BOOK
Spectre

Author: Stephen Laws
Telos Publishing
RRP 9.99 (standard paperback), 30.00 (deluxe hardback)
ISBN 1 903889 72 3 (standard edition)
ISBN 1 903889 73 1 (deluxe edition)
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Richard Eden holds on to the past with a treasured photograph. He was one of four boys and a girl, inseparable friends from Newcastle who called themselves the Byker Chapter. When the images on the photograph begin to fade one by one, he realises something from their past is taking out the Byker Chapter in particularly gristly fashion...

Stephen Laws is an established writer of horror fiction whose books include, Ghost Train, Darkfall, The Wyrm, Somewhere South of Midnight, The Frighteners, and my particular favourite, Daemonic.

When I first read this book upon its original publication, I hadn't heard of the Byker district of Newcastle. Since then, of course, the Grange Hill-like Byker Grove has well and truly placed the changed region on the map. Having grown up in the area Stephen Laws writes comfortably in the setting, although by his own admission, whatever landmarks he writes about they seem to demolish shortly afterward. There is a nice build-up of tension in what amounts to a Ten Little Indians scenario, at least early on. The characters are well-realised, their fears and insecurities feeling natural in this instance.

With many books, the problem with so many good ideas is that two-thirds of the manuscript builds mystery and expectation which the last third can't satisfy. In other words, when the story should reach a nail-biting climax it instead turns into plodding exposition as the author attempts to tie the strands up into a neat little package. Fortunately, Spectre doesn't suffer overly from this pitfall. It is a fast-paced and concise tale.

Once again Telos Publishing should be commended for its attractive packaging. As far as I'm aware this is only the second title in a planned run of horror classic reprints; although this isn't in the same league as Graham Masterton's excellent debut The Manitou (Masterton, in my opinion, being the best horror writer of all time), it is nevertheless an intelligent choice. Telos is producing a sort of DVD Special Edition here, by reinstating cut scenes and having the author make little changes here and there to improve the story to how it was originally intended before the required editorial cuts. How about James Herbert's The Rats next, or Stephen Gallagher's Chimera? The sky's the limit.

Ty Power

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cover
Standard Paperback
£9.99 (Amazon.co.uk)
   
Standard Paperback
£9.99 (WHSmith.co.uk)
   
cover
Deluxe Hardback
£30.00 (Amazon.co.uk)
   
Deluxe Hardback
£30.00 (WHSmith.co.uk)

All prices correct at time of going to press.