Time for some classic horror!
Algernon Blackwood – The Willows (1907)
The Willows is either a longish short story or a shortish novella by Algernon Blackwood, one of the absolute masters of horror. (His work even influenced H.P. Lovecraft, and that’s saying something!) This story is about a couple of friends who are canoeing down the Danube and find themselves in the midst of a flood and washed into a strange, marshy area. The water is rushing, the wind is howling, and the sun is about to set, so the travelers decide to make camp on a sandy island covered in bushes and small trees. Events quickly turn creepy, however, as strange noises are heard without sources, odd things float by in the floodwater (was that a body?), the island itself starts to crumble into the rushing waters, and the campers start feeling an unexplainable, unearthly sense of dread.
This is a great, creepy tale, despite being over a hundred years old, and it doesn’t suffer as much as some older stories do in the language department. I know people who think Lovecraft can be a slog to get through, and I personally had a rough time finishing both Dracula AND Frankenstein because of the pacing, so I get it. (I DID finish them both because they are CLASSICS, and it felt weird having not read two of the foundational texts of the horror genre, since I consider myself a horror scholar. I didn’t really care for either book, but now I HAVE read them…) Regardless, Blackwood is a solid writer, and this particular tale is very well told.
And not only is the story good, but I was also able to find the book as a free download for my e-reader through Amazon! (As local department store owner, Tom Peterson, used to say, “Free is a very good price!”) I would definitely recommend this story for fans of supernatural horror or for people who are interested in older tales (but perhaps aren’t quite ready to commit a month to reading a true Gothic novel! Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White run more than 500 pages long and Varney the Vampire is a sprawling 800 plus, but Varney is such fantastic, purple-prose, penny-dreadful crap that it’s absolutely worth it!), or perhaps this book might be just the ticket for people who really don’t like camping and want a good excuse to stay home! It’s a great spooky story!
—Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Supreme Bunny Lord of The P.E.W.)
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