Albion Fay is the new novella by Mark Morris and is published by Spectral Press. It begins with a funeral, pretty much setting the tone for everything which follows and introduces us to Frank, the first-person narrator of the story. There’s a great deal of skilful character development here, painting a picture of a man hiding from the world, paranoid and over-analytical of everything – and everyone – around him. This, of course, sets up the narrative of the story wonderfully, planting the question in the readers’ minds of how Frank came to be this way.
What follows is a fractured narrative that jumps backwards and forwards in time – a technique that mirrors the broken nature of Frank’s family; sister Angie, loving mother Pat and father George whose first scene in the book presents him as a short tempered bully, characteristics that develop along with the story until he becomes the catalyst for the life changing events which follow.
George is a catalyst but so too are events at Albion Fay itself, the house which is to be the family’s holiday home for a week. The caves in the woods which surround the house allow the introduction of a supernatural element to the story but this is done in a subtle way, the first person perspective – which brings with it all the baggage of unreliability – means that just the right amount of ambiguity is brought to the narrative, these supernatural elements enhancing rather than overwhelming it.
As Adam Nevill’s thorough and detailed introduction to the book indicates, this is a story about loss and perhaps the greatest loss of all here is of the childhood innocence of Frank and Angie. The story goes to some very dark places but the writing is so assured and confident that the tragic events which unfold really do shock and aren’t gratuitous. Albion Fay is a Greek tragedy – although a very British one. (Yes, the name of the house – and book – is a clever one). It’s a brilliant example of quiet, understated writing that delivers its horrors efficiently and extremely effectively. There are similarities here – in terms of general themes – to Mark’s previous novella It Sustains, but both are prime examples of intelligent, literary horror and evidence of an author pretty much at the top of his game.
I thoroughly recommend Albion Fay and you can buy it here.