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For Fear of Little Men There are places in the world that are seemingly infested by a genius loci or worse Places where nothing lives and nothing grows for those that foolishly investigate such sites, death, or worse, awaits There is such a place in North Wales, shunned by locals for three thousand years Something is there, something old and evil Is it this something that is responsible for events taking place across the world A breakout of food poisoning, the death of a Soviet defector at the Berlin Wall, crazed outbreaks of violence throughout the UK It s up to Sir Marcus Levin and his wife Tania to undo the Gordian Knot of this riddle while there s still time Will they succeed against this seemingly ancient and unstoppable evil The denouement makes this one of the finest thrillers ever written Well, Space Pilgrims, I think we ve done it I think we have finally found me a favorite John Blackburn novel It doesn t have quite the gonzo gusto of Bury Him Darkly s ending It doesn t have quite the terror of Our Lady of Pain s bleakness It has a similar sort of rural mystery plot including some straight rehash moments, such as a ship crash as Children of Night but isn t quite as ballsy with its cleverness But still, for that lack of gonzo, for that lack of over the top, for that lack Well, Space Pilgrims, I think we ve done it I think we have finally found me a favorite John Blackburn novel It doesn t have quite the gonzo gusto of Bury Him Darkly s ending It doesn t have quite the terror of Our Lady of Pain s bleakness It has a similar sort of rural mystery plot including some straight rehash moments, such as a ship crash as Children of Night but isn t quite as ballsy with its cleverness But still, for that lack of gonzo, for that lack of over the top, for that lack of smug cleverness, we have what might be one of the best John Blackburn novels to just pick up, hand to someone else, and say, Read this It isbalanced than many of the others It s kooky science is still kooky but somehowplausible That s not the right word but that s the first one that comes to mind It feels like a Proto Phil Rickman book with it s Welsh countryside and its old legends and its new disasters, only 1 4 the size of a Rickman novel and with a tighter cast of characters It skirts the folk horror designation and probably should be considered an early ish example of that, but with some science horror and political espionage elements tossed in Sure, I twigged the surprise twist at least most of it somewhere around the 1 3 mark and then spent the next half of the book increasingly frustrated for I felt like it had been too telegraphed but was still being treated like a Deep Mystery tm This might be simply because I ve now read something like 1 4 of Blackburn s total output in under a year, so I have learned his cadences I suspect it s a bit too easy, though Doesn t matter It is still clever and I like the idea that it sort of provides an escape room with many clues on the table from fairly early on Blackburn usually holds a few back until towards the end So, here we have the story about a man who suffers the same nightmare over and over and his self defenestration , an epidemic of unknown cause, a popular model of airplane with a unique and annoying sounding exhaust system, an archaeological team made up of amateurs looking for a pre Gael civilization, some lord and lady of the manor drama, a retired judge who was writing a peculiar book but who got horribly murdered before he could finish it, a suspected Nazi war criminal running a factory, and a Welsh village afraid of what an old legend might mean if its true There s a subplot involving a youth hostel and another involving a miscarriage that areflavor than important each ties into the plot, but each could have been dropped There s the sense of stalling after all the cards are played maybe the 2 3s mark, though like I said you could guess most of it well before that In other words, there s some fluff where true bloat is rare in Blackburn, but none of it is offensively fluffy and feels like world building for the most part It s good Great, even Shame it s so generally overlooked Valancourt hasn t touched it, yet, and it is generally overshadowed by the standards, such as The Scent of New Mown Hay and Devil Daddy What do a factory run by a former Nazi polluting the waters off Northern Ireland, sonic chem trails, Russian industrial shenanigans, AND a brooding ominous mountain in Wales have in common John Blackburn does an admirable job spinning a tale that ties these threads together This has been my favorite title in Centipede Press Blackburn series.


About the Author: John Blackburn

John Blackburn was born in 1923 in the village of Corbridge, England, the second son of a clergyman Blackburn attended Haileybury College near London beginning in 1937, but his education was interrupted by the onset of World War II the shadow of the war, and that of Nazi Germany, would later play a role in many of his works He served as a radio officer during the war in the Mercantile Marine from 1942 to 1945, and resumed his education afterwards at Durham University, earning his bachelor s degree in 1949 Blackburn taught for several years after that, first in London and then in Berlin, and married Joan Mary Clift in 1950 Returning to London in 1952, he took over the management of Red Lion Books It was there that Blackburn began writing, and the immediate success in 1958 of his first novel, A Scent of New Mown Hay, led him to take up a career as a writer full time He and his wife also maintained an antiquarian bookstore, a secondary career that would inform some of Blackburn s work, including the bibliomystery Blue Octavo 1963 A Scent of New Mown Hay typified the approach that would come to characterize Blackburn s twenty eight novels, which defied easy categorization in their unique and compelling mixture of the genres of science fiction, horror, mystery, and thriller Many of Blackburn s best novels came in the late 1960s and early 1970s, with a string of successes that included the classics A Ring of Roses 1965 , Children of the Night 1966 , Nothing but the Night 1968 adapted for a 1973 film starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing , Devil Daddy 1972 and Our Lady of Pain 1974 Somewhat unusually for a popular horror writer, Blackburn s novels were not only successful with the reading public but also won widespread critical acclaim the Times Literary Supplement declared him today s master of horror and compared him with the Grimm Brothers, while the Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural regarded him as certainly the best British novelist in his field and the St James Guide to Crime Mystery Writers called him one of England s best practicing novelists in the tradition of the thriller novel By the time Blackburn published his final novel in 1985, much of his work was already out of print, an inexplicable neglect that continued until Valancourt began republishing his novels in 2013 John Blackburn died in 1993.


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