First published back in August of 2016, the ‘Shakespeare vs Cthulhu’ anthology (edited by Jonathan Green) offered up eighteen stories inspired by William Shakespeare and Lovecraftian Mythos.

That Way Madness Lies – Jonathan Green – 4 Pages
British author and anthology editor Jonathan Green provides a short introduction to his anthology; explaining his motivation for the Shakespeare vs Cthulhu theme (it celebrates 400 years since the death of Shakespeare).  From there Green goes on to explain why Shakespeare and Cthulhu are the perfect match, along with our uncertainty about many of the details surrounding Shakespeare’s life – in particular what happened to him during the infamous “Lost Years” between 1585 and 1592.  Green ends his introduction with a very brief overview of each of the stories contained in the anthology, giving us a hint of what lies behind each one.

Star-Crossed – Jonathan Oliver – 27 Pages
After accidentally knocking a hole in her mother’s basement, Jasmine Cooper had come into possession of an ancient, hand-written book that appeared to have been penned by one Nathaniel Creed – a supposed occultist magician of years gone by.  The passages Jasmine had managed to decipher described all manner of beings, but focussed on one in particular.  A creature that was said to be a manifestation of nothing, though it wielded great power.  Furthermore, it appeared the author of the book had been attempting to make contact with this entity, though for what purpose wasn’t entirely clear.  To say it unnerved Jasmine was an understatement. Meanwhile, Jasmine had been given the part of Juliet in her college’s production of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy ‘Romeo & Juliet’.  And it looked like a strangely alluring boy named Richard had been given the role of Romeo.  Although everything around her was in relative turmoil, to Jasmine, slowly but surely, all the pieces seemed to be falling into place…

As Jonathan Green puts it is his introduction, this first story which is set in the present day, forms a sort of Prologue to the main ‘performance’.  And I’d have to agree.  It eases the reader in with an intriguing and wonderfully layered tale, incorporating a good balance between the Shakespeare elements and those of the darker Crawling Chaos of Lovercraft’s Nyarlathotep.  Oliver’s short packs in a surprising amount of interwoven threads which gradually converge and combine to deliver a tightly written tale that feels far more complex than the sum of its pages would otherwise suggest.  The story principally follows just a small handful of characters, with Green pushing and pulling them through his strangely directionless storyline, until all is eventually revealed in a spectacular final twist, bursting with drama and proper Lovecraftian cosmic horror.  A great first story to set the anthology off with.

A Madness Most Discreet – Michael Carroll – 23 Pages
Count Paris was determined that Lady Juliet of House Capulet would be his.  Lord Capulet on the other had was concerned about her tender age.  Capulet informed Paris he’d have to wait at least two years before he could wed his daughter.  However, despite Paris’ obvious wealth and affections for young Juliet, she had other ideas surrounding the future of her heart.  During a lavish ball put on to bring the families together, the initial spark that was between Juliet and Romeo ignited into a flame that could not be extinguished, not by any number of years of animosity between their families.  And so, following the ball, Romeo and Juliet started to meet in secret; each time they did, their love would blossom with an insatiable ferocity.  Meanwhile Lord Paris’ obsession with Juliet continued to grow, as did his fears that her blood might be tainted before she could truly be his.  He knew it was time to bring an end to this young love.  It was time he used his powers of persuasion on House Capulet.  And if that ultimately failed, then he would have no choice but to take matters into his own hands…for better or for worse…

Written from the ‘privileged’ perspective of Lord Paris’ trusted servant, author Michael Carroll’s Shakespearian story is one almost entirely preoccupied by the complexities of a problematic love triangle, although the feelings are far from reciprocated between all partied.  As is often the case in such stories, much of the friction given to the plot is from class hierarchy and the influence brought about through wealth and prestigious positioning.  In fact, the vast bulk of the story is concerned with how this all pans out, and the struggle Romeo and Juliet have with the yearning of their own hearts.  The Cthulhu horror only really makes itself known, quite literally in the last couple of pages.  But when it kicks in, when the really Lovecraftian shit hits the fan, it hits home with an ungodly darkness that feels like a mountain crashing down on your skull.

