price is Iain Sinclair, in that the trappings of genre, be it fantasy or horror, are used but swiftly discarded, with little or no attempt to work within their defined boundaries. This makes for fresh and distinctive fiction. Recommended for those with open minds searching for something a little different.
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© Noel K Hannan 13 May 2000