A review by Geoff Nelder of
The Respectable Face of Tyranny by Gary Fry
Spectral Visions Volume 1
Published by Spectral Press April 2012 website here
Suppose you are a recently divorced man with a typical teen daughter to bring up and protect. Stress enough for most ordinary people. Then add acute financial problems resulting in having to live in a caravan on a cliff top and you need fortitude. Into this mix your caravan is in the enigmatic landscape of Whitby, North Yorkshire, and you have more imagination than Roald Dahl seeing what might be hallucinations on the beach where the dinosaurs lived, and you too would wonder what life is all about.
Gary Fry has crafted a cunning tale here. No quotidian (his word of the month I think, and I like it) ghost or horror story but a recipe for madness, and yet a grasp for sanity as Josh sees symbols of his financial woes in the Jurassic landscape. This story, like others, by sheer coincidence – in the Spectral Press unique collection – have a personal resonance for me. I too have fossil hunted on Saltwick Bay, wondered about the disintegrating concrete boat from a World warring era, and smelt the metallic tang of pebbles but also the pungent nose-pinching odours of seaweed. I am a keen admirer of fiction that uses real geography and it is cleverly used here.
Praise be to the ammonite god that Whitby Abbey is used and yet no mention of Dracula is called for. Yeay – a first, surely. No vampire is needed to make this story stand out as a literary gem. A dwelling on life’s struggles in the static dwelling on the cliff – where strange electric flocks might be the children of the creatures of that coastline’s geological strata.
Who isn’t beset by financial problems in this global recession? If they lost you your marriage, home, and gave you new problems, how your mind would contort to find solutions. Yet, only in Gary Fry’s imagination has these elements combined – the ancient and the modern, past souls and contemporary life.
Thank you to Gary’s publisher, too for allowing font size changes to great effect. For example – On the beach ‘… heard the sound return to him several times, on each
occasion quieter, quieter, quieter’
This is reminiscent of Walter Miller’s A Canticle For Leibowitz p83 where Brother Francis timidly speaks in a tiny font to the Lord Abbot, then when asked to speak up, blurts out in capitals. Hah. That was in 1960, and generally it’s been discouraged since and can look childish, but masterfully done here.
A theme in the story is on tattoos. Teenage Sally wants one, of course, and dad doesn’t want her too, of course. Cliché so far, but it develops in an undercurrent way, and I love the way she teased him. Also the tattooed man in Whitby Fair so reminded me of Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man, as does – in a good, ironic way – Gary Fry’s publisher himself: Simon Marshall-Jones. You are in this story, just as delectable.
This story isn’t to missed by those readers of the noir side to contemporary life, tainted by ghastly visions, supported by love. Cleverly done.