Something Rotten – Adrian Tchaikovsky – 11 Pages
Horatio had known Hamlet at Wittenberg, back when they had been students together.  Now he was the Prince of Denmark’s only confidant.  It was a position that afforded him great privilege but also brought with it pressure and strain.  Upon hearing of his father’s untimely death, Young Hamlet had come home for the funeral, bringing Horatio back with him.  There, much to Hamlet’s surprise, he had found his Uncle Claudius enthroned and wed to the widowed Queen Gertrude.  Hamlet was immediately suspicious, itching to find some evidence against his uncle and what he was sure would amount to murder.  But instead all he found were increasingly strange and unnerving stories, always spoken in hushed tones by the locals.  It was said that Hamlet’s father had been seen after his funeral had taken place, at midnight dancing atop the waves, far out to sea.  The stories troubled the King to be.  So much so that Young Hamlet began to worry that his father’s restless spirit was seeking someone to avenge his murder.  Someone like Hamlet himself…

What starts out at a moderately timid pace, soon picks up a snowballing momentum, with suspicions and quietly spoken fears aplenty.  Author Adrian Tchaikovsky uses social hierarchy and long-standing monarchy to embed a strangely alluring story of a horror that stretches across a thousand lifespans.  However, the age-old darkness that slithers into the storyline is absolute textbook Lovecraft.  We’re talking a long-forgotten tangling between man and something that lurks deep in the sea.  An influence that is maintained, and still casts a dark shadow across a particular lineage of blood. Tchaikovsky paints this link incredibly well, never really shouting out all the details, but instead edging the reader closer and closer to the horrifying truth lurking behind it all.  Wonderfully executed and thoroughly, unnervingly dark.

Once More Unto The Breach – C.L. Werner – 22 Pages
The English forces were weary from their long march across northern France, many becoming sick with contemptible afflictions.  Though their hearts and spirits were staunch and defiant, they lacked the strength to seriously oppose the Constable of France.  King Henry V of England knew only a miracle could carry the day for the English.  The French were too numerous to rout, too well armoured to stave off from a distance.  Even with God on their side, Henry knew defeating Charles d’Albret’s forces was a near impossibility.  His options were low.  He knew it as much as the loyal soldiers under his command knew it.  And it was then, in his final hour of desperation, as the sound of the French drums echoed across the land, that the withered old man came to Henry with an offer of help.  An offer that could win Henry the battle, but may very well, have dark and despicable repercussions…

Oh yes this is a good one.  Author C.L. Werner takes up Shakespeare’s classic ‘Henry V’, injecting in a magnificently dark and escalating Lovecraftian horror that builds to breath-taking proportions.  For the first half of the story Werner lays down the skin and bones of the plot, painting the picture of the final desperate hour and Henry V’s hellish dilemma.  Characterisation is strong and engaging.  Indeed, the reader is granted the opportunity to understand the complexities of the situation through a very human perspective.  And when everything goes (quite inevitably) pear-shaped for the King, the creepy, crushing chaos feels that much more terrifying.  As I said, it’s a good ‘un.

A Tiger’s Heart, A Player’s Hide – Josh Reynolds – 23 Pages
The Chattering Plague had been spreading with alarming rapidity.  Those who contracted the plague wandered through the streets, spewing gibberish.  Those within earshot of the infected started complaining of illness or suffering from lucid nightmares.  Luckily it appeared to be confined to just Shoreditch.  A vicinity outside of the jurisdiction of the city fathers, making it particularly attractive to the unlawful and disorderly alike.  It harboured the dissolute in all their varied guises.  But now the voices of the Afflicted could be heard weighing heavily upon the air.  Not singing but chanting.  As if it was layered over another sound altogether.  And those who got close to them could see words carved into the flesh of their bodies.  With the theatres around Shoreditch closing, one after the other, Doctor John Dee together with his aide-de-camp William Sly swear they will find out what is at the root of this strange affliction, one way or another…

Set in the summer of 1592, this strangely haunting tale is one that gradually unravels, with increasingly strange almost Clive Barker-esque additions to the horror surfacing with every turn of the page.  Those ‘Afflicted’ with the so-called ‘Chattering Plague’ come across as possessed and almost zombie-like.  Of course our two protagonists work hard, in a Holmes and Watson sort of way, trying to get behind the origin of the plague.  It somewhat inevitably leads us to William Shakespeare and a strangely blasphemous use of the dark arts.  The weird interweaving of the two works incredibly well.  Although, it has to be said, the later pages of the story do murk up slightly with a confusing array of twists and turns that author Josh Reynolds only briefly sketches out before moving on to the next big twist.  Nevertheless it’s another solid and ingeniously inspired addition to this whole Shakespeare vs Cthulhu mythos.

