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Authors: Ramsey Campbell

Ancient Images

BOOK: Ancient Images
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Ancient Images
Ramsey Campbell
Tor (2012)

Ramsey Campbell, acclaimed as one of the world's great novelists of horror and the occult, achieves new heights in his masterly Ancient Images.
"Britain's answer to Stephen King and then some," says the Dallas Morning News of this extraordinary writer, whose powerful, disturbing novels illuminate everyday reality in frightening and unforgettable ways.
In Ancient Images, Campbell focuses his nightmarish vision on a long-forgotten 1930ness Boris Karloff/Bela Lugosi film, Tower of Fear. For reasons blurred by history, powerful forces suppressed the film and destroyed the prints. Nobody now living had seen the finished film until film researcher Graham Nolan's two-year search unearthed the sole surviving print.
Graham invites colleague Sandy Allan, a film editor at London's Metropolitan Television, to view Tower of Fear, but before the screening, the film disappears and the cycle of death begins.
This is a novel rich in images-of the land, of the bread of life, of blood. We watch in terror as Sandy gradually uncovers the shocking truth of the psychic violence that a family inflicts on itself and others. And we are drawn ever forward with Sandy as she perceives the inexorable power of a thirsty earth, a thirst that must be quenched. Rejecting her last chance to retreat, Sandy must overcome a terrible evil if she is to survive to tell her story.
Disturbing, menacing, Ancient Images is a finely crafted, superbly literate work that places Ramsey Campbell in a class by himself. His insights into the occult are deeply felt and make a lasting impression with a seer's vision into the secrets of the unknown, Ancient Images is the best yet from one of the most gifted authors of our time.
***
From Publishers Weekly
British horror writer Campbell here focuses on one of his most intriguing inventions, a horror film supposedly starring Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, made in England in 1938 and immediately suppressed. When film editor Sandy Allen decides to track down a print of the film, her detective work leads her to Redfield, a rural community known for the delicious wheat that grows on its rich soil, fertilized by blood from an ancient massacre and, it turns out, in need of a fresh infusion every 50 years to maintain its fecundity. During her search, Sandy is shadowed by bizarre creatures that sometimes look like dogs and sometimes like scarecrows. After Sandy finally pins down the connection between the film and Redfield, the creatures come out of the shadows and reveal themselves. Campbell's novels tend to be dense and less accessible than his short stories, but this narrative seems more relaxed and simplified-perhaps his most readable effort since his debut in The Doll Who Ate His Mother.
***
From Library Journal
A colleague's violent death and its apparent cause-a stolen copy of an old, never-released Karloff/Lugosi film-set film editor Sandy Allan on the trail of the film's origins and history. Mystery surrounds the movie, and as Sandy learns of the tragedies which haunted its production, she finds herself threatened by an ancient force protecting secrets deeper than the suppression of a 50-year-old movie. Interestingly, in this novel centered on a horror movie supposedly judged too disturbing to be shown in theaters, author Campbell makes it clear that his own view of the genre does not include the splatter films and paperbacks of the 1980's horror market. His brand of fear derives from atmosphere, suggestion, and his trademark fever-dream world, where litter scuttles across deserted sidewalks and toadstools gleam like eyes. Campbell is renowned among fans and writers alike as the master of a skewed and exquisitely terrifying style, and this latest novel will only add to his reputation.

Ramsey Campbell
Ancient Images
    
***
    
    Ramsey Campbell, acclaimed as one of the world's great novelists of horror and the occult, achieves new heights in his masterly
Ancient
Images.
    "Britain's answer to Stephen King and then some," says the
Dallas
Morning
News
of this extraordinary writer, whose powerful, disturbing novels illuminate everyday reality in frightening and unforgettable ways.
    In
Ancient
Images,
Campbell focuses his nightmarish vision on a long-forgotten 1930ness Boris Karloff/Bela Lugosi film,
Tower
of
Fear.
For reasons blurred by history, powerful forces suppressed the film and destroyed the prints. Nobody now living had seen the finished film until film researcher Graham Nolan's two-year search unearthed the sole surviving print.
    Graham invites colleague Sandy Allan, a film editor at London's Metropolitan Television, to view
Tower
of
Fear,
but before the screening, the film disappears and the cycle of death begins.
    This is a novel rich in images-of the land, of the bread of life, of blood. We watch in terror as Sandy gradually uncovers the shocking truth of the psychic violence that a family inflicts on itself and others. And we are drawn ever forward with Sandy as she perceives the inexorable power of a thirsty earth, a thirst that must be quenched. Rejecting her last chance to retreat, Sandy must overcome a terrible evil if she is to survive to tell her story.
    Disturbing, menacing,
Ancient
Images
is a finely crafted, superbly literate work that places Ramsey Campbell in a class by himself. His insights into the occult are deeply felt and make a lasting impression with a seer's vision into the secrets of the unknown,
Ancient
Images
is the best yet from one of the most gifted authors of our time.
    
***
    
    
From Publishers Weekly
    British horror writer Campbell here focuses on one of his most intriguing inventions, a horror film supposedly starring Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, made in England in 1938 and immediately suppressed. When film editor Sandy Allen decides to track down a print of the film, her detective work leads her to Redfield, a rural community known for the delicious wheat that grows on its rich soil, fertilized by blood from an ancient massacre and, it turns out, in need of a fresh infusion every 50 years to maintain its fecundity. During her search, Sandy is shadowed by bizarre creatures that sometimes look like dogs and sometimes like scarecrows. After Sandy finally pins down the connection between the film and Redfield, the creatures come out of the shadows and reveal themselves. Campbell's novels tend to be dense and less accessible than his short stories, but this narrative seems more relaxed and simplified-perhaps his most readable effort since his debut in
The Doll Who Ate His Mother.
    
