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The Shelter Paperback – April 10, 2013
The Amazon Book Review
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About the Author
I'm a writer from Nottingham, England- most of what I write is dark, supernatural fiction, although not necessarily 'horror' in the blood and guts sense. My main influences are writers like Ramsey Campbell, Shirley Jackson, and Robert Aickman. I enjoy the unexplained, the psychological, and the ambiguous in my weird fiction.I think a lot of the best such fiction has been done in the short story form (although that's not to say I won't be trying a novel at some point...) I drink Guinness, if anyone's offering.
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The story of The Shelter is related by a thirteen year old Alan Dean who, with his best friend Duncan and two older boys that he knows from school, goes in search of an old air raid shelter that supposedly lies outside of their village. When they get there it's location seems a bit bizarre with the shelter being located in the far corner of a field, the atmosphere changes too with the incessant buzzing of wasps and a feeling of rising anger that threatens to overwhelm the boys themselves.
Driven by excitement and fear, and wondering if this is the resting place of Martin, a local schoolboy whose disappearance has dominated the news reports lately, they open the metal lid that covers the entrance to the shelter. Everything appears normal until a simple prank leaves Alan in a terrifying situation and open to a supernatural event. But did it really happen?
As children we are ready to accept the unknown, and in a state of heightened terror we can imagine any amount of horrors. Yet for all those nights of being too afraid to look under the bed, or in the closet or at that bundle of clothes thrown on the chair that looks like something unimaginable.......... did any harm ever come to us? This then brings doubt and cynicism into the mind of the adult, and the realisation that there never was anything there at all. This is the thought that the older Alan will ponder as he reviews the events of that summer.
The writing style does need some polishing, and the idea itself of using a group of bored children to propel the story along isn't all that original - just read Stephen King and Dan Simmons - but I found that I really liked it because of the memories that it stirred up for me and I almost (almost mind you) felt a pang for a genuine English Summer.
I don't like to talk too much about the plot in my reviews (many a book has been spoiled for me because of reviews like that), but I will say that the story line involves 4 children taking a walk to go check out an old air raid shelter. It is reminiscent of Kings "The Body" or "It" in this way. In fact, the author gives nods to those books in his afterword. James Everington, like King, writes about children very well. You do feel as if you are traveling with them as a part of their group. You might wish you weren't as the story progresses.
I like how the story unfolds and reels you in. It also had an ending that was not quite expected, which I always enjoy. I appreciated how this story focused on more old-school type creeping horror, rather than outright blood and gore.
I enjoy and appreciate this author very much and am looking forward to anything else he may offer in the future.
Not sure if this was a 99p deal or free for a limited period, or who recommended it. Some journalist I am. I know I was already Facebook friends with James prior to reading, and I also know this was my first encounter with his work.
It will not be my last.
The Shelter is a deft exercise in short form storytelling – falling in that twilight zone between short story and novella, the kind of length that you basically never saw outside an anthology or collection, prior to the rise of the e-book.
The story is told in flashback, to a summer holiday and an unhappy bunch of childhood – well, 'friends', I suppose, though it's clear from the outset that there's an unpleasant power dynamic at work. It's one of many superb touches in the story, actually – that awkward teen/pre-teen cusp period when age and perceived maturity or cool factor can lead vulnerable lads to hang out with people they know are not good for them – worse, treat them with contempt.
As the story is told in flashback, some of this is told explicitly, but as much is implied from the way the kids interact, and I felt more than once the twinge of uncomfortable recognition at depicted relationships. I think it takes a real talent to so completely recall childhood with this level of clarity and authenticity, and bring it to life on the page.
The horror elements of the tale are similarly well handled – the title alone gives us sufficient foreshadowing that the impromptu field trip to the abandoned air raid shelter is unlikely to end well. The way the tensions build within the group as the story develops is conveyed smartly, and creates a very effective sense of dread. There's a subtlety to it, and real skill, and I found myself feeling deeply troubled before the kids even reached their destination.
Given the length of the piece, I will discuss the plot no further except to say that it didn't disappoint at all. In fact, I would thoroughly recommend this slice of rural childhood horror to anyone for whom that premise even remotely appeals. It's a first rate story, with vividly realised, achingly real characters, and a superb example of how to handle subtle build tension and horror. Elements of King's IT, but at the same time a distinct UK voice and very much an original tale in it's own right. I don't have much higher praise than that.