The Fox by Conrad Williams
Cover Artwork by Neil Williams
This Is Horror
Limited Edition Signature Paperback (Limited to 300 copies)
Conrad Williams’s, The Fox, is my first experience with a chapbook. It’s also one of several stories published by ThisisHorror.co.uk and my introduction to what they’re doing, across the pond. I have to say, I do like this format of storytelling — more than a short but not quite a novella. The sort of tale that made pulp magazines so popular.
The narrative takes us through the mind of a man on a rustic, family vacation turned nightmare. Conrad’s prose here can be quite interesting, and I really appreciate reading something that doesn’t come off as a Lovecraft impersonation. Hell, I was pleasantly surprised to get hints of Salinger with the general brazenness of Conrad’s protagonist.
The Fox is really about coming full circle with the ghosts of your past, and I really appreciated the layers and irony crammed into this small package. But if you’re a quick reader like me, then tension could be lost due to its length. Not knowing what to expect, I found myself at the end when I was really starting to get hooked into it.
As a horror fan, I like to see mystery. I don’t want everything spelled out. The unknown works because it doesn’t violate anyone’s personal logic. Williams succeeds by letting the reader stay in the boundaries of their reality, which is far scarier and more visceral.
Overall, The Fox hits several of the right notes. It’s more than just a scary story, and I think deserves, someday, to get the full novel treatment. As shorts go, it’s one of the better ones I’ve come across: vivid imagery, solid pacing, and some good character depth. Let’s just say it’s a good thing I don’t live in a wintery countryside, oh wait!