For a man as active as he is in the UK horror scene, it’s truly remarkable that I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by Gary Fry before. He seems to be everywhere at the moment, almost unavoidable.
It’s not likely to change in the near future, as Fry launches what looks like some sort of dastardly plan for transatlantic domination, with a nine book (nine book) deal with stateside publisher DarkFuse.
I’m always in favour of horror getting a louder shout, and the kind of reviews Gary has been getting have left me intrigued for a while now. Anyone who the great Ramsey Campbell himself describes as “a master” is clearly not messing around with this stuff.
With his novella Lurker, Fry looks set to kick off a new and prolific phase of his writing career, so let’s open up the bonnet and see what we have here, shall we?
Lurker centres around Meg, a forty-something woman recently moved to the north Yorkshire coast after a stillborn baby. Her husband Harry is distant emotionally and geographically— working in west Yorkshire for part of the week. Exploring her new home, Meg comes to notice something stalking the coastal landscape, connecting stories of missing people with local legends of a creature unearthed by overzealous mining.
The first thing I have to say about Lurker, is just how easy reading it is. Its short length, coupled with its fast, almost compulsive pace it’s quite comfortable to read in one sitting. This is, I think, an under-appreciated feature in fiction. It’s easy to forget that fiction is an entertainment medium, so to come away from Lurker with a distinct feeling of being entertained means to me that Fry has hit the mark.
He also didn’t over-explain. The creature he created — I won’t even call it “lurker” — is a suggestion and a series of images, a few potent facets enough to create an idea which creeps through the consciousness of the reader as easily as it does across the Yorkshire cliffs.
So too, Lurker shows a deep eathing in its location. Fry is clearly intimately familiar with this stretch of the North Yorkshire coast, and there is a presiding sense of local mythology running through the story, adding to the believability and making the horror more present, more real.
The only real criticism of it that I have is the counterpoint to the readability I praised before. It is a short novella, and both the story and Fry’s writing could have sustained it longer. A full novel would, I feel, have given the space for further explanation of Meg’s depression and allowed her rising suspicion of Harry — and the creeping horror of the creature which accompanies it — to have blossomed more slowly and with a more sinister pace.
But faced with Lurker the novella, I can’t hold that too strongly against it. Whatever length, this is a solid, enjoyable piece of writing. Monster horror has a tendency to lapse into the camp or trite, which might explain why Fry chose to set such a fierce pace, but the deftness of touch that he displays keeps it keen and focused. If the nine Gary Fry books to come from DarkFuse are of the same quality as Lurker, then they really have struck upon a sure winner.