I’ve previously featured on the Ramblings those lovely limited edition chapbooks released by Nightjar Press, mainly titles issued of M. John Harrison‘s stories, but also a chilling little tale from Robert Stone. A new batch has just been issued (hurrah!) and today I want to share my thoughts on two of the releases which rather intriguingly share the same title – although the contents are very different! Both stories are called “The Lake” and one is by Livi Michael, the other by John Foxx. Needless to say, coming from Nightjar, they contain unsettling tales… Let’s take a look at them! 😀

The Lake by Livi Michael

The first of the two watery tales is from an author new to me, and she’s published prolifically, with 19 novels and numerous short stories to her credit. “The Lake” is a chilling little story, narrated by a precise, almost OCD widower. Since his wife, Emma, died he’s kept a diary, more to ground himself than anything else; the entries give structure to his life, reminding him to do daily tasks, and there’s immediately the sense that his life is very empty since his loss. However, one day this controlled existence is turned upside down by an entry in the diary which he doesn’t recall making; and more follow. As the story continues, it’s clear that there’s more to his connection to the lake than meets the eye – but what do the messages mean?

It’s very hard to discuss this chapbook in any more detail without giving away essential plot points, but like the other Nightjars I’ve read, it’s brilliantly written. The tone of the narrative really captures the protagonist’s nature, his state of mind and the sense of him unravelling slightly as he loses control of his daily life. It’s a very cleverly done piece of writing and I was most impressed!

The Lake by John Foxx

Some might find John Foxx an unexpected visitor to the Ramblings in written form, as he’s probably best known for his musical releases; firstly from the original line-up of Ultravox!, and thereafter for his acclaimed solo releases (I’m a huge fan). However, Foxx is something of a polymath, running an alternative career in graphic design and also as a writer. The original 1981 release of his vinyl LP “The Garden” had a booklet insert which featured some of his writings, and he’s more recently issued a collection of these works called “The Quiet Man”, as well as a spoken word album “The Marvellous Notebook”. So, a very multi-talented man!

Anyway, his take on “The Lake” is an equally unsettling one, with a narrator who grew up near a particular body of water and was drawn to it as a boy. As he got older he continued to visit the lake, until one day a strange and disturbing encounter changed his relationship with it forever. That event was never explained – but will there ever be some kind of resolution? More than this I cannot say…

Again, this is a wonderfully discomfiting and atmospheric piece of writing which captures the setting and the sheer strangeness of the encounter quite brilliantly. As I’ve discussed in the past, when covering the work of M. John Harrison, water can be suggestive or sinister, and as we humans are made up of a lot of the stuff, we’re often drawn to large bodies of it. What we’ll find there is another matter…

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Once again, Nightjar have come up with some very unsettling and suggestive reads, and both explorations of what happens at lakes turned out to be wonderful (although difficult to discuss in detail without spoilers!). If these two titles are indicative of the quality of the latest eight releases, I recommend you track them down! You can find more info about the Nightjar titles here (and also on Twitter); in the meantime, I think I’m definitely going to avoid going near any lakes for a while… ;D