Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Book Review: The Night Just Got Darker by Gary McMahon

When we lose someone, it’s common to hear the expression, “a light went out.” For Gary McMahon and many other writers, publishers, editors and readers who were friends of the late Joel Lane, the night did indeed get a great deal darker when he passed away in November 2013. The outpouring of sadness at the time – and since - was such that although I had never met Joel, my heart broke for those that loved him so much.

I confess I was somewhat nervous about reading The Night Just Got Darker. I’m a big fan of Gary McMahon’s writing; he has an uncanny way of twisting a needle into your soul to touch your deepest emotions, your anger, your fears… your hurt. I knew this chapbook was a dedication to his friend Joel and I asked myself if it was appropriate to read of someone’s grief laid bare. Feeling uncomfortable is something I usually welcome, but would this story be too personal?


The Night Just Got Darker is a beautifully written tale of observance and of being observed, of a man shifting away from banal normality into a troubling and spiritual mental landscape as he becomes fascinated with a writer that lives across the way. Their cautious relationship is as tender as it is sinister, taking the reader from a mundane fear of potential stalking to a slow realisation that nothing between the two men is as it seems - nothing. No story is enough. Life itself is not enough.

We find here a psychological mirror that reflects back an unsteady consciousness; that of the main character who has drifted almost lazily into a state of detachment before knocking on the writer’s door, of Erik – the writer himself whose almost ethereal existence appears stranger and stranger as the pages turn, and – be warned – it is that of the reader too.  But whose face stares back? And are they the faces we expect to see? Solid events begin to blur and merge, recollections and encounters become misty confusions as that clever McMahon needle wheedles down, down, down – all the better to prick you with.

Whose mind is ever real? Who sees life – or death – in the same colours? Who writes ‘your’ story? The Night Just Got Darker leaves these questions trailing like cold smoke by a wet canal, lingering… insidious.

A worthy and respectful homage, and a disturbing read. Highly recommended.


Lily Childs is a writer of horror, esoteric, mystery and chilling fiction.

If you see her dancing outside in a thunder storm - don't try to bring her in. She's safe.