What Dreams May Come – Nimue Brown – 1 Page
Dare he close his eyes for what may befall him?  Madness or perhaps something unspeakably worse…

Here we have a fourteen line poem by British author Nimue Brown.  As I always say…I have absolutely no idea about poems.  I feel completely and utterly out of my depth.  Although this short, intriguing little poem does seem to have a good pace behind it.  That and plenty of thought-provoking suggestions of the ghastly horror that could soon befall our harrowed narrator.  I know nothing of poetry – but this one seemed pretty good in an intriguing sort of way.

The ‘Iå’s Of March – Andrew Lane – 24 Pages
The people of Rome loved their Dictator - Gaius Julius Caesar.  And because the people loved him, those in power had to be seen to be behind him too, if they wished to appear in touch with their populace.  So they were offering Caesar the crown.  Deliberately inviting him to take on the role of Emperor.  But there were still those who behind closed doors opposed Caesar’s rise to power in Rome.  Casca was one such man.  But like many of his peers, he knew he could never voice his opinion, lest he be fatally disciplined for such treachery.  However, it wasn’t long before Casca discovered their much-loved Emperor-to-be had his own secrets.  Secrets that threatened the very existence of Rome and all its inhabitants.  Secrets so dark, that Casca had no choice but to act upon…

What a story.  Very possibly one of the finest of the contributions in the anthology.  Drenched from head to toe in textbook Lovecraft, with a proper Stant Litore style prose behind it, this short tale lays down a dark and utterly captivating Lovecraftian tale set in the time of Ancient Rome.  Author Andrew Lane gets the backdrop to the tale set perfectly.  In fact, you can easily imagine the roaring crowds as Caesar is offered the crown.  You can just feel the crippling frustration of those who silently oppose Caesar’s rise to power.  It makes a perfect foundation to the unfolding Lovecraftian horror.  And what a blood-soaked slab of horror that is.  It’s dark and menacing, with some twisted-as-hell Old God mutations.  Interestingly, Lane incorporates some of Robert W. Chambers’ ‘King In Yellow’ mythos with the inclusion of ‘The Cult of Carcosa’.  The pacing is also absolutely spot on.  The characters are realistic and believable.  And the horror is breath-takingly twisted.  There’s just so much to like about this story.  Absolutely nailed it.

The Undiscovered Country – Ian Edginton – 13 Pages
Antonio had been at sea with his six-year-old daughter, Miranda, when they hit troubled water.  Before they knew what was going on they were cast into a dark abyss that seemed to swallow them whole.  Sometime later they found themselves waking on an unknown rocky shore.  Buoyed amongst the rocks in a small nearby cove, was the tiny vessel that had been their boat.  Like them, it had miraculously weathered the storm and appeared seaworthy.  Although without provisions Antonio knew the two of them would not last more than a few days on the water.  If there was salvation here, they had to find it.  Glancing at the island around them they could see it comprised of great spars of black crystal ten times taller than a man and wider than a mill stone.  Between these vast monoliths ran broad hexagonal plinths stacked and stepped in irregular tiers, all leading towards the interior.  Nothing about this place spoke of a world they knew.  There were no birds, nor beasts, nor foliage of any kind.  It was as if all were fearful to set foot or take root here.  Yet despite all this, Antonio still placed one foot before the other, inexplicably drawn to the centre of this island by curiosity and a compulsion he simply could not explain…

Here we have the first of two offerings that take on Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’, injecting in a thick and menacing fog of Lovecraftian horror that slithers its way under your skin.  For his short tale, author Ian Edginton has spliced in Lovecraft’s lost city of R'lyeh; transporting the Duke of Milan Prospero and his young daughter into a nightmarish vision where salvation seems to diminish with every breath they take.  In fact, Edginton has captured the stark, bleak horror of the island so vividly that it seems to swallow you into its darkness from the minute the two set foot on its shores.  The wordsmanship is breath-taking.  The atmosphere almost palpable with gloom.  It’s a truly incredible piece of Lovecraftian fiction, undoubtedly worthy of the great master of dark cosmic horror himself.

