Mark Howard Jones' Flowers of War was published by Black Shuck Books in August 2019.
Information about Mark Howard Jones:
Mark Howard Jones comes from a town in south Wales where it once rained fish. A former BBC journalist, he is editor of the anthology Cthulhu Cymraeg: Lovecraftian Tales From Wales and author of the collections Songs From Spider Street and Brightest Black. He lives in Cardiff.
Click here to visit his official website.
Information about Flowers of War:
Black Shuck Shadows brings you a pocket-size sample from the best in modern horror.
Travelling Across the City in Autumn
The Cobwebbed Bird House
A War Unfought
REVIEW: FLOWERS OF WAR BY MARK HOWARD JONES
Mark Howard Jones' Flowers of War is the fifteenth book is the Black Shuck Shadows series of mini-books. This series aims to offer readers a pocket-size sample from the best authors in modern horror.
Flowers of War is an impressive slice of literary excellence to readers who love harrowing and beautifully written stories. It's a mini-collection that is filled with stories that will both captivate and surprise the readers in equal measure. It's pure literary pleasure for quality-oriented speculative fiction readers.
Having read the author's excellent Dreamglass Days, I could hardly wait to read this mini-collection, because I was aware of how compellingly the author writes modern horror fiction and literary dark fiction. I'm glad to say that this little book is every bit as astonishing, thought-provoking and exquisitely beautiful as Dreamglass Days. It's something that no lover of dark fiction can afford to miss.
This mini-collection contain the following four stories:
- Travelling Across the City in Autumn
- The Cobwebbed Bird House
- A War Unfought
These four stories are atmospheric and beautifully written literary dark fiction stories about war, fear, loss and loneliness. They're not easy stories, because the reader has to be able to read between the lines, but they are deeply rewarding and will seduce those who love captivating and evocative stories. Each of these stories will linger on the reader's mind, because they echo and reflect what is happening (and has happened) in our world in an effective way.
"Travelling Across the City in Autumn" is undoubtedly one of the best and most compelling stories I've read this year. It's a perfect example of how beautiful, deep and harrowing literary dark fiction can be at its best.
This story tells about a man and his daughter who hide from soldiers in an abandoned farm. The author writes about the man's life and his military past in a harrowing way, because he is not a soldier anymore, but a man who has to take care of his daughter. The author also tells about how the man and his daughter do their best to survive in the hostile world and how dangerous travelling from one place to another is, because there are many things that can be fatal to travellers.
The author's depictions of desolate and war-torn landscapes, destroyed buildings and suffering people will stick to the reader's mind, because they're impressive and unsettling. I was taken by the author's bold approach to difficult themes, because he writes unflinchingly about war and its devastating effects on people.
"Landfall" is a memorable story about a man and his family's attempts to find shelter after being forced to flee from their farm due to it being invaded by soldiers. The man buys a boat and attempts to cross the channel in order to reach his brother's family.
This story has memorable and unsettling descriptions about how war has affected people. The author writes excellently about how desperate things are for the man and his family, because they have had to leave their home behind and they must find safety. He also effortlessly conveys the perils of the boat voyage to his readers.
This story has an ending that will surely stay with the readers, because it is impressively bleak and cruel. It is not often that one has an opportunity to experience this kind of an ending.
"The Cobwebbed Bird House" is a gripping and deeply harrowing story about woman who lives alone in her house with her dreams and memories. This is one of the best weird stories I've read in ages, because the prose is exquisitely beautiful and the author evokes powerful images in the reader's mind with his nuanced writing.
I was impressed by the author's atmospheric way of writing about the protagonist and her surroundings, because she lives in a place that has been ravaged by war. This story has an excellent balance between beauty and sadness, because the author writes about how nature is gradually claiming the devastated landscape for itself and how the woman lives alone with only dreams and memories as her constant companion.
"A War Unfought" tells about a young captain who finds an old journal and begins to read it. The captain doesn't know who has written the journal and thinks that it may be from the last war or the one before it. The journal depicts the strange events that haunt a man who lives on a small island.
This story is an excellent final story, because its contents are fascinatingly dark and unsettling. I was impressed by the author's descriptions about what happened on the island, because they reminded me of classic weird fiction stories.
The Story Notes section reveals that the author admires Arnold Böcklin's (Swiss Symbolist artist) painting called Isle of the Dead (Die Toteninsel). This eerie painting can indeed be seen as a source of inspiration to this story, because the painting's atmosphere is reflected in the story.
One of the reasons why these stories are excellent can be credited to the author's literary prose. I find the author's prose beautiful, evocative and immersive. His writing is firmly rooted in classic weird fiction and literary strange fiction, because he infuses classic elements into modern fiction and creates a haunting and unsettling atmosphere with his words.
These stories will make a huge impression on everybody who loves the darker side of speculative fiction. I have a feeling that readers who are familiar with stories by Douglas Thompson, Allen Ashely, Clive Barker, Nina Allan, Terry Grimwood, Berit Ellingsen, Brendan Connell and David Rix will be especially impressed by these stories. If you've ever read anything by these authors and enjoyed what you read, you'll love this book.
If you love literary dark fiction stories and enjoy modern horror fiction, I strongly urge you to read Mark Howard Jones' Flowers of War as soon as possible, because it has a lot to offer for a quality-oriented reader. If you're like me and have a craving for atmospheric dark fiction stories and literary strange fiction, this mini-collection will fully satisfy your needs, because it contains memorable stories with nuanced storytelling.