A little belated due to a diary blip on my part, but here is my stop on the Random Things Tour for The Nightmare Tree by Paul O’Neill.
Disclaimer – I received a copy in exchange for an honest review, all thoughts are my own.
The debut short story collection from a fresh new voice. Thirteen tales of horror and suspense.
In the forgotten places of Scotland, terror awaits.
Contains the chilling stories: The Great Slime Kings – Three’s a Crowd – The Summer Bullet – The Only Emperor – Down Below is Silence and Darkness – Guardians – In a Jar of Spiders – We the Dark Deniers – Blocks – Nightmare Soup – The Dumps – Once Upon a Flame – The Nightmare Tree (novella).
I love the cover of this collection, it’s simple but all the more striking for it and captures the spirit of the stories inside and it certainly caught my attention. Another reason why I had to pick this one up was that it was Scottish Horror – and looking out of the window with the nights drawing in, and rain on the window, it’s a little too easy to conjure the imagery from the stories and I have to say that there was a distinct Scottish attitude bleeding through in the stories and some of the language choices and I loved it. Since reading it, I also discovered it was fictional towns set in Fife, which is where I live and I just love having that connection with a story and it makes them land a little differently.
This was a perfect read for the spooky season too, and O’Neill has created an intriguing and varied collection of stories, that you can dip in and out of as the fancy takes you. The variety in the stories was really a highlight of the book, and you have to admire the author’s imagination and ability to capture horror in its different forms. Considering I am not a fan of spiders, it’s quite funny that my favourite story in the collection was ‘In a Jar of Spiders’, but it was just one of those tales that creeps under your skin and lingers…a bit like that spider in the corner of the room really, but a lot more pleasant. I also really enjoyed the titular story, but the entire collection was an enjoyable read.
‘A mass of blackness engulfed the bottom of the long winding road, eating up houses, the bright sun glittering off its oily surface like a distant, tar-filled sea.’
There is a skill to short stories, and O’Neill’s skill shows through in this collection. My favourite aspect of his writing was his ability to capture the setting of the story, and some of the best descriptions were about the places where these spine-tingling stories were taking place. He also had a talent for capturing character voices – they were all believable and established as individuals very quickly. There were a couple of places where the dialogue felt a little clunky, but it didn’t detract from the atmosphere and experience.
All in all, this was a fun debut collection and is a great addition to any spooky-month TBR.
Paul O’Neill is a short fiction writer from Fife, Scotland. He is an Internal Communications professional who battles the demon of corporate speak on a daily basis.
His stories have appeared in Eerie River’s It Calls from the Doors anthology, Scare Street’s Night Terrors series, Purple Wall stories and many more. He placed second in Teleport Magazine’s short story competition, and was shortlisted by Writers’ Forum Magazine in one of their regular contests.
His debut short story collection, The Nightmare Tree is available now!
Outside of reading and writing, his favourite pastimes include laughing with his family, the Green Bay Packers, and repeating how to pronounce his sons’ names over and over until people actually get it.
You can find him at pauloneillwriter.com or on Twitter @PaulOn1984.