The Suns Of York – Adrian Chamberlin – 29 Pages
Sir James Tyrell was a condemned man, locked away in London’s Garden Tower awaiting his inevitable execution.  Despite his imminent death and withered appearance, the fifty-six-year traitor to king and country still held an undeniable air of taunting evil about his presence.  His ever watchful guard could sense it.  He couldn’t avoid the oppressive menace that lingered around the merciless, soulless killer in that lonely cell.  Nevertheless his story must not be left to die with him.  Trusted with a mission by the royal command, a mission that would never be spoken of again, Thomas More is sent to extract the true story of the fall of York and put them to parchment, forever a record.  But the story that Tyrell unveils is one that draws the darkness in closer.  The shadows no longer feel safe as he speaks of a madness that reaches back terrible eons ago.  For he had witnessed a realm of gods older than this world and the void that hungers to consume all.  Dark Ones that hide behind a shining veil.  Two suns of York would fall to darkness.  The third sun would soon become darkness.  Lord Protector – King Richard III – was no mere man now.  Through him, a darker, more ancient adversary had been called upon to destroy the House of York.  An ungodly battle awaits…

If you thought these stories were getting dark, then trust me, you ain’t seen nothing yet.  In one fell swoop author Adrian Chamberlin has pushed the anthology deep into an abyss of nightmare inducing madness.  In essence what we have is a condemned man’s story, which tells of unholy incantations summoning the ancient despicable influence of Lovecraft’s ancient deity - Azathoth.  However, there’s so much more involved in the story. Layers upon layers of gluttonous gloom, saturated with menace and a dark twisted horror that sends your imagination spiralling off into nightmarish territories.  I kid you not, there’s not a single page to this story that doesn’t kick you further down into a pit of cloying despair.  And then it all comes clawing back up at you in one final sequence that’ll leave you gasping for air.  Incredible.

A Reckoning – Guy Haley – 22 Pages
Lord Burghley had suspected Richard Baines of taking his precious dies.  Word had it that Baines had also left Flushing for Friesland in the Northwest of the Netherlands.  Acting upon Burghley’s wishes, Christopher ‘Kit’ Marlowe had taken to the seas for Friesland.  And upon arriving, he’d been directed to the village of Zoutkamp in De Marne.  It was here that Marlowe finally managed to track down the elusive Baines and Burghley’s dies.  But that’s not all that Marlowe would find in the small coastal village.  Baines speaks of a coven of diabolists which he had become a part of.  A strange cult that worship beings older than god himself.  Old ones that inhabit the dark depths of the ocean.  And upon finally tracking Baines down, Marlowe finds he will be made to bear witness to their terrible reckoning…

Goddamn, when done well, a good ‘Shadow Over Innsmouth’ style story doesn’t half send shivers down your spine.  Author Guy Haley’s done just that.  Here we have Shakespeare’s close friend Christopher Marlowe (who was supposedly killed in a tavern brawl back in 1593) reporting back to the other men on the Privy Council about what he witnessed whilst out in the Netherlands.  Admittedly the initial few pages of the short story are somewhat turgid in their verbose scene setting and perhaps overly padded with trivialities.  However, once we’re past this and out into the bitter cold seaward winds, the escalating menace and Lovecraftian vibe hooks you in with a seemingly effortless ease.  Yeah, so in essence it’s just a reworking of a classic scene of Lovecraft’s, only here with Shakespearian links.  However, it’s in Haley’s wordsmanship, and his strength in setting the scene, where the story ultimately wins you over.  A dark, damp church overlooking the cold Netherlands coastline.  Strange robed individuals congregating on the shore.  What’s not to like?

