Amusingly damp horror in a fog-bound British bookstore. Don’t touch that shelf!
Despite his many titles and high standing among lovers of babbling madness, Campbell (The Darkest Part of the Woods, 2003, etc.) reveals in his acknowledgments that he found himself short-funded in March 2001 and went to work at a British branch of Borders. He avers that none of the folks in his novel resemble fellow book-shelvers met during those days in the darkest part of the royalty woods. Woody Blake, an American manager for Texts bookstores who has put shops shipshape in New Orleans and Minneapolis, has now been sent to Fenny Meadows Retail Park in northern England to open a giant new Texts store. In the States, such haunts are usually built on an Indian burial ground, but this one is on a fenny meadow—which means things get very misty. And that’s not all. Overnight, books leap from their rightful shelf to that opposite. They resist nightly tidying up after closing hour and lie splayed about come morning. People order books, but orders vanish from computer screens or the book lands among the discards, its inner pages lost and print blurry. Blurry print spreads like a virus. Books get grubby, damp, slimed. Weird damp fog-things (well, squat gray jellies) slurp about the aisles at night. A hit-and-run kills store worker Lorraine in the car park. Another worker, mind-wiped, can no longer make sense of words. And now the bosses are coming for a Christmas-rush inspection of Woody’s work. Horrors: this calls for an overnight with the whole staff pitching in to put the store in order. Power fizzles, something invades and blurs the grey computer screens. And can the inspectors even find the shop in the sodden fog on this sinking soggy tarmac? The mud, the mud! Whole villages long ago sank from sight right here.
An appealing little fancy. Display this upfront.