Highly recommended! Can't wait for a Ballingrud novel!,
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This review is from: North American Lake Monsters: Stories (Kindle Edition)
I was really impressed with this collection. If you like Robert Aickman, Joel Lane or M. John Harrison, you'll love this. The stories deal with what I suppose you might call blue-collar America. Ordinary people in austere, post-Credit-Crunch times. The horror/weird element in the stories, whether it's a vampire, lake-monster, or other type of monster is often quite small or at the periphery. Some how it never quite takes central stage. The human interest is always at the centre of the story. He creates, unusually for the horror genre, incredibly sympathetic, real, involving, human characters. To the extent that I was quite heart-broken when a couple of the stories ended because I really wanted to spend more time with the people in them. For this reason I think he's going to be a fantastic novel writer.
So, typically in these stories, you get the weird/horror element which is treated in a matter-of-fact way, almost obliquely. This is contrasted with hard-bitten, hard-boiled realism; people suffering with unemployment, poverty, psychological problems, addiction, dysfunctional families, marriage breakdowns. Extreme situations perhaps, but ordinary. And, amazingly, it's often this part of the story; the real and ordinary, which somehow holds the sense of strangeness and the uncanny. Add to this the sympathetic characterisation that I mentioned earlier, and you get these very powerful and poetic stories.
Another thing about the weird element; he never allows it to become too obviously metaphorical or allegorical, so the story really works in a more ambiguous way, much more like poetry.
I should say as well that although the subject matter might seem bleak and depressing, the final result never is. Maybe because the characters are written with real warmth and understanding. However, I don't want to put you off if you're looking for 'bleak and depressing', that's just not how the stories left me.
I loved this book. It's haunted me in a very pleasurable way, like a lovely meal that repeats on you.
I can't wait for him to write a novel.