The Green-Ey’d Monster – Danie Ware – 1 Page
Desdemona’s cries of denial go unheard.  Death catches her on her final word.  The blade of jealousy cuts deep.  And the gods drink their fill…

Way out of my depth here.  Danie Ware’s fourteen line poem is clearly based on Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’.  I get that.  However, any further depth or subtle intentions are lost upon me.  I must admit, reading stuff like this perplexes me.  I can see the rhythm, and I think I get the general gist, but aside from that I’m like a sinking dinghy completely lost at sea.  Probably a clever and well-written poem.  But I quite simply have no idea!

Exit, Pursued By…? – James Lovegrove
– 24 Pages
For nigh on twenty years now, whenever anyone asked Lord Antigonus how he came by the injury that stretched from his shoulder to his neck, he lied, telling them it was the handiwork of a bear.  Of course no one would query this reply.  Bears are a familiar enough sight in these parts.  Bohemia’s forests were riddled with them.  Now, at last, as he lies upon his deathbed, and he feels it’s time to finally confess the truth.  There was no bear.  His wound came from something far more terrible.  From back when he was a noble of Sicilia, and trusted advisor to King Leontes, Antigonus had been charged with a task such as no man should be entrusted to perform.  At his king’s express addict, he was to take the babe whom Hermione had recently brought into the world, at the cost of her own life, and bear it to a remote and desert place.  There Antigonus was to abandon it in the wild and let Mother Nature determine its fate.  Forced to choose between his wife and the child, Antigonus chose to execute his King’s demands.  And so, he had set sail, with the child in hand, for the shores of Bohemia.  However, when a storm bore down upon them, the mariner who had taken them to this desolate spot, had sailed away, leaving Antigonus and the young child stranded on the desolate stretch of shoreline.  A place lost in time.  A place where ancient horrors would visit as the blanket of night fell…

Another absolutely stunning offering here.  Author James Lovegrove doesn’t hold back on the Lovercraftian influence one iota.  In essence what we have is a story that starts off pretty much following the plot of Shakespeare’s ‘The Winter’s Tale’ pretty damn closely, only Antigonus and the baby are left deserted on the coast of Bohemia, rather than having the boat wrecked in the storm.  From here the story veers off into a sort of Peter Jackson’s vision of Skull Island affair, with a long-forgotten ancient race living in strange stone build huts.  Lovegrove keeps the air thick with a barely suppressed menace, until nightfall arrives, whereby all hell breaks loose with the incorporation of Lovecraft’s Y’ha-nthlei, and the hybrid denizens that emerge from this undersea city.  For sheer adrenaline-pumping horror alone this is a breathtakingly entertaining piece of Lovecraftian fiction.  But it’s also with all those little details.  The spattering of Shakespearian references.  And wrapping it all up you have the spectacular bookending device pondering whether it was truly a bear that attacked Antigonus (as per Shakespeare’s ‘The Winter’s Tale’) or instead the horror contained within this very story (hence the title’s ingenious play on “Exit, pursued by a bear”).  Clever, and damn fine reading.  There’s just so much to like in here.

The King In Yellow Stockings – Ed Fortune – 6 Pages
The herald Cesario was new to Illyria.  Or at least that’s what Malvolio, the famous steward of the Lady Olivia believed the stranger was called.  Although he’d heard a variety of names uttered.  Furthermore, no one seemed to agree on where the newcomer had hailed from.  It was even suggested that Cesario had sailed over from the long lost land of Carcosa and was in fact a reneged prince.  Possibly even a woman.  Whatever the truth, at around the time the herald arrived into Illyria, the first signs of the plague started.  And no lavish play or some other such celebration of the arts could cover the fact that something was terribly amiss in Illyria…

For his contribution author Ed Fortune has taken Shakespeare’s much loved comedy ‘Twelfth Night’ and through splicing Lovecraftian and Robert W Chambers mythos into the whimsical tale, has turned the whole thing into a light-hearted but increasingly troubled tragedy.  In just six pages, Fortune crams in many of the elaborate details from the original play.  There’s a nod to that quirky love triangle, a brief whisper of Cesario’s real sex, and all the delightful farce nestled in between.  Of course, the Lovecraftian influence plunges the whole affair into a far more strange and dark place.  But the whole ying and yang of it all seems to work quite well.  Although, if I’m honest, the monstrously condensed nature of the story does make it a bit of a head spin if you’re not one-hundred percent engaged with each and every sentence that Fortune dishes out in his relentless vigour to get all the intricacies covered.

