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The Uglimen

by Mark Morris

(PS Publishing, £8.00, 144 pages, limited edition signed, numbered, large paperback, also available as limited edition signed, numbered hardback, priced £25.00, published 2002.)

One hole in the market that PS Publishing amongst cover scanothers are filling is the publication of stories that are too long to fit in most magazines or anthologies but are too uncommercially short to be published as books -- long novellas or short novels, depending on which side of 40,000 words their wordcount falls. At around 45,000 words, The Uglimen falls into this literary Bermuda Triangle: you'd imagine that to be published it would normally have to accrete subplot sufficient to double its length, which may well not be to its benefit. As it stands, it's a short tight horror tale, lean of fat and efficiently told though hardly groundbreakingly original.

A short prologue is set in 1969 Los Angeles. Charlie and Doug are at the airport waiting to board the flight home to England. They're nervous, jittery, desperate to escape something: quite what, we won't learn until later. Flash forward to 2001. Rob Loomis is told by his mother that his father has hung himself. But who is the man Rob sees at the funeral? And who is the man who phones him to tell him the Uglimen are coming?

The answers to these questions take Rob and his girlfriend Jessica on a journey which tells him plenty of things he didn't know about his own past. And there are a few twists before you get to the end. The Uglimen themselves, members of a self-mutilating religious sect, are kept much in the background, as hired muscle for the real villain of the piece, and to add to the atmosphere of threat Morris builds up. They could perhaps be made more of, as "religiously-inspired fanatic" is the sum total of their characterisation.

All in all, The Uglimen won't waste the hour or two it'll take you to read it, and it's good it isn't bloated to a more "commercial" length. Less is more.


Review by Gary Couzens.

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