Saturday, 24 May 2014

‘Restless Waters’ – Robert E. Howard

I have a feeling that you will find ‘Restless Waters’ in ‘The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard’ (don’t quote me on that, can’t find my copy anymore…) but I found it in ‘The Gods of Bal-Sagoth’ collection; a great little book for people like me who want a ten minute chunk of story between meatier slices. More often than not, I’m absolutely in awe of what Robert E. Howard wrote (and how much of a back catalogue there is), especially his short fiction which packs one hell of a lot of story into a very small space. Howard was a master of the art, no doubt about that, and at only eight pages long, ‘Restless Waters’ looked like a nice little read to ease me into the day after a half four in the morning start with Elana. Things don’t often work out the way you want though and ‘Restless Waters’ ended up more than a little disappointing…

At only eight pages long, you’re looking for a simple premise and that’s what we get here with two sea captains talking about the death of one of the captain’s crewmembers and, as the tale progresses, it becomes clear that one of the captains is due a visit from beyond the grave as a result of his wicked ways (and he’s a bad’un, no doubt about it). A great basis for a tale of terror then but it’s signposted so clearly that you’re waiting for the inevitable payoff instead of being ready to be surprised by it. There’s no surprise here (given all the exposition, how can there be?), just a dull sense of the inevitable and that’s a real shame coming from the writer of classic stories such as ‘The Dream Snake’ (where the build-up just flows into the finale which is awesome) , which is as scary as hell. The finale here wants to be dramatic but arrives only to find that its surprise has been spoiled and it doesn't really know what to do with itself.

I've read enough of Howard’s tales now to be pretty sure that this is just a one off and that I still have a lot of great reading in front of me. Just can’t help feeling a little disappointed here. What is it about me and horror/supernatural fiction this week? I can’t pick a good story if my life depended on it. Any recommendations from you guys?

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