Sunday, September 29, 2013

Review: Rough Cut by Gary McMahon

The British horror scene is brimming with talent, but even with so many great authors there are a few who stand out from the rest. Gary McMahon is one of those authors. McMahon not only produces a high output of horror fiction (around 7 novels and 6 collections since 2008, as well as various chapbooks and stories published elsewhere, not to mention a few anthologies edited) but the fiction he puts out is consistently good.

One of his earlier chapterbooks, Rough Cut was published in 2006. The book's blurb is as follows:

Jude, the son of Vanna St Clair - the voluptuous star of a series of controversial British horror films in the 1970s, who died forgotten - is offered the opportunity to write her biography, a warts-and-all expose of the seamy side of the British film industry. But this proves no ordinary book, and Vanna is no ordinary subject. When Jude discovers the existence of "Charred Image", a fabled lost film - the last project Vanna worked on with director Derek Reef, her lover - his life is changed forever. Jude is led on a dark journey that leads to the Daleside, a brooding derelict mental asylum, the location where the footage was shot. Only there can he finally lay his ghosts to rest. As phantoms tumble off the silver screen, Jude realises that life, unlike most movies, doesn't always have a neat and happy ending. Sometimes the roughest cut is the deepest.

Rough Cut has a bit of everything to offer horror fans: evil supernatural entities, a stalking psychopath, grisly deaths, and a tense atmosphere including a derelict mental institution. McMahon excels at writing realistic, damaged characters. Jude has a certain darkness about him, and already seems to know much about the seedier side of his mother's life. Writing her autobiography isn't something that excites him, but at least he can make sure she receives the respect he feels she deserves. Once he accepts the job offer, it soon becomes clear that there are darker forces at work, forces that put not only Jude, but also his friends in danger. 

McMahon's story is pretty dark, but not without a certain thread of hope throughout. In tight prose McMahon gives readers a reason to fear the dark, derelict places of the world. Definitely worth seeking out a copy. 

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