In the Night In the Dark
by Roger Johnson
Review by Mario Guslandi
MX Publishing Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781780920504
Date: 30 November 2011 List Price $19.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Roger Johnson is a dark fantasy writer…and a chameleon. Ten years ago he published a collection of ghost stories in the tradition of MR James, entitled A Ghostly Crew: Tales of the Endeavour , including fifteen uncanny tales of reincarnation, witchcraft and revenge, featuring demons and other ghastly creatures, revengeful revenants and so on. Three of the stories, "The Scarecrow" where folklore gets a deadly , terrifying aspect, "The Wall-Painting" disclosing the true nature of a sinister saint, and "The Soldier", about a strange army in a very strange church, were selected for a famous Year’s Best anthology. Slightly revised, the tales originally assembled in that early collection constitute now the first section of the present volume.
By contrast, the stories contained in the second section of In the Night In the Dark exhibit a quite different kind of fiction. Instead of the unnerving, eerie quality typical of the classic ghost stories, Johnson provides here a bunch of vivid Lovecraftian pastiches ("Aliah Warden", "The Dreaming City", etc.) as well as a few tales revisiting the themes and the atmosphere related to Robert W Chambers' famous "The King in Yellow", with a little help by Oscar Wilde.
To further prove the eclectic character of Johnson's work, the final section of the book, called "More Things in Heaven and Earth" is a miscellanea of different styles and moods in the field of dark fantasy, such as the adventures of an incompetent ghost hunter and the clever semi-historical reconstruction of the infamous activities of the Bloody Countess, Elisabeth Bathory, depicted in the excellent "Love, Death and the Maiden".
Johnson’s talent as an author of dark fiction is striking and his ability to explore the different shades of the genre are remarkable as shown in this very enjoyable book. It is time for him, however, after paying his tribute to the genre masters, to fully develop his own narrative voice, which is certainly strong enough to tell his own story and sing his own music.