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The Complete Binscombe Tales Omnibus Edition
John Whitbourn
Spark Furnace, 929KB

The Complete Binscombe Tales
John Whitbourn
John Whitbourn has had nine novels published in the UK, USA and Russia since winning the BBC & Victor Gollancz First Fantasy Novel prize with A Dangerous Energy in 1991. Most recently, his published novels include the Downs-Lord trilogy concerning the establishment of empire in an alternative, monster-ridden England, and Frankenstein's Legions, a sequel to Mary Shelley's novel, in which the techniques of creating life from the dead are turned to political ends.

Binscombe Tales Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Mario Guslandi

Apparently a village located in the south-east of England, Binscombe, at least in John Whitbourn's mind, is a place where odd things happen all the time, reality is not only what meets the eye and the supernatural and the paranormal are the bread and butter of everyday life. The living center of the village is the Duke of Argyll, the local pub, where, in the tradition of Arthur C. Clarke's White Hart and Pratt and de Camp's Gavagan Bar, things are discussed and revealed, old traditions are kept alive and odd events take place.

The narrator is Mr Oakley, a newcomer to the village whose ancestors, however, were local people and his guide into the village mysteries is a Mr. Disvan, a peculiar, laconic character who spends most of his time at the pub weaving his nets and just enjoying the booze, whose real identity had been revealed only in a final story "Up from the Cellar," lamentably missing from the current book.

The Binscombe Tales have been appearing in different venues since 1987 and then collected in two limited edition hardcover volumes, now long out-of-print, from Ash-Tree Press in 1998 and 1999.

With the exception of the above mentioned tale, all the remaining twenty-six stories revolving around Binscombe are now available from Spark Furnace Books both in paperback (three volumes) and on Kindle (six separate e-chapbooks or the present Omnibus).

Most of the stories are delightful and very entertaining, told in a tongue-in-cheek fashion by an author endowed with a talent for drawing interesting characters and for spinning good yarns.

The atmosphere is very British and the paranormal aspects depicted with constraint and in a quiet way.

In the various tales we encounter, for instance, haunted cars ("Only One Careful Owner"), an American soldier who knows too much about the findings of an expedition to Mars ("Yankee Go Home"), an impossible woman returning from the grave to harass his husband ("Till Death Do Us Part"), a man continuously shifting from and to another dimension ("Another Place"), strange doings taking place around Christmas time ("It'll All be Over by Christmas") and so on.

My favourite pieces are the excellent "Waiting for a Bus," a kind of Twilight Zone tale explaining how and why a man has disappeared from the village for forty years, the quite enjoyable "All Roads lead to Rome" in which a young archaeologist meets her fate on the site where a Roman grave is unearthed and "Reggie Suntan" the effective portrait of a former Binscombe resident -- now relocated abroad and become a wealthy man -- who returns home to seek advice and help against a supernatural nuisance.

While I strongly recommend this book to any reader fond of quiet, elegant dark fantasy, to better enjoy it, I advise you to savour this collection a little at a time, to avoid getting a bit weary by a certain "sameness" of the atmospheres and of the narrative style in the various stories.

Copyright © 2012 by Mario Guslandi

Mario Guslandi lives in Milan, Italy, and is a long-time fan of dark fiction. His book reviews have appeared on a number of genre websites such as The Alien Online, Infinity Plus, Necropsy, The Agony Column and Horrorwold.

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