***
    
    
From Library Journal
    A colleague's violent death and its apparent cause-a stolen copy of an old, never-released Karloff/Lugosi film-set film editor Sandy Allan on the trail of the film's origins and history. Mystery surrounds the movie, and as Sandy learns of the tragedies which haunted its production, she finds herself threatened by an ancient force protecting secrets deeper than the suppression of a 50-year-old movie. Interestingly, in this novel centered on a horror movie supposedly judged too disturbing to be shown in theaters, author Campbell makes it clear that his own view of the genre does not include the splatter films and paperbacks of the 1980's horror market. His brand of fear derives from atmosphere, suggestion, and his trademark fever-dream world, where litter scuttles across deserted sidewalks and toadstools gleam like eyes. Campbell is renowned among fans and writers alike as the master of a skewed and exquisitely terrifying style, and this latest novel will only add to his reputation.
    
***
    
    
P.
(scaning & OCR) &
P.
(formating & proofing) edition.
    
***
    
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    
    I should begin by thanking Forry Ackerman, whose
Famous
Msters
magazine acquainted me with Karloff and Lugosi before I saw any of their films. Decades later, Dennis Etchison helped me add to my knowledge of them. In the writing of the book my wife Jenny was more important than ever; Edward A. Novak III, Susanne Kirk, Harriet McDougal, Ann Suster, and Tom Doherty also made helpful suggestions.
    
***
    
    At last the pain became unbearable, but not for long. Through the haze that wavered about her she thought she saw the fields and the spectators dancing in celebration of her pain. She was surrounded by folk she'd known all her life, oldsters who had bounced her on their knees when she was little and people of her own age she had played with then, but now their faces were evilly gleeful as the gargoyles on the chapel beyond them. They were jeering at her and holding their children up to see, sitting children on their shoulders so that they were set almost as high as she was. Her streaming eyes blinked at the faces bunched below her. As she tried to see her husband she was praying that he would come and cut her down before the pain grew worse.
    She couldn't see him, and she couldn't cry out to him. Someone had driven a gag into her mouth, so deep that the rusty taste of it was choking her. She couldn't even pray aloud to God to numb her awareness of her bruised tongue that was swollen between her back teeth. Then her senses that were struggling to flee what had been done to her returned, and she remembered that there was no gag, remembered why it couldn't be her tongue that felt like a mouthful of coals whose fire was eating its way through her skull.
    For an instant her mind shrank beyond the reach of her plight, and she remembered everything. Her husband wouldn't save her, even if she were able to call out his name instead of emitting the bovine moan that sounded nothing like her voice. He was dead, and she had seen the devil that had killed him. Everyone below her, relishing her fate, believed that she was being put to death for murdering him, but one man knew better-knew enough to have her tongue torn out while making it appear that he was simply applying the law.
    The haze rippled around her, the gloating faces seemed to swim up toward her through the thickening murk, and again she realized what her mind was desperate to flee. It wasn't just a haze of pain, it was the heat of the flames that were climbing her body. She made the sound again, louder, and flung herself wildly about. The crowd roared to drown her cries or to encourage her to put on more of a show. Then, as if God had answered the prayer she couldn't voice, her struggles or the fire snapped her bonds, and she was toppling forward. Her hair burst into flames. As she crawled writhing out of the fire, she thought she felt her blood start to boil.
    She didn't get far. Hands seized her and dragged her back to the stake. She felt her life draining out of her charred legs into the earth. Hands bound her more securely and lifted her to cast her into the heart of the fire. In the moment before her brain burned, she saw the man who had judged her, gazing down impassively from his tower. The face of the devil that had killed her husband had been a ghastly caricature of the face of the man on the tower.
    
***
    
    Sandy was on her way to lunch when she met Graham Nolan in the corridor. His gray mane gleamed as he strode toward her through the sunlight above London, his blue eyes sparkled, his long cheeks and full lips were ruddy with glee. "Whatever it is must be good to bring you here on your day off," she said.
    "What the world's been waiting for." He gave her a fatherly hug, and she felt as if he was both expressing his delight and hugging it to him. "You've time for a drink, haven't you? Come and help me celebrate."
    "I was going to have a roll in the park," she fed him.
    "If I were younger and swung that way…" he sighed, and ducked as she mimed a punch. "A stroll and then a drink, will that do you? Toby's collecting me when he's finished shopping. You wouldn't send me off to toast myself."
    "We're beginning to sound like a bread commercial. I think you're right, we'd better take a break."
    The lift lowered them five stories to the lobby of Metropolitan Television, where the green carpet felt like turf underfoot. Beyond the revolving doors, taxis loaded with August tourists inched along Bayswater Road. Graham shaded his eyes as he followed her out beneath the taut blue sky, and kept his hand there while he ushered her across to Hyde Park.
    A man whose scalp was red from shaving had attracted most of the tourists at Speaker's Corner and was ranting about someone who ought to be dumped on an island: if they couldn't survive, too bad. Graham made for the nearest park shelter and smiled apologetically at Sandy. "Not much of a stroll, I grant you."
BOOK: Ancient Images
7.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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