Books by Lesley Glaister

EASY PEASY by Lesley Glaister
Released: Sept. 15, 1997

English writer Glaister's specialty has been gripping, spooky little horror shows involving nasty wipe-outs and creepy eccentrics in decaying digs (Limestone and Clay, 1994, etc.). Here, however— in a tale about a young woman coming to grips with a legacy of cruelty—the subtleties of the psyche's netherworld are blunted by a shrill first-person narration, held to a high C of anguish. Just before the phone call announcing her father's suicide, Griselda (``Zelda'' to her lover, ``Grizzle'' to the family) soaks in the tub, ``wet and sad,'' contemplating what she regards as inevitable: Foxy, her lesbian lover, will leave her. Yet even the love of Foxy has not always allowed Grizzle to sleep some nights, as she remembers the terror of hearing as a child the screams of anguish from her father's nightmares. The cause of the screams was not the only bewildering secret held by Daddy, a man who spent years in a WW II Japanese prison camp. Why was he so good and kind to ten-year-old Vassily, a kid none of his peers could stand—with his yellow chisel face, disfigured chest, and deafness to boot? A born misfit, a born victim. Why did Daddy, wondered Grizzle and sister Hazel, take Vass for treats and projects and make the girls let him in the treehouse, where Grizzle kept her ant farm and Hazel gossiped with a best friend? How, exactly, did Vass come to be the victim of a hideous assault? In the present, Zelda finally discovers the source of her father's agonies. She also tends Vass's dying (ex-prostitute) mother, and confronts an adult Vassily, before at last managing to put some demons to rest. Glaister mixes a cool victim/tormenter tale with the heated pulse of an obsessed love affair—and the two don't seem to meld in tone. Still, she keeps one reading. Read full book review >
LIMESTONE AND CLAY by Lesley Glaister
Released: April 1, 1994

This English author has dealt before (Digging to Australia, 1993, etc.) with the creepy stuff that can issue forth from ``ordinariness,'' a disarming quality often buffeted by her grotesque-to-cheerful eccentrics ballooning over a modest landscape. Here a jangle-nerved young married couple cook their respective obsessions to a nightmare boil. Nadia is a potter and sculptor; her husband, handsome Simon, is a teacher of geography and a caver—discovering new worlds beneath the surface of the earth is his passion. His latest project is to locate a joining of two caves, a project in which his friend Roland lost his life. Nadia is obsessed with another interior mystery—why can she not successfully conceive a child? One rainy night, both Nadia and Simon are drawn separately to potential disaster. Simon, minus caving mates, descends below. Nadia, in a white rage at learning that Simon acted as donor to his former lover, who has conceived his child, takes off to an inn where she is asked to babysit an infant. In a drunken fancy, Nadia absorbs the child as her own, while below, Simon, in the dark (Nadia had taken his batteries, not knowing his destination), approaches terror—and a horrible vision. Offstage monitor of disaster is Nadia's neighbor Iris, with her ``cheerful doughy face'' and an obese husband with a beard clogged with food. Iris calls Nadia ``ducks'' and her crow pet ``Darling.'' Iris—a Glaister trademark eccentric—tells tea leaves, even cornflakes. Like Darling's caw, Iris alerts Nadia to danger. In the end Simon and Nadia, spirits shriveled, make their tired decision at the mouth of Simon's cave. Although one tires of the details about Nadia's plumbing, and Simon is a bit of an ass, still there's no denying Glaister's ability to pull terror and suspense from just about anywhere, including a truly scary hole in the ground. Read full book review >
DIGGING TO AUSTRALIA by Lesley Glaister
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: April 20, 1993

In her increasingly interesting work, this English author has intuited some uncomfortable truths about the ``outsider's'' pursuit of the ``ordinary'' (in Honour Thy Father, 1991, a gothicy creeper, as well as in Trick or Treat, 1992). Here, within the pulsing psyche of an adolescent girl—fenced apart, she feels, from the world of her peers—eerie joys and sudden cruelty pierce in and out, and phantoms roam. ``Ordinariness was all that I had ever craved,'' says 12-year- old Jennifer, who can hardly invite anyone over. Bob insists on not wearing clothes (he and Mama are old ``leftists''), TV isn't allowed (gamma rays), and the two are just ``old.'' One day Jennifer decides to dig down to Australia (``the game of a lonely girl''), and, lured by a starving cat instead of a rabbit, she finds a way to a deserted cemetery, a decaying playground, an unholy church sans pews and altar, and then to ``Johnny''—the ferret-faced whistler, working hard with old wood on ``something.'' Like Alice, Jennifer shrinks and expands in perception—the new and exotic loom large, and at home her ``parents'' confess to a lie so terrible that she wants ``to pay them back.'' But later, watching the foolish old couple, she still wants to go back to childhood and certainty, the time before she knew ``the greyness that lay behind everything.'' Armed with the tale of the lumpy, unlikable girl Bronwyn, lipstick, cigarettes, and the tantalizing, bewildering, sexually exciting, dangerous Johnny, ``My life was opening up. Like some exotic flower.'' At the close, Jennifer performs a terrible exorcism. Lies, guilt (``never simple or innocent''), and cruelty flicker on the edge of an adolescent's crazily wavering view of her world and herself—in this mesmerizing tale, again bright with shards of humor, corrosive observation and potent landscapes. A shrewd, efficient, invasive novel—first-rate. Read full book review >
TRICK OR TREAT by Lesley Glaister
Released: April 1, 1992

In Glaister's second skillful, blackly comic gothic-y novel, two neighboring grotesque and touching cuckoos are nudged into eye- bugging public displays. It all takes place in a modest corner of an English city, and, as in Glaister's Honour Thy Father (1991), there's a nasty bit of the past to be exhumed, plus doom on the way, but here there's also considerable warmth and good humor. Eight-year-old Wolfe, unhappy with itchy skin and the name his generally loving, heavily pregnant, hippie mother Petra burdened him with, misses the commune and learns to say ``things are in a state of flux.'' Next door to Wolfe are Olive and nice, grandfatherly Arthur. The pair have been together for years but never married, on principle, as old leftist activists. Olive, once a lush rose of a powerful, sexy magnetism, is now a bubbling mass of confusion and emotive storms within a mound of obesity. Arthur, adoring, cares for this impressive ruin. On the other side of Wolfe's family is ancient Nell, a frenzied nerve of inanity who lives to clean and disinfect. But what to do with her son Rodney, returned after many years (some in jail) and crawling with germs? Before Nell's scouring potential goes off the dial, there'll be a confrontation with Olive—whom Nell has hated since schooldays—at a Guy Fawkes Day bonfire and picnic in Wolfe's yard. Subsidiary fireworks abound, involving a prize cup, a hat with cherries, and a sizzling affair in the long-ago. There'll also be treats for Wolfe, dirty, dirty tricks, two deaths, and, at the close, a massive final cleansing boom. Glaister snaps her old birds in midflight in witty flashes: As nervous Nell awaits visitors on Halloween, ``her knees are locked together and her ears are on stalks.'' In all: a cool, sure, bright entertainment. Read full book review >
HONOUR THY FATHER by Lesley Glaister
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: May 1, 1991

A dank, dark gothic tale with none of the stylistic excesses of the genre: in fact, Glaister's narrator, an elderly woman living with three sisters in a houseful of nasty secrets, tells their story with an English country-woman's open-faced simplicity—which gives the horrid events a poignant backdrop. Narrator Milly, touching 80, begins her memories of the past— revisited time after time—as older sister Agatha is banging and scraping the floor in an attic bedroom; the mirror-image twins, Ellen and Esther (always called ``Ellenanesther''), murmur below to each other; and ``poor baby George'' (who will make an impressive later appearance) is in the basement. Milly wanders back to the past to remember a fragile loving mother (with her memories of jewels and white tablecloths and a man who wouldn't marry her) and a terrifying father, who abused her mother (she disappeared forever in the waters behind the dike), who drove away the family's only kind neighbors, and who would one day rob Milly of the young man she loved. Why did the sisters stay in Father's house? Why not finish packing instead of leaving things-to-be-packed to become, years later, soft, gray, dusty cloth amid the rubbish, old food, mold and cat hairs? Hang in there until the close (when the flood waters, along with the reader's gorge, are rising), and all will be revealed, including poor baby George. Decay and devastation in an evil father's house: a chilly first novel in which a lumbering horror plot is handled with skill and restraint. Read full book review >