Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Review: The Witnesses Are Gone by Joel Lane
Last month I posted a review of Ramsey Campbell's novel The Grin of the Dark. I liked it, but felt that it would have been more effective if it was trimmed to be shorter. Otherwise, the book was an example of a "man researches lost art (in this case films) and ends up going down a rabbit hole of darkness" story . Readers of horror will have seen variations on this theme done before, and Campbell used silent film clowns and a world that is perceived to be increasingly hostile to create a book that serves as a great example of this type of story. So far, Theodore Roszak's Flicker seemed to be the only novel that could be called an exemplar of this type of story. It wasn't until a few days ago, when I picked up The Witnesses Are Gone, a novella by Joel Lane, that I can say I found a work that can stand up there with Flicker.
Joel Lane knows what he's about. Narrator Martin Swann finds a grainy, disturbing VHS in the shed of his new home. This surreal, black and white film was made by the mysterious French director Jean Rien, who becomes a bit of an obsession of Martin's.
The rabbit hole Martin finds himself heading down is dark indeed, and a feeling of despair permeates the novel from start to finish. Lane succeeds at hinting at the terrible without being overt and spoon feeding his readers. This novella manages to be both intelligent, with nods to certain films and literature along with commentary on the United States war with Iraq, and terrifying. The length was perfect, and Lane did not let the story get away from him, but instead managed to keep a tight narrative.
Readers of dark literature would do very well to snag this one, and join Martin Swaan in a trip down his sepia-tinted rabbit hole. I couldn't recommend this one enough.
NOTE: The hardcover is out of print, but PS Publishing as some of the signed, Jacketed hardcovers not only available but on sale (at the time of this writing). Copies are going for £7.99 ($12.19) instead of the usual £24.99 ($34.12) on their site HERE.