Back in July I shared my thoughts about a couple of unsettling little chapbooks from Nightjar Press; both were called “The Lake” but were by two different authors, John Foxx and Livi Michael. Today, however, I want to talk about another pair from the recent batch of releases which have different titles but the same author! David Bevan has provided two stories for the new issues, entitled “The Bull” and “The Golden Frog”; and each is a little gem of storytelling!

Bevan hails from Shropshire and having lived in London and Manchester, he’s now based in the West Riding of Yorkshire. The day job is as a freelance copywriter; these are his first published stories, and on the basis of the pair, I’m keen to read more. Fortunately, he’s apparently working on a collection of short stories inspired by the landscape and community of the north. But on to the specifics of the two chapbooks to hand!

The Bull by David Bevan

“The Bull” is an unsettling little story in which the narrator returns to her home and after attending a wake, take a walk through the nearby landscape. Memories of walking the same route with her father flood back, but these are not necessarily happy memories. The woman revisits her fragmented background, the family tensions and the recollections which might have been a dream or might have been real – but will retracing her steps reawaken whatever caused alarm in the past??

The Golden Frog by David Bevan

In contrast, the narrator of “The Golden Frog” is a young man who encounters a boy from his school days; known by the nickname Gollum, his real name is Andrew and he’s training for a swimming challenge, ‘The World Bog Snorkelling Championships’.

On his shoulders, he had a spray of pale, ginger freckles. Normally, his hair was a rook’s nest of dark copper whorls; wet and slicked back by the water, it looked like eels dipped in rust. When he took off his mask, he screwed up his small acorn-coloured eyes and wrinkled his nose at the same time.

Andrew is a loner; brought up by his grandmother, he now lives alone in her house, and our narrator Gaz visits – more out of curiosity than anything else. But his contact with Andrew reveals that the latter is taking unusual action to ensure he wins – which will have dramatic consequences…

*****

Both of these wonderful short works are riddled with ambiguity and so unsettling! Bevan manages to take a relatively normal setting and twist it, leaving you at the end of each story thinking that you know what’s just happened, but not quite sure. He captures also the strangeness of landscape, how disconcerting it can be to be out in the countryside on your own, and how the mind creates fear out of nothing. “The Bull” draws strongly on these fears; while “The Golden Frog” breaks down the wall between humans and other creatures in a most unnerving way.

As I said at the start of this post, I was so impressed with these stories; Bevan really does get under the skin with his writing, and these are welcome additions to Nightjar’s range of dark and rather disconcerting tales. Another two I highly recommend – if you need a little scary reading as the nights draw in, these Nightjar chapbooks would be just the thing! 😀