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"Pumpkin Night" / Gary McMahon

thhalloween2007a.jpgfrom Estronomicon / Halloween 2007 Issue
Reviewed by: Vince A. Liaguno

The British understand subtlety, especially in horror. Case in point: Gary McMahon’s sublimely atmospheric short story “Pumpkin Night.” In this haunting Halloween lament, McMahon introduces us to Baxter, newly widowed and grieving the loss of his wife, Katy. But before you write “Pumpkin Night” off as another sad tale of a husband’s grief bringing back the specter of his dead wife, think again. For Baxter and Katy shared a particular love for Halloween and a penchant for the young tricksters whose fates are slowly revealed through the use of suggestion.

The strength of “Pumpkin Night” is two-fold both in its lush Halloween imagery that sets the mood perfectly and the restraint of McMahon’s prose:

“Rain spat at the windows, thunder rumbled overhead. The weather had taken a turn for the worse only yesterday, as if gearing up for a night of spooks. Outside, someone screamed; laughter; the sound of light footsteps running past his garden gate but not stopping, never stopping here.”

He wisely shades the depravity of his characters in subtlety, bringing home the point that there are no such things as Halloween ghosts or goblins or monsters - “just people, and the things they did to each other.” There is nothing remotely resembling a shock effect here, no graphic descriptions to revile and repulse. McMahon’s story works effectively through this masterful sense of understatement, hinting at the unspeakable horrors that lie buried beneath a thin covering of dirt in the basement, warning of the moral corruption lurking just under the surface of our neighbors’ friendly facades. Like the best exercises in horror, McMahon leaves the details up to the reader’s imagination.

Read Gary McMahon’s “Pumpkin Night” in Estronomicon.

Posted on Sunday, November 4, 2007 at 12:17PM by Registered CommenterDark Scribe Magazine in | Comments Off

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