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Spectre

by Stephen Laws

(Telos, £9.99, 272 pages, paperback, also available as signed, numbered limited edition hardback, priced £30.00, first published (in a different form) 1986, this edition published November 2003.)

Review by Christopher Teague

When you read a novel or story set within a real place and time, you can always tell when the author has a genuine cover scanlove and enthusiasm for the place. Laws' vision of Newcastle, and Byker in particular, is painted with a romantic brush, but it does make for a refreshing change to read about a supernatural event happening in England (and Northern England for that matter) and not Maine or New York or some other anonymous American city.

This edition of Spectre is Laws' preferred format, where Telos allowed him to reinsert passages exorcised from the original publication on the behest of the original publisher. Since I have not read the original edition I cannot compare the two.

Despite the fact the book was written and set during the 1980s, there isn't a glaringly obvious 80s feel to it. True, the fashion and technology described do hark back to those days, but the story -- the reason why you want to read it in the first place -- is possibly timeless, and I have to say it's a rollicking good read.

Stephen Laws has no delusion of creating a work that tries to win the Booker or some other high-brow award -- he merely wants to craft a tale that has a genuine sense of dread and eeriness, and to that this works commendably.

A novel should also have that one more chapter feeling, and I found myself several times itching to read the next chapter, then forcing myself to actually stop and go to sleep. Laws creates cliff-hangers at just about every chapter end -- a feat which can be difficult to pull off -- and the book contains little or no padding, with well realised set-pieces and shock moments.

All the protagonists in the book were well-drawn and incredibly likeable, with just the right amount of reader empathy -- occasionally, though, I could have done without some of the pseudo-mumbo jumbo language used by the antagonist in some spell or other, which just made me laugh.

This paperback edition is attractively packaged, with hardly a typo -- except for an over-reliance on italics, which cropped up at certain points for no apparent reason, which did distract.

On the whole, if you're a horror fan looking for a thumping good read, then you could do much worse than read this, and if Telos can unearth more 'lost' titles of this calibre, along with newer material, then I for one will try and support them as much as I can.


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