Guy N. Smith
Black Hill Books / 180 pages / (February 15, 2013)
Many years ago, I giggled helplessly at a display of books, horror novels featuring the unspeakable terror of… crabs. Maybe you had to be there, but the concept was absurd enough to keep the author’s name branded in my mind. Now, more than 10 years later, to find myself reading and enjoying a book by none other than Guy N. Smith.
The Lichfield District is a typical rural area of England — farms, high streets, narrow streets, and the occasional narrow mind. Add one dangerously open mind and you throw the whole thing into chaos. Add one farmer, determined to work the land in the old way, organic and by hand, and watch the farming community bristle. Add one itinerant busker and watch the villagers die.
(A “busker” for those who aren’t familiar with the term, is a street performer, usually a musician.)
This particular busker, Jonjo, is a bit different from your average wandering minstrel, for his tunes are the kind that stick in your head until they drive you half-crazy. In some cases, half is more than enough. And this fellow just happens to appear in Lichfield at the same time that a series of very strange incidents commence, some of them deadly.
As each new catastrophe befalls the community, Jonjo repeats his dire warnings. The land will fight back against those who misuse and abuse it. And time is running out for the people of Lichfield to heed the warning.
It’s short, sharp, and scary. Is it the finest example of horror fiction ever? Nah, but who cares? It promises dark fantasy and it delivers that and more.
Cruise the internet and you will find love and hate sites devoted to Mr Smith. Is he the worst writer in the genre? Is he the best? Well, not many readers would go so far as to place him at the top of the shortlist (there is that crab series, after all…), but he has his staunch supporters. And there has to be some reason why Smith has over 60 books to his credit.
If you can base such a judgement on one, short novel, I suppose I would come down on the side of Smith’s fans. The Busker is good, old-fashioned, blood-and-guts horror. It also provides a powerful, sound environmental message. Add the fact that it is firmly placed in a charming area of my favourite place on Earth (not a word to the USA) and it is going to score big in my humble estimation.