The Terrors Of The Earth – Pat Kelleher – 25 Pages
The Great King Leyh’r had become weary of his monarchy of late.  And so he, the king of the ancient Isle of Albion, decided it was time to divide his kingdom into three; splitting it between his three daughters based on their love for him.  And so he asks them in turn, each to voice their love for him.  Goneril and Regan both speak volumes of their adoration for the king.  However, Leyh’r is displeased with Cordelia’s answer, and in a quick-tempered judgement, states she will never sit upon the throne of Albion.  But taking on the throne of Albion is not everything one might think.  Once the two daughters have been initiated, they will come to learn the secret he has tried so long to keep from them.  Although, unbeknown to Leyh’r and his daughters, Edmund, the dutiful whoreson of the Earl of Gloucester has returned to Troynovant having spent many years away, out of sight and out of mind.  But now the time was right.  Now he had returned to confront the old lecher, Gloucester, who begot him and his legitimate half-brother Edgar.  Although Edmund knows the truth surrounding his ‘true’ father.  Goemagot waits in restless slumber.  And Edmund has vowed to see the Old One rise, and with it, a wealth of unnatural fortunes…

Someone had to give Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’ a go.  The much-loved tragedy is certainly fertile ground for sewing in some Lovecraftian seeds.  With the story depicting the King’s gradual descent into madness, you’d expect a vast array of nightmarish visions and escalating chaos.  However, what Kelleher has done instead is create a strange new adaptation on the story, weaving in an almost dark fantasy-esque final sequence that culminates in a truly extravagant grand finale.  Although packed with plenty of twists and turns and elaborate layers that hug the bones of Shakespeare’s original story, Kelleher’s offering still feels a tad too bulky and cumbersome in its approach to properly draw the reader in.  Okay, so a lot has been crammed into the short page count.  But it undoubtedly suffers because of this and sadly loses much of its flow, rhythm and pacing, ultimately due to the heaped on mass of intrinsically written plot.  It’s a shame, as Kelleher is undoubtedly a very, very gifted writer.

Exeunt – John Reppion – 22 Pages
Using a handdrawn map penned by their friend and fellow playwright – William Shakespeare – Michael Drayton and Benjamin Jonson made their way through the dark and narrow back alleys of London; guided to the mysterious district Shakespeare called Exham.  Neither of them had heard of the place before, and getting there had proven to be quite the ordeal.  But they were interested to hear what Will had been working on of late.  So they’d agreed to meet the playwright at ‘The Swine’.  A dark and dank tavern located in the heart of this strange hidden district of London.  Although John Fletcher had declined Will’s invitation to be there that night.  Fletcher had been in a fair terror of Will, or anything connected with him.  In fact, Fletcher had said he wished never to hear from Will again.  Fletcher’s change in heart had come after Will and him had been discussing the notion of a grand tragedy – the ultimate tragedy – something more affecting than all that had gone before.  John had said he could see that Will was thinking of Hamnet.  Trying to use the pain, the loss, as an example to help him evoke such a tragedy.  Will had at first been greatly offended.  But now he’d come to understand something of what a grand tragedy may be, and it rendered his own loss, indeed all such personal losses, petty in comparison.  Since then Will had been sending John rough passages from a new play.  But as they developed, so John’s terror grew.  So affecting were those passages, so acute had his fear become, that he had burnt the most recent letters without so much as opening them.  Knowing this alone was more than enough to pique the interest for both Drayton and Jonson…

Oh yes this is a good ‘un.  Set in 1616, author John Reppion follows William Shakespeare during the final days before the playwright’s untimely death.  From the outset Reppion shovels in a hefty amount of mystery, particularly involving Shakespeare’s psychological wellbeing.  However, where the story really begins to get going is when the tale shifts to Drayton and Jonson as they make their way through the grimy underbelly of London.  Here Reppion’s descriptions well and truly take off.  You can almost taste the filth and grime of the backstreets.  And when they’re inside “The Swine”, what follows is nothing short of awe-inspiring atmosphere setting.  By the time the three playwrights are descending the stairs into the tavern’s cellar, you’ll be putty in Reppion’s hands.  This trulyy is an absolute masterclass in laying down near palpable, gut-churning Lovercraftian horror.  There’s equal measures of purposefully-odd weirdness and gut-churning nightmarish horror.  The blend is just right.  And talk about an ending.  Another textbook example of how Shakespeare and Lovecraft go together so darn well.

