Friday, 11 August 2017

'The Lengthsman'

Charles Wilkinson is a regular contributor to many of the best weird/horror publications (ahem) so it's not surprising that his story in Cold Iron is a very good one. It demonstrates just how much freight the supposedly slight format of the traditional ghost story can carry.

'The Lengthsman' is a tale of class, childhood, superstition, and a lot of other things besides. Timothy is spending the summer vacation in Wales, where he's made friends with local boy Rhodri. The chasm between them - Timothy will soon be returning to a boarding school - is bridged by real friendship. But the other village boys are not so keen on their posh English visitor, and Timothy is an obvious target for bullying. Rhodri rescues his friend from young thugs - but other threats are less easily dealt with.

Rhodri's grandfather was a collector of folk tales. Timothy's father is casually dismissive of the way Rhodri passes many Welsh stories on to his son. But the Lengthsman (a figure not unlike the famous Slender Man) is very real to Timothy. The final revelation, when father is about to drop son off at school, is precisely balanced between the real and the surreal. This one should be reprinted in a 'best of' anthology, I feel. It certainly bears rereading.

More from this running/staggering/crawling review soon!

No comments: