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The pleasing terror of Nunkie Productions theatrical readings of M.R. James.

If like me you are fan of M.R.James, you will no doubt be certain of two things. The first, is that despite their age, subtlety and lack of gore, James’ tales of terror remain some of the most affecting and genuinely creepy works ever committed to print.

The second, is that if ever there was place for a true horror fan to be on Christmas Eve, it was in the quarters of M.R. James at Cambridge.

A celebrated scholar prior to his forays into the world of short fiction, Jame’s ghost stories evolved from a desire to give his friends and colleagues a fright during the darker winter months and centred around an annual event, during which he would invite lucky members of the University to his quarters each Christmas Eve to hear his latest ghost story, read aloud by the man himself.

Over the years, many a writer and fan has wished they could have been present at one of these fabled meetings, which, considering the setting, the atmosphere that was no doubt created and the creeping dread instilled by Jame’s carefully crafted words, must have been a bone chilling experience.

Whilst it may be impossible for us, in the twenty first century, to join one of these gatherings, we can do the next best thing. Albeit, with a trip to the U.K. thrown in.  

For a number of years now, the actor Robert Lloyd Parry has been touring Britain and re-creating, with bewitching authenticity, the experience of being present at one of these gatherings. Mr Parry, an actor of considerable talent, who bears a striking resemblance to the late author, enacts dramatic readings of M.R. James’ tales in fittingly atmospheric locations.

What the experience of attending one of these shows confirms, is that these were stories meant to be read aloud. By using only his voice, inventive use of the shadows from a single candle and an instinct for the perfect dramatic pause, Parry captures and enthrals the audience in a way that we can only imagine the real M.R. James did many years before.

The effect is mesmerising and it is a testament both to Mr Parry and to the enduring quality of Jame’s work, that they retain the power to make the flesh creep almost a century later.

For information and schedule see here http://www.nunkie.co.uk/the-mr-james-project

@NunkieTheatre

Eleanor Sciolistein

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Book Reviews

What Have We Done: Alex Finlay Produces Another Hit

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  • Jenna: A stay at home mom with a secret assassin past
  • Donnie: An alcoholic rock star
  • Nico: An executive producer of a reality television show

They all have a past, but who is out to get them?

The Plot

Jenna, Donnie, and Nico share a troubled past. They were all orphans who lived at Savior House — which is much less savior, much more terror. When their friend Benny, a famous judge, is murdered and the FBI comes looking, Jenna, Donnie, and Nico must race against the clock to figure out who is targeting them.

The Verdict

From the author of The Night Shift, which I reviewed here, I would expect nothing less than what Finlay has delivered. Finlay notoriously creates stories with palpable thrill and spine-tingling revelations.

I particularly enjoyed the character of Jenna. She is a reformed assassin living a normal life as a new stepmom. When she is called in to make a hit and her family is threatened, she goes badass mom on ’em. While I still thought Donnie and Nico as characters were engaging, it was nothing for what I felt for Jenna.

Also, major props to Finlay for creating a character that kills with a very unique weapon. Read it to find out more!

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

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Book Reviews

“The Writing Retreat” Gone Bad: Julia Bartz’s Debut

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Keeping it all in the family, Julia Bartz’s The Writing Retreat is the debut novel of the sister of Andrea Bartz, author of We Were Never Here, which I reviewed here.

I was much more impressed with The Writing Retreat than I was We Were Never Here.

The Plot

Five up and coming female writers under 30 are invited to a writing retreat hosted by the reclusive and acclaimed horror writer Rosa Vallo. Rosa reveals the details of the retreat: each writer must complete a full length novel from scratch over the next month. The best novel wins a multi-million dollar publishing deal with Rosa.

Suddenly, the retreat turns into a nightmare when one writer goes missing in the snowy terrain outside.

The novel hinges on friendships in turmoil and has a focus on LGBT+ representation as well as interpersonal female relationships. The novel explores the dark publishing world and the search for fame and the Great American Novel.

The Verdict

This novel is atmospheric and intellectual, page turning, and the English major’s required reading. I absorbed this novel and found Julia Bartz’s writing and conceptual chops to be leagues above her sister’s.

Ths novel releases on February 21, 2023 and it should be in your cart right now.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Buy it here!

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Book Reviews

A Murder in Reverse: “Wrong Place Wrong Time”

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The Plot

“A brilliantly genre-bending, mind-twisting answer to the question How far would you go to save your child?”  — Ruth Ware, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Jen watches her son murder a stranger. Stab him to death. She and her husband, Kelly, watch as their son Todd is taken into custody.

The next morning, Jen wakes up and it’s yesterday. Jen knows that at the end of the night, her son kills someone. She is determined to stop it.

Jen goes further and further back in time trying to discover why Todd murdered a stranger and how to stop it.

The Verdict

This book is twisty. Right when you think you know the ending, something else is there to prove that the story is more multifaceted than that. While the premise of the novel is simple, Gillian McAllister elevates a simple concept with deep, dark twists.

It is best that you don’t know too much going into this one. For fans of Blake Crouch, this is such a good thriller with time travelling vibes.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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