Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Other Passenger, by John Keir Cross


9781943910977
Valancourt Books, 2017
originally published 1944
261 pp

hardcover

"We go, you see; and with us goes always Another Passenger. He is beside us in every deepest action and speaks through us in every fateful announcement. There is no escaping him or his influence. His voice whispers suddenly in the night, his presence intangibly lingers at our shoulder when we feel ourselves most alone...  We go; and he -- the Other Passenger -- is always at our side."


In the introduction to The Other Passenger, writer and blogger J.F. Norris from Pretty Sinister Books (which has been responsible many times over for titles added to my out-of-control tbr pile) says that
"John Keir Cross is a master at capturing and evoking the indescribable, of exposing the forbidden desires and the criminal impulses, of showing us the people who fall in love with the macabre.  The Other Passenger will take you on whirlwind tour from dizzying heights of delirium and whimsy to the chasms where lie tortured souls forever lost."
 I couldn't agree more.  It is one of those rare books which from the very beginning pushed me to an edge where I don't normally find myself while reading and then kept me there until it was all over.  I knew this book and I were meant for each other after reading the first story, "The Glass Eye," which for a while there gave me an eerie sense of déjà vu before I remembered I'd seen it played out on TV somewhere -- a quick bit of research and I discovered that it was an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. I pulled out my  DVD of Season 3 and  watched it again, and yes, there's Jessica Tandy as Julia, at the theater to catch Max Collodi's show.  Back to the book for another read and from


from Shatner's Toupee

that point on, I knew I was in good hands so I just surrendered and let John Keir Cross take me where ever he was going to go.

Since J.F. Norris has completely captured the essence of this book in the paragraph I quoted above, there's really not much left to say here, except that each and every story has some sort of gut punch, sometimes quiet, sometimes full force.  While every story in this book is beyond excellent, my favorite is "Miss Thing and the Surrealist."  Like many of the other tales in this collection, the true horror in that one sneaks up on you only at the end as you brace yourself from the start, knowing that something's going to happen, but you just don't know what that something's going to be.  You might think you know, but then everything changes in an instant.  The stories here all feature some sort of  tragic figure, adding a touch of poignancy to their situations,  but then things begin to turn toward the horrific as you come to realize the sense of doom that engulfs them.  It's like Cross has looked into a variety of human souls and has brought forth the darkest or most tragic among them. The eerieness of this book is so finely crafted that, as I said earlier, it will keep you on the edge and on edge until that final page has been turned.

Once again, my thanks to Valancourt for bringing this book back into print.









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