Ramsey Campbell― Holes for Faces
Dark Regions Press, USA, 2013
British author Ramsey Campbell shouldn’t need a word of introduction anymore. Not anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, the Romanian reader is still in waiting to meet with his works — a thing hard to understand considering that any editorial bet placed on Campbell is a winner by default. His name is synonymous with horror literature as much as Stephen King’s is. In some ways, quite a few, actually, even more.
Born in Liverpool in 1946, Ramsey Campbell makes his editorial debut in the mid-60s with a short story collection (The Inhabitant of the Lake and Less Welcome Tenants, Arkham House). Passionate about H.P. Lovecraft as he was, his debuted stands under the Providence author’s star. For that matter, Campbell’s contribution to the Cthulhu Mythos wasn’t limited to the stories in that book, the most recent example dating to this year, even, and I’m talking about the novella titled The Last Revelation of Gla’aki. Until he came forth with a novel, Campbell published two more short story collections (Demons of Daylight, 1973, and The Height of the Scream, 1976). That first novel was titled The Doll Who Ate His Mother (1976), and it reflects the author’s other passion: for films (in this case, for the B horror movies of the 50s). His next three novels followed in the same vein, being, in fact, novelizations of such movies: The Bride of Frankenstein, Dacula’s Daughter, The Wolf Man. But when, in 1979, e offers The Face That Must Die, a very original and frightening novel, his career as an author with a distinguished and strong voice is ascertained. What follow is a series of novels deemed now as classics of the genre: The Parasite (a story of witchcraft, in the tradition of Rosemary’s Baby), The Nameless, Incarnate, Obsession, a.s.o. Ramsey Campbell’s novels, denoting a keen interest for the details, with their attention for style, and their European-ness, immediately garnered the public’s attention and, slowly, they established an authentic British horror school (the majority of British authors pertaining to the new horror wave mention Campbell as their mentor!). His reputation grew, crossing the Ocean, his work being published in translation in most of the editorially active countries. The author edited numerous anthologies, contributed in his turn to even more such anthologies, his works have been turned into films, he’s been invited to be a part of prestigious literary juries, has been granted all the important literary awards, and now he is the president of the British Fantasy Society and the Society of Fantastic Films.
This is but a very short summary of the man and his work. Often, a strong distillation of this information has a bigger impact then an almost exhaustive presentation. Certainly, those still unacquainted with the author will give him the appropriate attention in the future.
And a very good starting point for doing this would be Ramsey Campbell’s most recent short story collection: Holes for Faces, published just a few weeks ago by the young and dynamic Dark Regions Press, thanks to whom I had the opportunity to read it beforehand. Holes for Faces brings together the best short stories Ramsey Campbell has published in recent years in various thematic anthologies, and also a few other stories original to this collection. All in all, 14 short stories where the writing as an art reigns supreme, assisted, of course, by ingenious plots. This is the book of an author who has reached artistic maturity as much as it is the book of an author who doesn’t miss any chance to reinvent himself. Even though it lacks a certain thematic unity, the astute reader will easily glimpse a few motives common to almost all stories: the fear of losing one’s identity (the being without a face motif is recurrent), the fear of losing one’s memory, or the persistence of false memory, as a defensive method against present horrors, the relationship between the young and the old seen through the eyes of he who has been a witness to years without number… Holes for Faces gathers stories that draw on the immediate reality, stories that are, because of that, all the more true, a thing that sets them apart from the autism that often dominates the horror genre. They are, as stated before, an excellent introduction for those who are just now approaching the work of Ramsey Campbell.
This last statement is for their eyes only: Read Campbell right away! Start with Holes for Faces.