Tuesday Terror! Into the London Fog edited by Elizabeth Dearnley

A question of expectations…

🙂 🙂 🙂

An anthology of horror stories on the theme of London Fog sounds perfect – the porpy and I quivered in anticipation. The introduction is interesting, so long as you can tolerate the “woke” language, where words like “gender” and “other” are used as verbs. Dearnley discusses the “transgressive” nature of horror and how fog could be used either literally or metaphorically. It sounded a little to me like a compression of the discussion of how fog had been used in literature in Christine L. Corton’s book, London Fog, so I was glad to see that volume name-checked in this book’s bibliography.

There are fourteen titles listed in the index, although it transpires that several aren’t stories, but essays or extracts from writers such as Sam Selvon, Virginia Woolf, et al. Also, several – both stories and essays – mention fog barely or not at all, and occasionally barely mention London either. It’s a question of expectations – when an anthology is subtitled “Eerie Tales from the Weird City” and titled “Into the London Fog”, then my pedantic mind expects fourteen eerie, weird tales with something to do with London fog. Perhaps I’m being unreasonable. But the result was that I found this collection disappointing, even although there are a few good stories in it. Had it been described as a mixed literary anthology on the theme of London, I may have liked it more, though then I’d have been comparing it adversely to London: A Literary Anthology (another British Library publication), which does the same only better.

As always, here’s a flavour of the entries I enjoyed most (since I like to meet my readers’ expectations… 😉 )

The Demon Lover by Elizabeth Bowen – this story about a woman returning to her closed-up London home during the Blitz is excellent – atmospheric, evocative and scary! I posted about it earlier in Tuesday Terror!

N by Arthur Machen – this lives up to the book’s subtitle, falling distinctly into the definition of weird. Three old men discuss a place in Stoke Newington called Canon’s Park. One tells of a man who saw it and described it as a place of great, almost impossible, beauty. But another of the old men remembers the place from his youth, and declares it to be nothing more than a district of streets and houses. The third man investigates, and finds the place is connected to strange and spooky events! Machen is a great writer, and here he gives some excellent depictions of old London and a tale that is odd, ambiguous and well told.

My Girl and the City by Sam Selvon – despite my annoyance at the inclusion of extracts and essays, I must admit I loved this piece. It’s a reflection on Selvon’s love of London, and the difficulty for a writer of finding a way to write about something that has already been experienced by so many and written about so often before. It is beautifully written – a love poem to his girl and to the city.

I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed loads of anthologies this winter, most of them from the wonderful British Library weird and science fiction series, and will be reviewing and recommending them over the coming weeks. This one didn’t hit the mark for me because it didn’t meet my expectations, but if the idea of a mix of horror and literary essays appeals to you, then it may work better for you.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, the British Library.

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24 thoughts on “Tuesday Terror! Into the London Fog edited by Elizabeth Dearnley

  1. I couldn’t agree more about expectations, FictionFan. If you’re expecting one thing, and you get another, even if that ‘another’ is good, it somehow feels like a letdown. Those three stories you shared do sound good, so I’m glad you enjoyed them. And honestly, the theme of London and fog could be a fantastic theme for a horror anthology. That’s the thing about collections, though, isn’t it? They’re not always consistently good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I guess it’s to do with mood – if I’m in the mood for a horror story and pick up a book only to discover it’s actually Virginia Woolf pontificating about feminism or something… well, imagine how the poor porpy felt! 😉 I do think a London fog/horror anthology is a great idea, though – maybe they’ll revisit it at some time.

      Liked by 3 people

    • I loved it – must read more of her stories! Yes, that kind of academia lit-crit language always puts me off – usually the intros in these are more about the context of the stories than that kind of analysis.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t think you were being overly hopeful, FF. It sounds to me a mixed bag, something I don’t typically gravitate to. And three stars tells me it’s not something I’ll be racing out to try and find either, ha!

    Liked by 1 person

    • These anthologies are always variable but usually the good outweighs the not so good. There was nothing wrong with the entries in this one except that I was expecting horror stories, not essays from Virginia Woolf!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The stories you mention do, indeed, sound interesting, but you’re right, your expectations were set for a far different reading experience. I’m really wondering why they couched all of the pieces as stories…..very strange….

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can’t imagine – usually their anthologies are very well tied to the theme. I haven’t come across Elizabeth Dearnley as an editor before, and it felt as if she was maybe trying to be more academic than this series is really aimed at. From GR reviews, I’m not the only person who found it all a bit messy…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Well, I guess they can’t all be great. At least you found a few good stories in it. (speaking of fog…. had to travel to the “big city” today and went through a good bit of the eerie stuff on the way!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I thought I’d get the less good one out of the way first, so be prepared for temptation with the rest! I love fog so long as I don’t have to drive in it – it’s so spooky and I love the way it deadens noise, so that you can only hear faint footsteps and see a vague shape approach… 😱

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I inadvertently participated in Tuesday Terror today. I’m reading a short story anthology and today read “The Beckoning Fair One” by Oliver Onions which was suitable creepy for the day!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Seems as though the editor wasn’t quite sure what kind of collection she wanted to put together, no wonder it ended up as something of a mishmash. Oddly enough, the LitCrit stuff appeals to me more than the horror stories, but it seems like an odd choice to put them together. I can see why this ended up as such a frustrating read for you, better luck next time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, it felt like she really wasn’t too interested in the horror stuff, which is fair enough but a bit odd when you’re compiling a horror anthology! If the LitCrit angle appeals, then you might enjoy Christine L Corton’s London Fog – it’s a combined history of the fog, why it happened and how it was finally solved, and an examination of how people have used it in literature and art over the last couple of centuries. The history bit was a little dull, but the literary stuff was fascinating, and really inspired my interest in reading foggy stories.

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  7. I still like the sounds of this one despite its disappointing lack of fog-specific stories (LOL) but like you, I can’t help but be disappointed when a book is marketed and titled one way, and us readers find something different. It seems…unfair? especially because reading a book is a commitment, it’s not like biting into a single chocolate or anything…

    Liked by 1 person

    • If I bit into a chocolate that was supposed to be a coffee cream only to discover it was a marzipan, I’d be furious! 😉 Yes, this one felt out of step with the other books in this series and the other reviews on Goodreads suggest I’m not alone in feeling a bit disgruntled about it.

      Liked by 1 person

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