Something Wicked This Way Comes – Graham McNeill – 25 Pages
Across London there had been whispered gossip and stories of closed casting calls.  Rumours like this surface every day and mostly they’re complete nonsense.  But this one had a whiff of truth to it; just enough details to make it plausible, just enough vagueness to keep people interested and sniffing around.  Eventually the rumour became fact when the Whenschal Sisters revealed their new acquisition.  Somehow, they’d come into possession of the original hand-written manuscript of William Shakespeare’s ‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’.  All of a sudden every actor was crawling out of the woodwork in hope of securing an audition.  Much to Mackenzie Baladan’s frustration, Duncan Pryor had won the role of Macbeth.  Luckily Mackenzie was married to Imogen Boite.  Known by many as ‘The Chainsaw’, Imogen had ways of making sure those she looked after got the very best parts.  And Mackenzie was her principle client.   But as the hopeful actor was soon to learn, this newly unearthed manuscript is far from the Macbeth that he knows so well.  In fact, it’s unlike the story anyone knows.  And some truths are just too awful to face…

Get in there!  Another wonderfully entertaining and exquisitely twisted offering.  Here we see Shakespeare’s much loved ‘Macbeth’ brought into our modern day world, with celebrity culture greasing the wheels of a truly inspired Lovecraftian tale.  Author Graham McNeill writes with a seemingly effortless charm, snuggling the reader up in an unfolding story of plastic-coated celebrity debauchery underpinned by a slowly surfacing menace.  The story is dripping with corruption and deplorable desperation, intermingled with a unquenchable thirst for that much revered celebrity status.  But clinging to its underbelly, gradually working its way through the cesspit of fame-seeking, is a dark and truly terrifying secret.  Like the very best of Lovecraft’s stories, the full details of the horror that awaits is never fully detailed.  You know it’s a hellish, impossibly ancient horror that is beyond our understanding.  And so in the blank spaces, in the void of our understanding, the most terrifying horror lurks.  McNeill works this to a charm.  He knows his Lovecraft.  He knows how it works.  How to well and truly fuck with us.  All hail Cthulhu.

#Tempest – Jan Siegel
– 15 Pages
It’s the age of the internet.  Twitter is the new way of communicating.  Lives can be followed through the constant feed of Tweets.  One such twitterfeed tells of a massive storm which has supposedly shipwrecked a group onto the rocky cove of a desert island.  The magician Prospero (aka BeardieWeirdie)’s daughter Miranda (aka GeekGirl) wishes to scan her twitterfeed, seeking help or at the very least a respite from their dilemma.  Not to mention reaching out to the goth girl she had met online – Ariel (aka AeryFaery).  But a darkness is looming on the feed.  A terrible rumour.  A vast monster from the oceans deep.  A many tentacled horror that is said to be coming their way…

Originality truly is a magnificent thing.  For her offering – this last slice of Shakespearian-Lovecraftian fiction - author Jan Siegel has thrust Shakespeare’s classic play ‘The Tempest’ into the twenty-first century, retelling the barebones of the story via short-sharp tweets.  If you’re not altogether familiar with the original play then you’re more than likely going to get somewhat lost in the bombardment of characters and offhanded quips which clearly play on a prior knowledge of the plot.  It’s a quick-witted, jam-packed whirlwind of madness that culminates is a creeping, escalating Lovecraftian menace.  The language is a strange fifty/fifty blend of modern and Shakespearian Olde English.  It makes for a curious amalgamation, but works surprisingly well.  A fitting end to the anthology, although, as previously mentioned, it probably only really works if you already know the story.

The anthology runs for a total of 343 pages.

© DLS Reviews


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