Sunday 4 October 2009

The Midnight Man, by Simon Clark

Next in my run at the British Fantasy Award nominated novels was The Midnight Man, by Simon Clark (best known in the UK at least for his sequel to The Day of the Triffids). Like The Victoria Vanishes, this isn’t one I’d have picked up to read if it wasn’t on the BFA list.

To begin with it seemed like Anno Dracula with Vincent Van Gogh instead of literary characters. The story is told from the point of view of two young women; Ty, a prostitute fascinated by the red-headed lunatic who paints in the fields, and Nidabi, an Indian slave/servant/whore rescued from a miserable existence by Pastor Hux, an intense young man who egg-sliced her former master’s face with a wire fence.

It took me a while to get into this book. It’s a slow burner, and I’m not a fan of epistolary or diary novels at the best of times – too much unnecessary faff – so I put it to one side while reading The Victoria Vanishes. I got on with it much better the second time around. Like earlier Gothic novels such as The Mysteries of Udolpho, it needs time to catch you in its mood and tempo. It’s an interesting gaslight thriller, but…

It’s not a fantasy novel in the slightest. Bit of a stretch to even call it horror (though that’s how the publisher has categorised it on the copyright page). So, good as it was, it didn’t stand a chance of getting my vote in the British Fantasy Awards. Non-fantasy horror is eligible in the awards, but it’s not where my votes would go.

The Midnight Man, by Simon Clark, Severn House Publishers, hb, 224pp.

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