Saturday 8 September 2018

Thirteen Days by Sunset Beach by Ramsey Campbell @ramseycampbell1 @flametreepress #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour

It’s Ray’s and Sandra’s first family holiday in Greece, on the island of Vasilema. The skies are cloudier than anywhere else in Greece, and they’re intrigued by local eccentricities―the lack of mirrors, the outsize beach umbrellas, the saint’s day celebrated with an odd nocturnal ritual. Why are there islanders who seem to follow the family wherever they go? Why do Sandra and the teenage grandchildren have strangely similar dreams? Has Sandra been granted a wish she didn’t know she made? Before their holiday is over, some of the family may learn too much about the secret that keeps the island alive.

Thirteen Days by Sunset Beach by Ramsey Campbell was published by Flame Tree Press on 6 September 2018.
As part of the #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour, I'm delighted to welcome the author here today, he's talking about the books that are special to him in My Life In Books.

My Life in Books - Ramsey Campbell

The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
I believe The Lost World was the first book I really loved. As a reader I was alarmingly precocious, and I originally read Doyle’s novel well before my teens, and reread it several times. Recently I returned to it and was rather afraid it might have lost its magic, but not so. His storytelling power (equally exemplified in The Hound of the Baskervilles, which I found compelling despite not reading it until I’d watched at least two film versions) remains undiminished, and I experienced all the sense of wonder and adventure I’d enjoyed more than half a century ago.

Best Horror Stories, edited by John Keir Cross
The first hardcover I ever saved up my pocket money to buy, this was crucial to shaping my view of my field. Besides Poe and Bierce and Bradbury and M. R. James it included Graham Greene and Faulkner and Kipling and an entire novella (“Bartleby”) by Herman Melville, and I felt in no way cheated even though I was eleven years old. These stories seemed to me to be perfectly at home in the book and in my notion of what horror fiction could be, even though the editor himself admitted in the introduction that though he thought the Melville was a horror story, readers might disagree. I didn’t, and I’m sure that was a formative moment for me.

Cry Horror by H. P. Lovecraft
This was the first collection of Lovecraft’s tales ever to appear in British paperback. I read it in a single day when I was fourteen, and thought it was the absolute
pinnacle of horror fiction – the achievement to which everything else aspired. I still believe that the structure and the modulation of prose in his best work repays close study, and that few writers have equalled his sense of cosmic terror. I tried not long after I’d read this collection, and once I’d followed the (to put it mildly, necessary) editorial advice of August Derleth at Arkham House, the resulting tales made up my first published book in 1964.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
I found Nabokov’s novel on a station bookstall while returning with my mother from spending Christmas with relatives, when I was just about to turn seventeen. I confess one reason I bought the Corgi paperback was the book’s reputation for breaking a taboo – it had the appeal of the recently forbidden. I’d barely read the lyrical opening when I knew I’d bought something far more substantial and remarkable. Long before the end I was overwhelmed by the celebration of language, the challengingly oblique approach to the theme, the extraordinary use of humour that never compromises the seriousness of the novel, the sense of a genius at play but of moral gravity too… I bought all the other novels by the author I could find, and Pale Fire proved to be almost as much of a revelation. Nabokov helped to liberate my style and my approach to writing.

Brighton Rock by Graham Greene
This was the first work by Greene I read, around the same time as Lolita, and just as crucial to setting me on my personal path. I was entranced by the sense of place, the evocativeness of the references to posters for familiar products (the same effect, I believe, that Steve King’s use of product names in his work has on American readers), the exemplary succinctness, the sharpness of the impressions Greene conveys with perfect choices of image, the edgy psychological realism. These were elements I learned from too, and along with the urban supernatural tales of Fritz Leiber – “Smoke Ghost” in particular, where the familiar environment is no longer invaded by the uncanny but becomes its source – they helped illuminate the path to my own themes.

The Bell by Iris Murdoch
In my late teens I used to buy several Penguin paperbacks a month, and some authors were represented every month until I ran out of their titles, reading them in order of publication. Among them was Iris Murdoch, whose work I found pretty well unputdownable, a quality I also find in novels as disparate as Mervyn Peake’s trilogy, Ira Levin’s A Kiss Before Dying (which for me remains as suspenseful on rereading) and Samuel Beckett’s The Unnamable. I remember devouring The Flight from the Enchanter in two days on train journeys to Manchester, and finding the tower scene in The Sandcastle breathlessly compelling (a demonstration of how a succession of short sentences works). The Bell seizes the reader – certainly this one – from its opening line, and its eloquence never lets up. I’m delighted to see a new uniform paperback edition of her novels.

Hitchcock’s Films by Robin Wood
In my late teens I bought the first edition of Hitchcock’s Films, the monograph by the great Robin Wood. My view of the cinema was already enlivened by the auteur theory, represented by Movie magazine in England and Andrew Sarris in Film Culture and the Village Voice in America, but Wood’s exegesis was a revelation. It did exactly what I believe both art and criticism ought to do – make us (and that includes the author writing the work) look again at what we’ve taken for granted. It opened up films such as Psycho and North by Northwest to me in ways I would never have thought possible, and I believe it opened up stories that I would write afterwards. Not for nothing does “Concussion”, a story I wrote some years later, use Hitchcock’s Vertigo as a central image, crucially distorted by the protagonist’s vision.

A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell
Powell’s sequence of twelve novels is as captivating as it is immense, and one (or more properly a dozen) of the books that have left me eager to reread them. Their range is as great as their length, from social and historical observation to personal sagas, comedy and satire all the way to tragedy. For me they occupy a central peak in last century’s English comic fiction, between Evelyn Waugh and Kingsley Amis. I hope nobody’s surprised by the inclusion of such work among my inspirations. I regard much of my own stuff as comedy of paranoia, and increasingly I feel that’s one way to look at contemporary life.

Ramsey Campbell - September 2018 

Ramsey Campbell is a British writer considered by a number of critics to be one of the great masters of horror fiction. T. E. D. Klein has written that "Campbell reigns supreme in the field today," while S. T. Joshi has said that "future generations will regard him as the leading horror writer of our generation, every bit the equal of Lovecraft or Blackwood."

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